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Soup of This Day #41: Tramontate, Stelle! Tramontate, Stelle!

July 28, 2011

Giacomo Puccini, who composed the opera TurandotPhoto: Public Domain, circa 1907. Image cropped by Longworth72.

In the post previous to this one I had suggested that Kyle Davis was a car about to be crushed by the elephantine momentum of the Red Sox and that Seattle were going to come out of New York having swept the Yankees.

I was wrong.

Kyle Davis, combined with the Royals pen and Marco Scutaro’s inability to read a sign that pretty much everyone else anticipated, ended up doing ok with the Royals getting the win. Seattle meanwhile lost the 1st 2 against the Yankees, making it 17 losses on the trot for the M’s.

And so we arrive at today and I’d like to try some wordsmithery. See what I did there? I invented a word. That’s some spirited wordsmithery right there. Here’s some more.

An anagram of Longworth is:

long throw – to propel an object over a substantial distance.

An anagram of John Lackey is:

john lackey – to pitch inconsistently in such a way that it causes aggravation for fans of the team you are pitching for and fans of the team you are pitching against. Mostly the former.

I did try to make John Lackey into an anagram of ‘frustrating’ because that’s what he is, but it turns out that the task was fittingly frustrating. ‘El nach joky’ does have a nice, if meaningless, internationalist ring to it and ‘Enjoy chalk’ has an enigmatic and layered feel. I can see an old couple staring at graffiti on a wall ‘Enjoy chalk,’ says the man. ‘But what does it mean?’ says his partner. The old man shrugs, Walter Matthau style and the two amble off into the sunset.

Which is kind of what Red Sox fans want John Lackey to do right now. He is frustratingly inconsistent and of late the good performances are fair to middling at best. Yeah, his record has improved to 9 and 8 with 4 straight wins since his diabolical outing against Toronto. These results however mask a problem that a cursory glance at his ERA and WHIP exposes. Given all of this, John Lackey is too expensive. Walter Matthau would be cheaper and more consistent. Although to be fair Matthau is dead and so being consistent is pretty much all he can do.

In this morning’s outing he (Lackey, not Matthau. Matthau really is dead. It’s not a euphamism) coughed up 4 runs in 6.2 innings. The 1st 3 of them came at the top of the 1st and it’s a mystery how the Sox didn’t pay for that early complacency. Or maybe it’s not so much a mystery because it was against the 43 and 60 Kansas City outfit. The Royals have given up 501 runs this term and their 2 leaders in innings chewed, Jeff Francis (127.2) and Luke Hochevar (131.0) have ERAs of 4.65 and 5.29.

In spite of this disparity in form for Game 1 (100th for the season) they held the Sox to 1 run across 16 innings. Kyle Davis as mentioned above seemingly bamboozling the Sox offence. This however was an anomaly and an avoidable 1 to boot. Marco Scutaro missed that sign on a 12 inning suicide squeeze and sold the hard charging Reddick into a tag. Even then the Royals just about scraped it 3-1 an interminable 4 innings later.

Game 2 saw Andrew Miller on the mound for the Sox and he was ordinary.

Ok, he was crap. Let’s not sugar coat it for the lad.

Over 3.2 innings he coughed up 9 hits and 7 runs (Albeit only 5 were earned. Only 5). He had the Sox down 2-0, 4-2 and 7-5. Each time the bats came out to rescue him and the series. In the 1st Gonzalez (again) and Big Papi each hit home a runner. In the 3rd a Pedroia RBI double and a 2 run hit from Big Papi gave the Sox a 5-4 lead. In the 4th Crawford force walked one across the plate to close it to 7-6. Then in the 5th all hell broke loose, with Sutton’s bunt and a subsequent missed throw scoring 2. Then Gonzalez (again) with an RBI single and Big Papi kept his personal mojo rolling with a 2 run single. At the end of the 5th the Sox had an improbable 12-7 lead and with Aceves on form that was enough, although Tek boomed a solo shot in the 7th for fun and Morales gave up 2 in the 9th. It ended 12-9 with the impressive Aceves improving to 6 and 1 for the season.

