|The Dice-Man – Evan Brunell|
How do we get this series back to Tampa? Let’s not concern ourselves at the moment with the specter of two games in Tampa Bay with failed October phenoms Josh Beckett and Jon Lester. The goal here is to be able to concern ourselves with that.
There are three keys to winning this game:
KEY NUMBER ONE — THE MAGIC MAN
Apparently, Daisuke Matsuzaka is known as “The Magic Man” round these parts. It’s a strikingly appropriate moniker, given his … well, magical … ways of getting out of jams, including shutting down the opposition when the bases are loaded.
Peter Gammons called him the “Japanese Greg Maddux” after his fantastic showing in Game 1. “No one can get them messed up better than Daisuke,” an anonymous Red Sox player confided in Gammons.
That’s all well and good, but I’m still not positive we should (even though we have to) put all our eggs into Dice-K’s basket. But wait, check this: Matsuzaka ranked fifth in the league in strikeouts per nine innings (8.57) and only gave batters a .164 average with runners in scoring position — the best such number since Roger Clemens’ .157 in 1994. Yeah, even Pedro couldn’t match that.
So maybe this will turn out good after all. But doesn’t it almost have to, for the Sox to prevail?
|David Ortiz – Samara Pearlstein|
KEY NUMBER TWO — WHERE IS THE BIG MOTHER(ahem)?
David Ortiz shouted that after winning ALCS Game 5 in 2004 with a single. Four years later, he’s actually literally bad. He’s given up on pretending that his wrist isn’t hurting him and is just trying to gut through it, which is admirable. It’s also clear that we cannot win without David Ortiz, so we have to just keep sending him out there. And he can get hot, it’s just a matter of if.
Ortiz has a .161/.316/.258 line in the postseason, which is utterly pathetic. Did his triple in Game Four portend good things to come? Maybe. Maybe not. But this much we know: the Red Sox are doomed, winning Game 5 or not, without an effective David Ortiz.
We don’t even really need any bombs from Ortiz. We just need him to get hits. I’ll take three seeing-eye singles. It’s all about perception, about momentum and emotion.
KEY NUMBER THREE — GOTTA GET THAT MO GOING
No, not Mo Vaughn. Those days are way behind us. Momentum.
Every hit, walk or strikeout in Game Three or Four that seemed like it led us to the precipice of a momentum-shift ended in disappoinment. A particularly backbreaking moment for me came in Game Four when Dustin Pedroia grounded into a double play — right after TBS showed us he had grounded into 17 in the regular season. Way to go, guys. If you want your ratings, how about the ix-nay on the jinx-nay?
David Ortiz will have a large say in the momentum. If the Large Father can crush a home run or at least get some sort of significant hit, the entire team will be buoyed. If Matsuzaka can spin his Magic Man act, the entire team will be inspired. Their backs are against the wall, and at least in 2004 and 2007 it seems as if they almost need their backs against the wall to do anything.
**Update on the transition to the new layout: unforseen problems led to a delay. The transition should occur today.**