Tuesday, September 15, 2009
I don't think anyone knew what to expect from Daisuke Matsuzaka. But even the most child-like pink-hat optimist in Red Sox Nation wouldn't have expected the quality outing Matsuzaka registered last night in Fenway Park.
6 scoreless innings, only 3 hits allowed, 3 walks, and 5 strikeouts. He had a no-hitter through 4 innings. If he can pitch at or near this level down the stretch, the Sox rotation has the potential to be the best foursome in baseball. Beckett-Lester-Buchholz-Matsuzaka at their best is a ridiculous playoff rotation. Granted, there's that "at their best" stipulation, and Matsuzaka, Buchholz, and Beckett are known to have their ups and downs. But potential is all you need.
David Ortiz's homer in the 8th set a new record for homeruns as a DH (270) It's a record you kind of want to keep quiet, like Joaquin Phoenix's character's minor league homerun record in Signs.
Frank Thomas hit 269 homeruns as a DH, but he also hit 250 as a first baseman. Slightly more impressive.
Paul Byrd opposes Joe Saunders Wednesday night.
AP Photo/Michael Dwyer
Not surprisingly, there's no official word on Jerod Mayo's injured knee. But apparently, it doesn't seem too serious. The good news is that it doesn't seem to be a season-ender. Jerod Mayo is the key to the Patriots' new look offense. He led the team in tackles last year, and is one of the few dependable pieces to the defensive puzzle.
Being a Bills fan is tough. It's tougher than being a Christian preacher in 1st century Rome. It's so ugly that it should be featured on Dirty Jobs. They just love to find ways to lose, and you can't help but feel bad for them. These aren't cocky guidos from New Jersey supporting the Jets, or your token "I want to be different" friend who wears his Marino jersey all the time (they have them in New York and New England, folks). These are actual people, and you have to admire their dedication to a doomed team.
Enough pity. You know what that win reminded me of? 2001. The Patriots won games like this one that season, down by two scores with 126 seconds left, in need of a big special teams play, and Brandon Meriweather comes up with one. Then of all people, the kicker recovers the ball. Adam who?
The haters will ascribe this win to luck. Had McKelvin knelt in the end zone, the Pats lose, right? It was a Buffalo mistake that allowed the Patriots to win. But that's what happens in football. Good teams capitalize on mistakes. Good teams minimize the damage of their own mistakes. Had the Bills stopped Brady after that fumble, then Buffalo still wins.
Of course, you don't want to glorify a victory that's riddled with mistakes and poor play. Tom Brady was rusty, Laurence Maroney and Fred Taylor didn't get anything going, and the defense was perhaps a bit overzealous with Trent Edwards. The defense also allowed that 6 minute touchdown drive in the 4th quarter that 9 times out of 10 is a game-clincher. All this must change, and change quickly.
It was nice to see Ben Watson being productive again. Give Tom Brady a tight-end with hands and opposing defenses are in big trouble in the red zone. And with little depth at WR past Moss and Welker, Watson becomes a key element to the offense.
There are a lot of wrinkles to iron out. Jerod Mayo's knee injury doesn't appear that bad. The 4-3 alignment doesn't work without him. The defense allowed 4.7 yards per carry. It also failed to make a big stop in a close game, which was the Patriots' strength in '03 and '04; and their weakness in '06 and '07.
Patriots @ Jets next Sunday in Jersey. The winner controls the AFC East.
AP Photo/Steven Senne
AP Photo/Winslow Townson
AP Photo/Stephan Savoia