Red Sox – Padres Series
Padres fans may be anticipating this weekend’s series against the Boston Red Sox with some trepidation. After all, the Red Sox have baseball’s best record and like most American League teams, have been dominating their NL opponents. Last year the Red Sox tuned up their friends in the Senior Circuit by a 16-2 advantage, and this year they are 10-5 in interleague competition coming into San Diego.
But Boston’s dirty little secret is that the lineup has major holes and can be shut down by good starting pitching like San Diego’s – especially pitchers who throw strikes and stay out of deep counts. Two high-priced free agents, J.D. Drew and Julio Lugo, have been absolutely atrocious this year, and centerfielder Coco Crisp (best name in the majors) is no Johnny Damon. Third baseman Mike Lowell has a bad hand and has stopped hitting, and backstop Jason Varitek can no longer catch up to the high heat. Jake Peavy will punch him out at least three times. Losing the DH in a National League park means one of the big hitters will have to sit (Red Sox fans hope it’s Lowell). And of course the Red Sox pitchers never get to bat in AL games, so they will be automatic outs.
The Red Sox are a colorful group, resembling beer league softballers more than professional athletes. Kevin Youkilis has a barrel chest, the ugliest beard in America, and a shaved head; he looks like a motorcycle tough guy. David Ortiz is generous of girth and mirth. (Friendly advice: Do NOT pitch to Ortiz close and late. Just don’t do it.) Manny Ramirez looks like a Rastaman with dreadlocks almost to his shoulders, and wears his uniform so loose it is amazing he doesn’t trip over it. Dustin Pedroia is the obnoxious runt always looking for trouble.
Boston’s starting pitchers this weekend will be Matsuzaka, Wakefield and Beckett. Dice-K’s weakness has been a mysterious loss of command for one inning per game. By the way, there is no such thing as a gyroball. (If it spins like a slider, it’s a slider.) Wakefield is alternately good or awful. Any single or walk is an automatic double because it’s so easy to run on the knuckleball. Watch for Padres alumnus Doug “Beerabelli” Mirabelli, brought back from SD last year to catch Wakes in a panic move when Josh Bard let a few knucklers bounce away. Dougie has become a painfully easy out. Sox fans are deeply chagrined over losing Cla Meredith in that deal. (Cla? What kind of name is Cla?) Josh Beckett is the staff ace.
If the Sox have a lead late in the game, you will see Hideki Okajima in the eighth, Papelbon in the ninth. Okajima has been mysteriously untouchable so far but in my opinion he has been increasingly lucky and is overdue to get clobbered. Papelbon is just filthy.
It will be interesting to see how many Red Sox fans show up at the games this weekend. The Sox get more loud fans at road games than anyone, even the Yankees. In Atlanta this week the crowds (three sellouts) were 50% Boston fans. Growing up in San Diego in the 1960s and 1970s, it was lonely being a Red Sox fan, but my guess is they’ll be out in large numbers this weekend. Padres fans: If the Bosox rooters get loud and obnoxious, just say “so, are the Red Sox going to blow another 14 game lead like in 1978?” That will shut them up.