- Buster Olney, Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine
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The following is a transcript of Buster Olney's in-game analysis from Yankees-Red Sox Game 2 during SportsNation's The Show, which will be every night for postseason games. Click here for more details.
Hey, folks, hope all the hit-drunk Yankees' fans and the punched out Red Sox fans have recovered from last night. I'm not going too far out on a limb, I think, in saying that we can expect more of the same tonight, particularly as Derek Lowe takes the mound for the Red Sox. Maybe Lowe will pitch well; I very much doubt it. I think he's been distracted all year by his impending free agency, and he simply hasn't been accountable. Lowe was dropped out of the postseason rotation after getting hammered in his last starts of the season, and finishing the year with a 5.12 ERA, and yet when Lowe was assigned a start in this series after Schilling's injury, he still managed to complain mildly. Paraphrasing here, he said that it was a little tough because he would be pitching for the same people who hadn't shown confidence in him before and had dropped him out of the rotation. Unless the Red Sox become the first team to come back from a 3-0 deficit to win a series, this will be his last outing with Boston, and you wonder how much he's really invested in the situation tonight; personally, I think he's going to get ripped. It could be that Orlando Hernandez, the Yankees' starter, will get hit around, as well, and we could have a repeat of the early inning slugfest we had last night... Terry Francona, who looked very puffy-eyed at the press conference this afternoon -- as if he hadn't slept much -- was asked what he would do if Lowe gets in trouble early. Terry smiled and looked at his questioner and said, That's not a good question... The plan where I'm sitting is Lowe, Timlin, Foulke, win and play tomorrow. I don't like your plan. We'll see what happens.
Middle of the first: Lowe -- 9 pitches, three outs, looking good. The Fox guys were talking about Lowe is mad about being dropped out of the rotation, but unfortunately, Lowe never has really taken responsibility. Look at the back end of the Boston rotation, with Arroyo and Wakefield, and compare their raw stuff with his. Of course Francona and Dave Wallace would love to have Lowe pitch well enough to stay in the rotation; he can dominate hitters, when he's fully invested mentally. But he was so bad they dropped him out. It's ridiculous that a 31-year-old veteran pitcher can't figure that out and be accountable.
End of the first: Hernandez threw 22 pitches in the bottom of the first, but with El Duque, pitch count is irrelevant. He simply will not give in to hitters, and he's almost more comfortable pitching when he's behind in the count. If the count is 2-0, he's going to throw slop, like that 58 mph curve, rather than throw a fastball the hitter can sit on. It's a style that makes hitters go nuts, because they can't reasonably guess what he's going to throw next. But it also guarantees that he's going to be approaching or surpassing 100 pitches in the fifth inning. He's throwing fine...
Middle of the second: Nice play by Cabrera to get Matsui at the plate, and Lowe continues to look good -- two scoreless innings against a team with a smoking-hot lineup, only 27 pitches thrown so far. Derek Jeter has always said this about Derek Lowe: He's got the nastiest stuff in baseball.
End of the second: Duque threw 15 pitches that inning, 37 in all. Looks like the down time didn't hurt him at all, because he's throwing all of his pitches for strikes. Please send out a call for Denny Doyle, 'cause the Red Sox need another second baseman who can do something.... Wow, Bellhorn is brutal right now.
Middle of the third: Gotta admit,I thought that A-Rod would struggle early in this postseason, as he adjusted. He's been unbelievable; in fact, the top of the Yankees' lineup has been incredible since they switched A-Rod to No. 2, sandwiched between Jeter and Sheffield... They've been unstoppable since then... 21 pitches in the inning for Lowe, 48 in all. As many of you have noted, the drum beat has started again...
Matsui has had a bigger impact, I think -- I say that without looking at the numbers. At least the Red Sox seem to get A-Rod out occasionally; Matsui's hitting rockets every time up.
End of the third: Duque -- 12-pitch inning, ending it by freezing Ramirez with a 91-mph fastball. Hernandez has 49 pitches so far... You get the feeling that if the Yankees put up a couple of more runs now, the Red Sox will topple for the last time in 2004.
Middle of the fourth: Lowe threw 19 pitches in that inning, up to 67 overall. You guys have all noted the Red Sox loss of hair. What's kind of interesting is that they didn't come up with some theme, as they did last year -- all go with the skin, all go with a spaghetti strand of beard, or whatever. My guess is that they probably wouldn't be too excited to ruin their early offseason hair style when they were down 3-0. Maybe if it was 3-2...
