RED SOX BLOG
A Series Matter: Red Sox-Royals and Endurance
April 19, 2013 4:06 pm
By Tim Britton
MARK DUNCAN, AP
THE CONTENTS: At some point this weekend (we think), the Red Sox will open a homestand against the Royals. It's scheduled to be a three-game series to kick off 10 games at Fenway Park.
THE EPIGRAPH: "We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men." --Edward Murrow
THE AUDIO EPIGRAPH, BECAUSE WHY NOT:
THE EXPOSITION: The Red Sox have matched their longest win streak of the 2012 season with six straight victories over the Rays and Indians. Boston's 11-4 start is the fifth-best in franchise history. The four times the Sox started 12-3, they won the 1904 pennant (there was no World Series that year), won the 1918 World Series, won the 1946 pennant and...finished in sixth in 1952. Let's not talk about 1952. The Red Sox lead the AL East by a season-high 2.5 games.
The Royals aren't off to a bad start themselves at 8-6. If you're like me and all, "That's probably their best start in some time," you're wrong, since they started 10-4 in 2011 (and 8-6 in 2009 and 8-6 in 2008 and 11-3 back in 2003). But they've already won games at Kauffman Stadium, which they didn't do last year until May. KC is a game back of the Tigers in the AL Central.
THE PITCHING MATCHUPS (as of now):
RHP James Shields (1-2, 3.43 ERA) v. RHP Clay Buchholz (3-0, 0.41 ERA)
RHP Ervin Santana (1-1, 2.45) v. RHP Ryan Dempster (0-1, 2.65)
RHP Jeremy Guthrie (2-0, 3.20) v. LHP Felix Doubront (1-0, 4.50)
THE PROTAGONISTS: There's not a lot to dislike right now about how the Red Sox are playing. The starting rotation continues to give Boston a chance to win every night -- a starter has still yet to allow more than three earned runs in a game, the longest stretch to start a season in the AL since the '81 A's -- and the bullpen has been dominant (outside of a pair of some ninth-inning issues).
The nitpicker in all of us would pick at the offense, which still hasn't displayed much depth with Will Middlebrooks and Stephen Drew struggling. That's where David Ortiz comes in. Ortiz isn't 100 percent returning: His timing isn't right yet, and he admitted Thursday that "it's not like [running's] going to go in my favor." Still, plugging Ortiz into the middle of the order -- probably fourth at this point -- extends the lineup down. The heating-up Mike Napoli could move to fifth, Middlebrooks or Nava or Saltalamacchia at sixth, etc. The middle of the order starts looking whole again.
THE ANTAGONISTS: The Royals spent the offseason rebuilding their pitching staff, making trades for Shields, Wade Davis and Santana. The deals have been beneficial so far, with all three pitching well the first three times through the rotation. As a result, Kansas City has the seventh-best ERA and second-best WHIP in baseball. That's a far cry from 2012, when they were 23rd in ERA and 27th in WHIP.
The only issue is that the offense hasn't held up its part of the bargain, particularly Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer and Salvador Perez. Kansas City overall has hit just five home runs.
WHAT'S AT STAKE? It's a baseball series. Nothing, really.
SOME THOUGHTS, WHICH I HOPE RISE ABOVE "INCOHERENT" BUT ACKNOWLEDGE HAVE YET TO REACH "COHERENT": So there's a scene -- well, it's interspersed pretty heavily over like 200 pages, so maybe scene isn't the right word -- in my favorite novel set in Boston (perhaps because it's one of my two favorite novels set anywhere). It's Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace, by the way, but you should have intuited that.
Don Gately, the Demerol addict who's recovering at Ennet House, is lying in a hospital bed. He's been shot in the shoulder, and the pain is, to use his words, "emergency-type pain, like scream-and-yank-your-charred-hand-off-the-stove-type pain." Problem is, Gately refuses all medication because of his addiction.
So the whole set-up is that Gately is in this seemingly unbearable pain. And this is how he bears it:
"Abiding. No single instant of it was unendurable. Here was a second right here: he endured it. What was undealable-with was the thought of all the instants all lined up and stretching ahead, glittering....
"He could just hunker down in the space between each heartbeat and make each heartbeat a wall and live in there. Not let his head look over. What's unendurable is what his own head could make of it all. What his head could report to him, looking over and ahead and reporting. But he could choose not to listen, treat his head like...clueless noise. He hadn't quite gotten this before now, how it wasn't just the matter of riding out the cravings for a Substance: everything unendurable was in the head, was the head not Abiding in the Present but hopping the wall and doing a recon and then returning with unendurable news you then somehow believed."
How do you abide pain and grief and fear and the seemingly unbearable? How do you sit through a city-wide lockdown that you would have deemed unfathomable a day ago? "Hunker down in the space between each heartbeat and make each heartbeat a wall and live there." No second is unendurable, and it follows that no minute is unendurable and no hour and no day and etc.
And we know we can do this because it also happens to be how you run a marathon. The task on the whole is absurd. It is hardly rational for a human being to run 26.2 miles; Pheidippides dies in the legend, you know.
But everyone knows someone who's run a marathon, who has accomplished this unreasonable task and probably made it look commonplace. This, as far as I can tell because I've never run one myself, is why we run marathons: because things we shouldn't be able to do =/= things we can't do. Marathons are a testament to our ability to will ourselves beyond the purported limits of our condition.
On a more-regular-than-we-may-realize basis, we confront things we do not think we can get through, and then we get through it. And we'll get through this.
A THOUGHT FROM SOMEONE ELSE: "The narrator is inclined to think that by attributing overimportance to praiseworthy actions one may, by implication, be paying indirect but potent homage to the worse side of human nature. For this attitude implies that such actions shine out as rare exceptions, whole callousness and apathy are the general rule. The narrator does not share that view." --The Plague, Albert Camus
RECENT SERIES HISTORY: If you've followed A Series Matter as closely as I demand, you know how remarkably tight the series history is between the Red Sox and Royals. By virtue of winning four of seven from KC last year, Boston leads it 219-218.
Kansas City hasn't won a season series from the Sox since 2006.
WHAT THE (OTHER) LOCAL MEDIA IS SAYING: From the excellent Sam Mellinger at theKansas City Star:
"Again, nobody can know what this season will bring. This could be the peak. This could be the beginning of a fun summer. This could be anything in between. But right now, this is hope, and that's an improvement over the past."
Mellinger also wrote this review of Kansas City's postseason drought for the Star's baseball preview.
PREDICTION TIME: We'll get through this.
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