Red Sox Hot to TrotBy Phil Janowicz
Down 9-7 in the top of the ninth in Philadelphia, the Red Sox came to the plate. Having already battled in an up-down game for the past three hours, the Phillies were in the lead. Fortunately for the Sox, Jose Mesa was coming in to close out the game.
Notorious for his late-game meltdowns even more so than Armando Benitez, Mesa proceeded to give every Red Sox player a Christmas gift. Mesa gave up two walks with a single sandwiched in between when recent reacquisition Lou Merloni came to the plate. The many Red Sox fans in the 61,068-person crowd at the Vet started cheering “Looouuuu!” Then, Merloni hit a soft bouncer to Tomas Perez at third that Perez couldn’t handle for an out. You can’t blame Mesa for that single, but you can blame him for the previous two walks and wild pitch which prompted the intentional walk of Nomar.
Now, with the bases still loaded and the Phillies clinging to a 9-8 lead, Mesa proceeded to walk Kevin Millar to blow another save. Maybe the Phillies could have minimized the damage, but Trot Nixon came to the plate. Phillies manager Larry Bowa smartly decided to go to the only guy left in his bullpen, Turk Wendell, to cauterize the wound. Unfortunately for the Phillies, Trot slammed a 379-foot shot to right field which capped the Red Sox comeback.
What impressed me even more in that inning was the at-bat by sidearm closer Byung-Hyun Kim. With one out and a runner on first, Kim was called upon to bunt the runner over to second. After missing a bunt and fouling another one off, Kim found himself down 0-2. Then, Kim lined a bullet down the first baseline. Unfortunately, he hit it to the one spot on the field where Phillies first baseman Jim Thome could record an unassisted double play to end the inning.
The reason that at-bat impressed me is it shows that all members of the Sox are giving it their all no matter when or in what situation they’re called upon to do so. Jeff Suppan remarked, “This was a great win for us as a team, everybody contributed.” Todd Walker called that win the best one of the season so far.
Perhaps this is just what the Sox needed to make a late-season surge in the standings.
This week’s Jano Awards are dedicated to the memory of Wesley Willis.
Hitting: “Fox” Trot Nixon of the Boston Red Sox. In addition to his monster grand slam, Nixon added another home run in Chicago last Tuesday to complement his .450 average the last week.
Honorable Mention: Jody “Spans the” Gerut of the Cleveland Indians. The past week, rookie Jody Gerut has eight runs scored, four homers, 13 RBIs, and a .357 average. With Coco Crisp and Ryan Ludwick shaping up to be great additions as of late, next year’s Indians outfield will be dangerous.
Pitching: Matt “Jimmy” Morris of the St. Louis Cardinals. Back from a plethora of injuries, Morris pitched one hell of a week. Giving up only two runs in 14 innings over the past week, Morris seems to have returned to dominating form. Matt, you’re just what the Cardinals needed.
Honorable Mention: Brian Schmack of the Detroit Tigers. You heard me. Schmack has the perfect birth name for a relief pitcher so no nickname is necessary. Having given up only one run since being called up from AAA, Schmack recorded his first major league win last Tuesday against the Indians. Hopefully, the Tigers can look forward to a Schmack-down in the ninth next year.
Utility: Tony “Manager of the Year” Pena of the Kansas City Royals. Okay, let’s face it. The Royals are exhausted. Thankfully, September call-ups are here to give the Royal starters some much needed rest here and there. Despite the rampant exhaustion, Tony Pena still believes that the Royals can win as long as they still have heart. It takes a special guy to keep the Royals motivated and in the playoff hunt. If you’re not already, you should all pull for the Royals.
Honorable Mention: Vladimir “The Impaler” Guerrero of the Montreal Expos. Back from a herniated disk in his back, Guerrero has returned to form at the plate. In the past week, Guerrero has seven runs, five homers, eight RBIs, one stolen base, and a .458 average. Guerrero has brought back with him the Expos playoff hopes.
Boner of the Week: Antonio “You Can Call Me” Alfonseca of the Chicago Cubs. No matter what you do, you don’t touch an ump. Period. In game two of the Cardinals-Cubs doubleheader Tuesday, the Cubs were down 0-2 with the bases loaded and two outs. Matt Morris delivered a pitch inside, and the ball was hit down the third base line. The third base umpire, Justin Klemm, followed the ball until it hit the ground and called it just barely foul. Multiple replays showed a little bit of chalk kicked up from the ground where the ball hit, but what the ump says goes.
After the batter promptly flew out to end the inning, Moises Alou ran over to Klemm and complained enough to get tossed. Kenny Lofton held him back from getting a suspension, but Alfonseca went up to say something to Klemm. Alfonseca claims that he wasn’t trying to bump him a good ten feet back, but that seems hardly accidental. Crew Chief Mike Reilly said of the attack, “It was one of the most severe attacks of an umpire I’ve seen in the big leagues.” Even if it was accidental, you shouldn’t have even put yourself in the position to do so.
Honorable Mention: Jose “Plateau” Mesa of the Philadelphia Phillies. I hate you now. I hated you in 1997. Hopefully, this year you’ll once again let the Marlins win playoff games.