In Game 3 and as explained previously the Sox were again down in the 1st with Lackey coughing up 3. Again the bats responded, this time with solo shots to leadoff man Ellsbury and to Pedroia. The latter marking his 24th successive game in which he has hit safely – A shot over the Monster is a nice way to do that. Lackey scraped out of the 2nd, limiting the Royals to only a couple of RISPs. Over then to the Sox bats who went into the bottom of the 2nd with a 1 run deficit but exited with a 2 run lead, thanks to a force walk, a Pedroia sac fly and a Gonzalez (again) groundout. In the 4th this became a 10-3 lead after a Navarro RBI single and a timely and typically bellicose Big Papi grand slam. There was time for Lackey to give up another run in the 5th before he was pulled in the 6th for the underwhelming Randy Williams. Gonzalez (again) batted in a run in the 6th with Ellsbury the scoring runner. That Sox dose was repeated in the 8th with Gonzalez (again) bringing home Ellsbury off a single. Meanwhile Williams had astoundingly cost just the solitary run before Wheeler brought Boston home for a 12-5 win.

Lackey, Williams, Miller, Navarro, Sutton, Scutaro. Put them all together with some anagram magic and you get:

‘Hiding behind the big bats’

If this had been the Yankees or the Phillies or the Rangers or the Tigers or the Giants or any one of a half a dozen teams instead of the Royals the Sox would be facing a broom tomorrow in Game 4. This is what Lackey had to say:

‘I think we’ll be fine. We’ve got some guys with experience in October. I think, once you get there, some things just kind of turn on.’

In the playoffs John they eat that shit up and spit you out. Asking us to just accept that it will all be ok in October with a rotation that includes 3 5+ ERA starters is a little loopy. At the moment the Sox are riding off some pretty impressive form with the bat – Imagine if that was teamed up with the kind of pitching that Pedroia et al deserve.

By now you might be wondering about the title to this post. It’s a line from Nessun Dorma, an aria that is part of Puccini’s opera Turandot. It was playing as I drove my son home from dinner out tonight and surprisingly he liked it enough to request a repeat.

‘What’s that man singing about?’ he asked.

I told him that the man, an unknown prince, was singing about no one being able to sleep because a princess needed to find out his name. I didn’t tell him that she was a blood thirsty ice queen channeling a long dead ancestor who had been raped. Or that if she found out the name of the prince she could have him beheaded, something she had form for. All of which had lead her to torture the heart broken servant of the unknown prince’s blind father, the deposed king of Tartary.

Some people are just not ready for marriage.

Nessun Dorma has a sporting connection – It was used for the 1990 World Cup in Italy, with Luciano Pavarotti’s rendition as part of the 3 Tenors, providing a backdrop to the the beautiful game, football. The 3 Tenors were subsequently called upon for the 1994 World Cup in the USA, performing pre-final at Dodger Stadium. Somehow, the match of opera with football just seemed right and now you’ll find operatic arias as the soundtrack to any and all sport. Any coverage with super slow motion is in fact really quite @#$% without some Pavarotti, Carrerras or Domingo punctuating the drama.

As a test try filming yourself catching a pistachio in your mouth. Replay it with Coldplay’s Viva La Vida at normal speed.

Mundane. Discordant. Off kilter even.

Now slow it down and chuck in Nessum Dorma. Suddenly it is imbued with a drama that leaves viewers wondering at the story unfolding. See, operatic arias are the salt of the sporting world. They lift sport up, give it a flavour that suggests that the wildly improbable is possible.

Mmmmmmm… salted pistachios…

Can the Red Sox win a World Series with a rotation including Lackey, Miller and Williams? Probably not but maybe, just maybe, there lies a wildly improbable plot out there. Slow mo down Lackey’s 1st and chuck on some Pav and you may just believe.

If it helps I can tell you that Seattle took the Yankees 9-2 at Yankee Stadium.

Set stars, set stars.

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