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Soup of This Day #3: Slow News Away Some Day

May 26, 2011

Pit lane, Monaco
The pit lane at Monaco. Theatre – Photo: Ivelin Vraykov, 2006. Ivelin Vraykov is not affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72.

I thought this week might be a slow news week for the sporting world that I like to hang out on. So I dutifully noted the results of Sox games (4 since my last entry) and the last Liverpool match for the season (A 1-0 loss to Villa away) and figured I’d spend my free sports time writing up great moments in sport and what they meant for me for this blog.

Then a weird thing happened and it reminded me why I love sport. You see, there is no slow news week in sport. Let’s start with the Sox:

Monday morning the Sox had the final game of a three game retro bash with the Cubs. Tim Wakefield went up against James Russell.

A knuckleballer, aged 44 and 281 days, started opposite a kid whose dad had been Wake’s teammate.

Actually, saying it like that makes it sound like some novelty, freak show kind of thing – Instead we got a genuinely good start out of a guy who has been summoned to bail his club out of a hole again.

For those who don’t know a knuckleballer grips the ball in such a way as to stop the ball from spinning in flight. Traditionally done with the knuckles, hence the name, it’s more commonly done in the big leagues by digging in the fingertips. I say ‘more commonly’ but that gives a false impression that there are a lot of practitioners. Currently there are just 2, along with Wakefield, R.A. Dickey pitches knuckleball for the Mets.

Anyhow, by stopping the spin some pretty funky fluid dynamics comes into play via the seam of the ball and a lot of different outcomes can happen: The ball can change direction 3 times in one pitch; It can dance, drop, curve and recurve, hop, skip and jump. It’s nasty and about the only saving grace for catchers and bats is that it is quite a bit slower than your average offering. It’s hard to bat against but the problem with it is that the magic that makes it hard to hit right, makes it real hard to pitch right. Strikes are harder, control is kind of difficult and pass throughs by catchers are common.

Sox 5-1 over the Cubs, Wakefield giving up just the one run at the start of his 7th. Bard came in after a day of rest and cleaned up nicely.

The day of rest had seemingly done wonders for Bard. Some commentators (The Boston Globe) suggested that he might have been better utilised the day before to avoid that 8th inning blowout but some of that wisdom got beaten up Tuesday morning. The Sox travelled to an Indians team that has defied pre-season pundits with a leagues best record. That record included a 3 game streak over Boston in Cleveland to kick off the season and a horror road trip for the Sox. Clay Buchholz pitched a beauty giving just the 4 hits and 2 runs up across 7 and 1/3 innings as Boston’s offence edged a 2-1 lead going into the bottom of the 8th.

Unfortunately Bard couldn’t hold it down and Cleveland snatched a 3-2 win with Bard tagged with the loss. Same old, same old in Cleveland.

Game 2 broke the streak for the Tribe. Josh Beckett improved to 4-1 as he pitched another great start through 6 and 2/3 innings and this time the bullpen (Rich Hill in for Bard) closed it out. There were some late flutters as Cleveland edged to within 2, bottom of the 9th, but then Papelbon closed out and a 4-2 win put Boston to 26 and 22 with a monkey off their backs. Jason Varitwk’s two run shot was his first to go the distance since May 30, 2010

Game 3 saw the monkey banished off the bus and the nasty streak consigned to a footnote. Jon Lester pitched 7 shutout innings, a task made all the easier by an offence that knocked out 12 hits and 7 runs before he even took the mound. Not quite a Bill Paxton but close with Lester running the show. By the time the Indians got a 2 runs in the bottom of the 8th Boston had 14. That’s how it ended, 20 hits to 7, with Carl Crawford going 4 from 4, a triple short of hitting for the cycle.

Boston are now 27 and 22, half a game behind the Yankees for the Division and rolling with 10 from the last 12. They’re 25 and 12 from that horror start and the best team ever might not be that yet but they are not the biggest disappointment ever anymore either. The depth in the bullpen is still a worry but Wakefield and Aceves have both given quality starts – Lackey isn’t far off a return either so one of those two spot starters can slot back in as a long reliever. On offence Gonzalez is still a machine and there are promising signs from Salty, Crawford and Ellsbury.

Coming up: The Tigers at Comerica Park with Aceves, Wakefield and Buchholz holding down the first 3 starters slots of a 4 game series. There follows a 6 game home stand with 3 game series with the White Sox and Oakland split by a day off.

Deep breath.

Liverpool finished the EPL in 6th. They started the last day there and a loss to Villa ensured they stayed there. Not much to report for the Reds and that’s ok, the drama of the last day was at the other end of the table with a relegation battle for 5 clubs. Blackburn, Wigan and Wolves (Just) stayed safe whilst Birmingham and Blackpool made the drop. Blackpool led Man U by an improbable 2-1 scoreline before going down 2-4. There’s not much to say that will mean much for fans of either Blackpool or City, or for that matter, West Ham.

It seems to be true of English football that the joy of winning a title is outweighed by the pain of being relegated. I’ve rarely seen fans cry with tears of joy at the win in the same numbers as they cry at that final loss. Even worse than the tears is that numb look with eyes that are searching for a wakeup call from a bad dream.

Last but not least, the Fremantle Dockers. No games but an injury crisis just reached epic levels. Big Aaron Sandilands, the ruckman on whose giant tap-outs the Dockers flea brigade thrives, has a strained toe. The prognosis is 4 weeks.

That’s 4 weeks without the only true frontline ruckman in the team, the only ironed-on All-Australian they have.

Bugger. Bugger, bugger, bloody bugger.

This weekend? Monaco.

God I love Monaco.

By all accounts the drivers hate it but if I get to see one motor race each year then this would be the one. I’m also chasing down a story from Le Tour 2001 and another from the Austrian Grand Prix of 2003. More on those next time out.

  1. It’s been a good week for Boston. My highlights- definitely Tim Wakefield. It’s lovely to see a legend live up to decades of hype.
    Varitek. How amazing was it to see him homer the other day?
    The worst (April) is behind us…

    • Yep, Tek had a good game. I kind of glossed over it a bit – maybe lost it a bit in the summary – I didn’t even mention the two attempted steals he threw out at 2nd. Good to have the Captain back and maybe this tandem gig with Salty is ok… – Feels a little like the cylinders are firing up now.

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