Friday, October 17, 2008

Friday's Starting Five

1. Terry Francona. He sent closer Jonathan Papelbon into the game with two on and no outs in the top of the seventh inning. By doing so he informed the men in the home dugout at Fenway Park that they were not losing the game. No matter what the scoreboard said. It made no difference that it said 5-0 in favor of the Rays. It didn't even matter that it read 7-0 in favor of the Rays by the time Papelbon left the mound. Francona, who Bill Simmons' has described as having a luck horseshoe up his ass, knows how to move the pieces of his club. And, he has their confidence. Which means more than most of us at home can comprehend. Ask Willy Randolph. Francona made pitching moves like the game was scoreless and his team came alive at the plate so that they could stay alive to make the trip south to Tampa for Game 6. And possibly Game 7.

2. The 1929 Philadelphia Athletics. What the Red Sox did last night was absolutey out-of-this-world amazing. It was '69 Mets-tastic. It ws LJ's-4-point-play-riffic. And, it only gave a slight clue as to what the Connie Mack's '29 A's did in Game 4 of the World Series. Trailing, 8-0, entering the bottom seventh inning at Shibe Park in Philly, the A's staged the greatest comeback in postseason history. They hung ten runs on the Chicago Cubs in that historic inning. The previously leaky A's pitching held the Cubs scoreless in the top of the eight and ninth respectively. The A's didn't even have to bat in the bottom of the ninth. There's is the only come-from-behind win that tops last night's in terms of the run deficit overcome.

3. TV On the Radio. Returing to the Kings County, TVOTR came home for three sold-out shows at the Brookyln Masonic Temple. My date for the finale of the homestand on Thursday, felt like it was officially "a happening" and not just some band playing. This was a big deal. Of course, she was less sure when we were milling about in the conformal crowd of non-conformists. But when the band took the stage it was on. Like popcorn. TV does not disapoint. Like television itself. Complete with hand-clapping and horns in equally large measures their set conflated everything good in good in music and was deserving of all the hype that has been heaved upon them. Go listen to them. Now.

4. J.D. Drew. What a strange career Mr. Drew is carving out for himself in Boston. He's been at his uninterested best throughout much his stay in Beantown since arriving before last season, yet he has produced some of the team's most important hits during that time as well. He has the sleepy-eyed calm that many confuse for apathy and the sort of natural talent that makes almost anything he does vaguely let-downish so he always been a guy whom fans have not exactly warmed up to during his Big League career. After winning nearly every award that was awarded during his time at Florida State, Drew broke into the Majors with the Cardinals and played with the Braves and Dodgers beforing joining the Sox. In Game 6 of last year's ALCS against the Indians, with the Sox facing elimination, Drew blasted a grand slam. In Game 6 of this year's LCS against the Rays, with the Sox facing elimination, Drew shot the game-winning hit to deep right field.

5. Joe Maddon. The Tampa Bay Rays manager is a peculiar iconclast. At least, in the fraternity of Major League skippers he is. And this has served him well thus far this season as the Rays won a franchise-best 97 games and took a 3-games-to-1 lead in the best-of-seven Americna League Championship Series. Maddon's insistence on doing things his way didn't work last night, though. Much has been of of this. Tom Verducci over at Sports Illustrated tore Maddon a new one in his column. With a hachet, not a scalpel. The main "mistake" that Maddon made was letting right-hander Grant Balfour pitch to left-handed David Ortiz with two men on and two out in the bottom of the seventh. As he has all season long, Maddon didn't go by the book and bring in a left-handed reliever. He let the hard-throwing Balfour have at him. And he was had. For a three-run home run. And the comeback was on.