Win Number Four

The Sox were victorious again.

But I have a question.

Will the Boston sports media have the courage to ask Terry Francona what was he thinking when he had Daisuke Matsuzaka start the 8th inning? That nearly cost Boston the game. Of course, it led to a very satisfying double play, coerced by Justin Masterson, who totally redeemed himself for the hits he gave-up in the ALDS.

Dice-K was phenomenal. He was slow to warm-up. He threw well over 30 pitches in the first inning, walking three before getting out his own jam. But once he got his gyroball and cutter working, and started painting the corners, he built himself the best outing of his MLB career. Just look at his line:

7 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 4 BB, 7 K, 0.00 ERA

Stellar! The best start of his career. He has never recorded 7 strikeouts in a game. That was vintage Pedro Martinez territory (but Pedro would have gotten 9 or 10 K's and 3 fewer walks - OK, maybe not vintage Pedro).

And that scary bottom of the 8th was preceded by an equally exciting top half. The 8th was an inning that nearly went down in Red Sox postseason infamy - except Jason Bay got hit by the first pitch he saw. I am convinced the Sox would have scored more than 1 run in that inning if Bay had strikes to swing at. The Rays did the right thing by giving him 1st base. And then the game was saved in the bottom half of the inning. Dice-K put two runners on. Okajima got Carlos Pena to fly out to JD Drew. And then Masterson was wisely brought in to get the DP. It was heart-stopping awesome. But did it have to be like that? Was Francona testing us? Was he toying with the Rays? Was he testing Matsuzaka? Or was he doing what I sometimes do when I play MLB Power Pros when I have lead - try to stretch my starter through the 7th or 8th inning?

But that second run was precious. And it was delivered by a clutch hit by Jason Youkilis. He and Jason Bay are the clutch hitters in that lineup. Lowrie, Drew, and Pedroia are not far behind.

So the bullpen is still rested and ready. Josh Beckett is ready for what could be an awesome outing. And the Red Sox defense is looking very good.

The batting order is the weakest the Sox have had in the postseason since 2003. Varitek is great behind the plate, but useless with a bat. Ortiz is out of shape and his timing is off. It will be up to the kids and the new guy, Jason Bay to generate more runs in Game 2.

But there always a snag. The Rays have their ace, Scott Kasmir starting the game. Kasmir has always driven the Sox nuts. He has started 21 games against the Sox, and has pitched 119 1/3 innings. In those innings, he has an ERA of 3.62, and keep in mind that was mostly against better Sox lineups.

Game 2 is going to be frustrating. The Sox are going to have to find a way to break through like they did last night. I don't expect the Sox to get a hit until the 3rd or 4th inning. Kasmir will be letting his left arm do the talking at least once through the Sox batting order. I think Francona needs to use pinch hitters more. It's time for more National League style offense. My two cents.

At least Crisp is back in the lineup tonight. But moving Varitek up in the order is insane. I am not in favor of rewarding failure, especially when Varitek is a fool for proclaiming that he should never be replaced by a pinch hitter. He's actually a very good pinch hitter. So pinch hit this, 'My Captain'. I would put Crisp at #8 and Varitek at #9. Again, I'm nobody.

Terry obviously doesn't need input from the fans, since he was the luckiest SOB in sports last night. Lets hope he doesn't need luck to win Game 2.

ALCS Game 1
Red Sox 2, Devil Rays 0