3.5 Back Is Death

Bobby ‘Bleepin’ Madritsch! Madritsch pitched eight shutout innings to lead the Mariners over the Sox, 7-1. A couple of columns back, in the comments, a reader brought up why the Sox did so bad against rookies. Not going to rehash it here (mainly because I don’t know why) but nontheless, it bears wondering.
Aside from Orlando Cabrera finally hitting a dinger late in the game, the Red Sox offense shriveled up. The pitching was decent – not good, but decent. That is, after Tim Wakefield departed after a subpar 4 2/3 innings, giving up 2 earned runs. That’s right, he left after giving up just TWO earned runs. Why? Well, he had seven runs on the outing, caused by two errors. I thought we were past this? (Tim Wakefield had an error on a throw, and Manny Ramirez erred on a flyball.) Eh, it happens. But there’s one problem – the Yankees won a doubleheader today, so now we are 3.5 back. As I remarked to someone tonight, it feels as if 3.5 back is death.
The Red Sox have three more games remaining against the Mariners (Schilling/Franklin, Arroyo/Moyer, Lowe/Meche). If we can sweep all three, I think we could gain that game back, seeing as the Yankees are headed to Baltimore. I know, the Orioles roll over and play dead for the Yankees and play the Sox like the ’27 Yankees, but think of it this way – the Orioles have Tejada and Mora, two very dangerous hitters, plus a surging Ponson who in fact should draw the Yankees. Also, manager Lee Mazilli is rumored to be on the hot seat, so he wants to win every game he can. Factor in that Baltimore is in third place, ten games under .500 (for comparison, on August 15th, the last day the Sox were 10.5 back, the Orioles were two games under .500. Quite a fall, but August 30th saw them in third place, thirteen games under .500, so they’ve played better as of late. Javier Vazquez will oppose Rodrigo Lopez, also surging. Orlando Hernandez will oppose Ponson, and John Lieber will see surprising Daniel Cabrera.
I predict the Sox will sweep the Mariners (why not?) and the Yankees will win two of three, so there’s that makeup game. Then of course, we’ll vault into first by a half-game when we sweep the Yankees this upcoming weekend. (How’s that for cocky?)
Speaking of Orlando Cabrera, read this article, and if you have not registered, do so. It’s free. Just put in fake information, who cares?

“I’m always moving,” Cabrera said. “People tell me that I’m hyperactive.”

Among his outsize teammates, the 5-foot-9 Cabrera can seem invisible, not because he disappears the way some say Garciaparra did, but because he fits so seamlessly into the group. Even his sideburns and his goatee are a match. He simultaneously soaks up the clubhouse energy and adds to it.
“Orlando’s got the same kind of personality that we do,” first baseman Kevin Millar said. “He’s smiling, having fun, acting like a kid playing a kid’s game.”

Shortly after the Red Sox arrived in Oakland on Monday, players huddled around a clubhouse television to watch the Devil Rays and the Yankees. They cheered as if they were in a sports bar on Yawkey Way. When Derek Jeter was ruled safe on a close play at first base, Millar playfully turned over a cart. Mart?nez hollered that Jeter was out. Ramirez looked at the screen with his mouth open and his arms up.
In the middle of the commotion was Cabrera, another one of the crazies, another one of the guys.

Onward.