Despite evidence to the contrary, there was some good news to come out of Fenway Park last night.
We’re at T-minus five days until all hands on deck. Finally.
Sorry folks, someone has got to go on Monday, when Coco Crisp is expected to return from the disabled list and the candidates start with Willie Harris and Dustan Mohr, both of whom did little to help the cause last night.
Not to place the blame entirely on their shoulders for last night’s futility, of course. There’s plenty of that to go around after a game in which the Red Sox left 13 men on base in a 7-5 loss to the Yankees. Harris was 0 for 2 with a strikeout, and left four on base, but Doug Mirabelli left six on base himself, David Ortiz five in an unusual game for the slugger in that the Yankees were able to get him out with two men on in the eighth inning. Trot Nixon was 2 for 4 with a walk and still managed to strand a total of four men.
But when Terry Francona made out yesterday’s lineup, and had Mirabelli, Alex Cora, and Harris hitting 7-8-9, how could he not think he’d get more for a used Rick Astley CD than out of that trio?
Better yet, what if we could read Tim Wakefield’s mind when he walked up to the lineup card in the clubhouse?
Not that the knuckleballer helped himself last night, or was helped by Francona, who decided to keep him in to face Alex Rodriguez after awarding Derek Jeter and Gary Sheffield free passes. Rodriguez went deep for what turned out to be the game-winning home run. But in Wakefield’s six losses this season, the Red Sox have scored four runs during his 40 innings, an average of one run every 10 innings. That’s astounding. At least to everybody besides Jake Peavy.
Francona has been handcuffed the past two nights by Wily Mo Pena’s sore wrist, but can you honestly tell me why he thinks Harris deserved the start last night over a guy like Mohr? Harris had his first run batted in of the season Monday night, but I wouldn’t have exactly looked at that as the start of a trend.
Granted, Mohr was 0 for 2 with two strikeouts (he came into the game in the seventh after J.T. Snow pinch hit for Harris), including one to end the game against Mariano Rivera, but wouldn’t he have been a better option against a starter like Jaret Wright, who didn’t allow any runs on the evening despite the Sox lacing more than a few offerings into outs. When you’re struggling to score runs for the guy you’ve got on the mound, how do you weigh playing Mohr or Harris and come up with the latter? How?
Cora has come through the past two nights, and really the Sox don’t have a much better offensive option in Alex Gonzalez. Mirabelli was in there for Wakefield, but why he was at the plate in the bottom of the seventh (after Wake had already left), representing the tying run against Kyle Farnsworth, is a mystery. In the ninth, Francona pinch-hit Jason Varitek for him. Why not two innings earlier?
“That wall looks close when Dougie’s hitting, especially against a guy that throws his fastball up there pretty good,” Francona said.
OK. In fact, the Wall never looked any further than during Mirabelli’s at-bat, as the catcher went down with three mighty, unavailing cuts.
Dougie is in fact not going deep tonight.
Crisp, who has yet to play a game at Fenway this season, is set to start a rehab assignment tomorrow in Florida, where the Red Sox hope to get him 10-to-15 at-bats over the course of two games by having him lead off every inning. On Saturday, he’ll likely head to Pawtucket, where he’ll be reevaluated and could be in the lineup Monday night when the Sox head to Toronto.
As good a job as Kevin Youkilis has done in the leadoff spot, Crisp’s return is a welcome fix toward strengthening the bottom of that order. When Crisp comes back, Youkilis can move back down into the six slot, with Mike Lowell and probably Jason Varitek hitting behind him. Gonzalez is still a concern in the nine-hole, but isn’t this all so much better than Mirabelli-Cora-Harris?
There’s a chance Mohr will be the guy to go when Crisp returns Monday, the thought that Harris’ defense and speed are valuable enough to keep around. Or at the very least his ability to ignore base-stealing signs and continued ineffectiveness at the plate. But last night’s 3 for 15 with runners in scoring position illustrates the need to keep a little extra offense on the bench, something Mohr and Snow, who now doesn’t want to be traded, really, can provide much more than Harris.
And on a night when the Fenway fans had to watch Crisp’s predecessor Johnny Damon bust out a 2 for 5 night with a leadoff home run, that’s good news indeed.