End of the fourth: 8-pitch inning, 57 in all for El Duque. He's got great command and the Red Sox are wilting fast. For those who weren't with us before, word around the Yankees is that if they finish off the Sox here shortly, they will probably stay with the same foursome through the World Series -- Mussina, Lieber, Brown, Duque... Based on how Duque is throwing now, I wonder if they'll flip-flop Duque and Brown, going with Duque in 3 (and 7) and Brown in 4.
Top of the fifth: Tip of the cap to Derek Lowe, he's pitched much better than I thought he would. Five innings, 78 pitches, but this game still feels like the Yankees are going to apply the final hammer at any moment. Anybody think the Red Sox hitters will actually show some life here, while the score is still close?
Bottom of 5: Duque got him with that breaking ball again, after all. Joe was right... That'll probably be it. I bet he starts Heredia in the next inning, to make Francona make a choice on whether to keep Nixon in the game or pinch-hit with Kapler. And what is Francona thinking now? The next pitcher he brings in has got to be Mike Timlin -- 2 innings now, then Foulke for the 8th and 9th. Only way you use Embree is against Clark, and the only way you use Myers is against Matsui... Lots of head games to come...
End of the sixth: It'll be interesting to see how Joe handles the bottom of the seventh. Normally, you'd say Gordon starts the seventh and then Rivera sometime in the eighth, but Sturtze looked OK there, and Gordon has been kind of mediocre lately. I wonder if Joe will let Sturtze go batter to batter in the bottom of the seventh. Usually, he goes for the jugular in these playoff situations, but with a 3-0 lead, maybe he'll give Sturtze the smallest bit of leash in the seventh, just to see how he handles it...
Bottom of the seventh: One thing that Mark Bellhorn has established -- during the regular season, against mediocre pitching, he can rack up a high on-base percentage and make you forget those strikeouts just a bit. In the postseason, against better pitching, he's overmatched. I'd be shocked if Bellhorn is brought back, after this October collapse...
Middle of the Eighth: We should give lots of credit to Sturtze and Foulke, both having done nice work in this game. I bet this really will give Sturtze a measure of trust in Torre's mind, as they head into the World Series (assuming they hang on here, with Mo...) Greg (NYC:) No way Sheffield retires. I covered him in San Diego and he's probably threatened to retire every year since he turned 22. It's more likely that Sheffield will complain loudly if Beltran gets a lot of pinstriped cash and Sheffield wins the MVP (or finishes second). Shef will start yapping about an extension...
End of the Eighth: OK, here's what at stake for the Red Sox, as they head into possibly the last inning of their last game of the playoffs -- Pedro's perhaps final and only lasting impact of Boston's rivalry with the Yankees is a mantra that will be repeated for many years to come in Yankee Stadium. They will chant Who's Your Daddy? next year to the Red Sox, even if Pedro is gone, and they will keep chanting it forever.
End of the ninth: Wow: That's about as much emotion as you will see Rivera have after he blows a save. Pumped his arm in frustration. Can't recall seeing that before..
"Who's Your Daddy" is not quite etched in stone. It's only penciled in, at this point.
Middle of the 10th: Rivera is out of the mix. Wonder if Gordon will try to repeat what Duque did and throw his curveballs down and in to Varitek, or if he will put the ball over the plate. Now, here is a chance to second-guess Torre (and somebody first-guessed last night, in the ninth inning, here): How much gas will Gordon have after pitching last night when the Yankees had an 11-run lead?
Bad matchups coming up for Boston: Embree against the Yankees' murders' row of right-handed hitters -- after Cairo, Jeter, A-Rod, Sheffield. It would behoove the Red Sox to end this now.
End of the 11th: You are Terry Francona. You have Tim Wakefield warming up. If you're going to use him at all, you absolutely must use him to START AN INNING. You cannot send Leskanic out there if you think he's going to start walking guys. Because once you start with Leskanic, Wakefield's knuckler becomes a serious liability once runners are on base. YOU MUST START THE INNING WITH WAKEFIELD, if you want to use him at all.
Bottom of the 12th: Boy, if you are the Red Sox and Ortiz, you've got to love this matchup. You haven't been able to extend your arms for your last few at-bats, and now you can reach out and try to stick a ball off the Monster.
End of the Game: For one more night, the Red Sox have held off the permanent "Who's Your Daddy" attached to them for infinity. Pedro against Mussina in Game 5 later today. Enjoy the rest of your night, folks, we'll see you tomorrow. I'm going to catch a train.
Buster Olney is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine. His book, "The Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty," is a New York Times best seller and can be ordered through HarperCollins.com.
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