Thoughts on Last Night’s Game

Vintage Miller
When discussing the performance of Wade Miller, one hears the word “inconsistent” with more regularity than that word deserves. I know better. As I settled into my seat at Fenway last night I knew just what I was going to get from Miller, and I got it.
I knew that we were going to need to score more than 5 runs to win last night. I knew that Miller was not going to have really good stuff, but that he would at least pitch a decent amount of innings.
Sure enough, Miller pitched into the 7th, gave up five runs, all earned, struck out 1, walked 1, and gave up 2 home runs, neither one of them cheap. I was right pretty much down the line, but truthfully it wasn’t that hard to do: that’s more or less what Miller gives you every fifth day. His performances could rarely be described as brilliant, or sterling, or even crisp. He pitches well enough so that you end up winning about half the time – indeed his record stands at 4-4.
But lest this start to sound like Miller bashing, I think he’s got some damn fine qualities. His best attribute isn’t his arm, it’s his heart.
Even when he doesn’t have his best stuff, he never quits. He guts his way through start after start. He never looks longingly into the dugout, signaling his desire to be yanked for a fresh arm. He stays in and gives you 105-115 pitches, keeps the ‘pen rested so that the Sox have at least a fighting chance to win games he starts. He’s performing like a #5 starter, which is about what he’s getting paid to do. Especially if Foulke doesn’t reclaim his closer role from Schilling, it’s going to be an interesting decision determining his role for the post season.
Baserunning
Tough to blame Dale Sveum for sending Damon home in the first – even though, in hindsight, it cheated Manny out of yet another Grand Slam. It required a perfect throw (or in this case, an imperfect throw that was offline in a perfect spot), and the Royals are nothing if not an imperfect team, especially on defense.
I think Millar’s decision to run on Graffanino’s 4th-inning “single” (it’d have been an E-6 if I were the official scorer, home or not) was more foolhardy, even though it ended well. He got a late jump and had to rely on some shoddy ball handling to score – and even with that it was closer than comfort allowed.
Graffy was heads-up in the fifth, though, scoring on a wild pitch that didn’t dart too far away from Royals catcher John Buck.
All in all a good game on the bases. To me, there’s nothing more frustrating as when the Sox run themselves out of an inning — glad to see it didn’t happen here.
Today’s Misleading Statistic
The Sox left 10 men on base last night. Well, sure, but it’s the Royals. They could have converted all 10 of those runs and left another 10 on base.
The Collision
The only thing scarier than seeing a man down, unmoving, is seeing two of them. Last night’s (literal) tete-a-tete with Manny and Edgar brought back scenes of Johnny Damon and Damian Jackson. The crowd exhaled as one in relief when each player got to his knees, and again when each one stood. The Sox have now dodged three huge bullets, any one of which could conceivably have put an end to hopes of a successful title defense.
The Last Word
4.5 games in first place, the Yankees in seeming freefall, the Sox playing like a cohesive unit, and here it is August. It’s a good time to be a Red Sox fan, my friends. Thanks for reading.