It is time, my people, to rise up, stand proud, turn on our television sets and sit right back down to enjoy some good ol' fashioned Boston playoff baseball! And maybe some beef chili...oh, and nachos! With cheese! And pizza!
Yes, the city of Boston is filled with anticipation and fattening foods once again. I can practically feel the excitement. In fact, lately when I walk near Fenway I can literally feel the excitement, and that is causing me to call upon Sox fans to cut back on the heavy drinking during games, or I may just have to kill some of you with a citrus spoon. Or maybe cry. Either way, you won't like it.
Anyway, in just a few days the Red Sox will finally, after so many long, hard months of nail-biting repetition and monotony, be taking the first step toward trying to win another World Series title. The fans have waited for this moment since all the way back in October of last year, and no one is going to take it away from them! Well, except for maybe another team.
Yes, the first round is going to be a tough challenge for this year's team, as they have to square off against the 100-game winners from California known as the Angels. This team is so good that they have not only managed to keep their closer from exploding during his windup, but have managed to do so for the entire season. Any team that has that kind of control over the laws of physics definitely makes me frightened.
I mean, just watch that man pitch: His leg kicks up so high and hard I swear he's going to kick a few teeth out, and then he slams it down like he's trying to kill a spider. Then his arms and legs twist and twirl in ways that make a ballerina homicidally jealous. Finally he tops the whole thing off, after actually throwing the ball, by planting and leaping toward first base like he's Michael Phelps and he just heard the gun go off. Only instead of water he finds dirt and grass and possibly rocks.
Somehow, despite this suicidal behavior, the Angels have managed to control him so well that he has saved 62 games this season, shattering the previous single-season record held by someone named Thigpen. Add to that Vladimir Guerrero and a bunch of random other players that we've only barely heard of and you have the fixin's for a quality team.
Despite that, I think the Sox can give the Angels a run for their money and at least make the series interesting.
Pitching-wise, the Red Sox certainly don't have the deepest bullpen in the world; or even in Massachusetts. After Papelbon and Okajimi, who has proven that his 2007 season wasn't a fluke, you basically only have Manny Delcarmen. He has done a serviceable job in the middle-relief role this year, but I still would prefer a few more confident arms in the pen.
The starting rotation is also a bit shaky, with Matsuzaka's tendency to walk the entire opposing lineup at least once, just for fun, before going ahead and striking everyone out and giving every fan a coronary. Also, the all-important postseason Superman known as Josh Beckett has apparently decided to injure himself playing catch.
That being said, Lester has pitched superbly all season, and has enough playoff experience from last year to not be wetting his pants right now, even though he is basically the No. 2 pitcher going into the series now.
Also, despite Matsuzaka's attempts at killing the fans with stress, he still has managed to consistently win when he actually gets the ball in the strike zone. If Beckett's injury proves to be non-serious, I think the starting pitching will be more than enough for the Red Sox offense to gather some wins.
The offense is definitely where the Sox really shine. They have a team batting average of .280, and finished third in the majors in runs scored and slugging percentage. They were fourth in the majors in total team hits, and second in doubles. Finally, they were first in the majors in team OBP. Clearly, this team knows how to win with the bat.
Let's go over the lineup, top to bottom:
1. Jacoby Ellsbury - CF
A .280 batting average, faster than Speedy Gonzalez on cocaine, and a brilliant defensive fielder. Would gladly invite to my Oscar party.
2. Dustin Pedroia - 2B
A small, skinny, goofy looking double machine who can hit anything thrown in his general direction, including pick-off attempts at first base. Vacuum-cleaner for a glove at second. Probably a Bud man.
3. David Ortiz - DH
Lumbering, frightening beast who can hit anything not thrown at his knees about a billion miles. Has been hot lately, with hits in his last six games and five home runs in his last 10 games. Only weakness: Vitamin Water.
4. Kevin Youkilis - 1B
Weirdest batting stance in the history of bat-and-ball sports, including cricket. Has a goatee that goes on for days. Also collects RBIs like some people collect seashells.
5. Jason Bay - LF
The new guy. Ton of home runs between two teams this year, and has an excellent attitude with no butt-length dreadlocks or MC Hammer pants.
6. Mike Lowel - 3B
Tremendous drop-off in nearly every major category from 2007, except for salary and endorsements. Despite this, still an excellent defensive third baseman and speaks understandable English.
7. JD Drew - RF
In strict tradition, must mention that he "isn't living up to his potential" but is playing well this year compared to last year, and is at least healthy and smiling occasionally.
8. Jason Varitek - C
Can't help myself, I just love this guy. Manly, tough and one hell of a pitcher's catcher. Not to mention the irresistible facial stubble and team-focused attitude.
9. Jed Lowrie - SS
He's younger than me and he plays for the Red Sox. Thus, a constant, hateful reminder that I'm that much closer to being too old to have a shot. Good shortstop, though.
What a lineup! This team definitely will lead by offense this postseason. The Angels' pitching staff will definitely have its hands full. I think this will be a much more exciting series than the past two times these teams have met, when the Sox swept the Angels in two separate divisional series en route to two World Series titles in four years.
Remember that, Anaheim? Gosh, that was fun, wasn't it?
So, here it comes! Two days from now the Red Sox travel to Anaheim and October baseball in Boston will begin at 10 p.m. I can only hope too much isn't expected of me at work Thursday and Friday. Thank goodness I'm not a doctor.
Although this might be a good time to remind everyone in the Boston area that your doctor is probably also a Sox fan, and you might want to consider rescheduling that appointment for November.
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