Call me a baseball geek, but after 10 years as a beat writer it’s still fun to watch batting practice from the field.
You get to understand the players a little bit better watching them go through their pre-game routines and every once in a while you pick up a little something that helps with what you’re writing.
Like today for instance. A fan next to the dugout held up a sign that sad, “Tito Francona for manager of the year.” It was bright yellow and had a photo of Francona smack in the middle.
Ever self-effacing, Francona smiled when he saw the sign. “You don’t want to be waving that around,” he yelled over.
Francona went over and autographed the sign, which was nice of him. Good for that fan, too, because he had a valid point.
Look at today’s game. Mike Lowell, Jed Lowrie and Jacoby Ellsbury were 5 for 10 with five RBIs and two runs scored. Those three guys were forgotten at times this season, seemingly sentenced to the disabled list.
But Francona takes what he has on a given day, writes down nine names and the Sox go to work. Today was the 100th batting order in 114 games but the depleted Red Sox are only five games out in the division and 4.5 games out in the wild card with 48 games left to play.
“It’s been a little bit revolving, but we’re hoping it doesn’t matter,” Francona said. “We’re just trying to play the game at hand and win. Getting contributions from all over the map, that’s a good way to play.”
A few other observations:
* Felix Doubront is the real deal out of the bullpen. Yes, he gave up a home run to Jose Bautista in the seventh inning. But he struck out two of the six batters he faced and showed poise leaving the bases loaded in the sixth inning.
Felix showed a little emotion in the sixth, spinning around and pumping his fist when he struck out Travis Snider to end the inning. He doesn’t want to make a career out of relieving, but he’s digging the adrenalin rush right now.
* Ellsbury is 3 for 6 with a walk in his last two games. Wouldn’t be a surprise to see him back atop the order tomorrow night.
* David Ortiz had two doubles off a lefty. The big man knows southpaws are a weakness and he’s working at it.
* Of Lowrie’s 14 hits since he came back, six are doubles. He has shown surprising power. He had pretty swings from both sides of the plate tonight.
* Just went when Daisuke Matsuzaka gives you reasons to believe in him (3-0, 2.48 in the five starts prior to tonight), he pulls the rug out from under you. Doesn’t that always seem to the case with him? It’s inexcusable to get a 4-1 lead and walk the first two hitters you face in the bottom of the inning. Then he grooves a fastball to Snider and it’s 4-4 just like that.
* Scott Downs hasn’t given up a run on 20.1 innings. Still can’t trade Casey Kelly for him.
That’s it from the Rogers Centre. Thanks to everybody for reading today and we’ll be back at it tomorrow. Make sure you check out the podcast and Amalie’s mailbag from earlier today.