Baseball Toaster Bronx Banter
2005-04-05 16:46
by Alex Belth
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to

After an Opening Day blowout, today offered something more like what we're used to seeing from the Yankees and Red Sox: a close game, decided in the final at-bat. Yankee-killer David Ortiz hit a home run (for a change), as did Red Sox-killer, Godzilla Matsui--who had three more hits today. Mariano Rivera blew a save opportunity in the ninth inning when Boston's captain Jason Variteck slapped a line-drive homer off of a cutter that just didn't cut (Rivera wasn't terrible, but the Red Sox hitters are extremley comfortable in the box against him; Jim Kaat suggested a little intentional wildness could go a long way...the pitch Varitek hit was straight-as-a-string). Derek Jeter, the Yankee captain, led off the bottom of the inning and returned the favor, belting a full-count fastball over the right center field fence to win it for the New Yorkers.

Matt Clement didn't pitch particularly well for Boston, but man, he's got a live arm. His pitches move a lot. In addition, the ball kind of whips out of his hand at the last moment, which must be brutal for right-handed hitters to pick up. He doesn't look like he's fun to bat against at all. As Joe Sheehan noted over at Baseball Prospectus, Clement has the same kind of sinking fastball that has made Kevin Brown a lot of money over the years. But his control was suspect and he never quite looked comfortable. The Yankees didn't help themselves by leaving a bunch of men on base; not surprisingly, Bernie Williams' timing is all out-of-whack.

Clement looks very much like one of those great line drawings by David Levine. He's got a pointy chin and a wide jaw, and has a certain birdlike quality to him. He reminds me of one of those kids that were a pain in the ass to play pick-up football with as a kid. It's not so much that was hard to tackle because of his speed or weight, but because he's all knees and elbow. Clement also looks very much like a boy, somewhere in the developmental ages between 8-14. He's sporting a goatee, but I get the sense that he doesn't know what his true style is yet. I was talking to Alex Ciepley this evening, and he said that Clement is one of the most uncomfortable players he's ever seen.

Pavano, on the other hand, is a complete load. I keep forgetting how big the guy is. With blunt, dark features, he has a deliberate move to the plate, and a long, bulky motion. I know Bobby Valentine nicknamed him "The Italian Stallion" over the winter, but the only name I can think of when I see Pavano, is "Meat."

Anyhow, it was a warm and sunny day in New York, the best day of the spring thus far. The final score made it even nicer.

2005-04-05 17:42:56
1.   Rich Lederer
2-0. But don't get too cocky. The Yankees can beat the Red Sox three straight anytime.
2005-04-05 17:50:19
2.   jalexei
Cocky? As I've told many a Red Sox fan over the years (usually whilst walking out of Fenway bearing the slings and arrows of another early season pounding at the hands of the Olde Towne Team), there's no trophy for winning in April.

But 2-0 beats 0-2 no matter what the calendar says...

2005-04-05 18:16:27
3.   jkay
Beautiful day at the ballpark today. Giambi grounded out to medium right field. Tino didn't get one out of the infield. Jeter gets payback for the HBP. A few more of those and he can put a "C" on the front of his uniform!
2005-04-05 18:29:53
4.   TomP
It looks like Alex is trying too hard again. I wish he could just relax and enjoy himself a little more...
2005-04-05 19:40:53
5.   NetShrine
When Mo Rivera allowed the tying run in the top of the 9th today (against the Red Sox) the talk began to get loud again about how Boston is inside Rivera's head and he cannot beat them.

And, granted, the stats from 2001 to date do show that the Red Sox have had more success against Rivera than any other team in baseball.

That said, there are some pieces of the puzzle here that many choose to overlook.

First, give the Red Sox some credit. In 2002, they had the 2nd best offense in the AL. In 2003, they had the best offense in the AL. And, in 2004, they again were the best batting team in the AL. Facing Boston is not exactly getting to go up against the Kansas City Royals or Detroit Tigers. I'm sure there are many pitchers in the AL who have had more trouble with Boston than any other team (since 2001).

Secondly, if Boston had Rivera's number - would they not have it most of the time and not just some of the time? Clearly, Boston beat Rivera in the 2004 ALCS. But, what happened in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS? The Sox had many shots against Rivera in that game, and still lost.

Furthermore, look at today's game - Varitek hit the HR off Rivera to tie the game. Yet, in that AB, Rivera got two strikes on him before the HR where it looked like Varitek was overmatched. Where was the edge in those two pitches?

If anything, personally, I think what the Sox do better with Rivera, than others do, is in terms of pitch recognition. Look at the stats from 2002 through 2004:

For Rivera, vs.
Baltimore: 28.1 IP, 31 H, 1 BB, 22 SO, and an ERA of 2.86 and he's 20 for 21 in Saves
Boston: 24.1 IP, 28 H, 10 BB, 18 SO, and an ERA of 3.70 and he's 9 for 14 in Saves

The numbers are just about the same - sans walks allowed and blown saves. There is a connection there.

Boston and New York have played each other 54 times, to date, since 2003. The Red Sox have had more chances to see Rivera than most other teams. Once Mo realizes that he needs to present a little different look to the Sox batters, he should be fine.

2005-04-06 05:02:28
6.   Sully
As a Red Sox fan, let me just say that seeing the bullpen door swing open and Mariano appear provides no comfort.
2005-04-06 05:25:39
7.   KJC
"if Boston had Rivera's number - would they not have it most of the time and not just some of the time?"

Rivera is just too good to blow it more than some of the time. The ability to come back against him just "some of the time" is a pretty big accomplishment for any team. (And, as a Sox fan, it's much better than the Mo of old where there was pretty much no chance once he came out.)

2005-04-06 06:33:12
8.   Dan M
BP2005 suggests, in the player notes, that Rivera is no longer the dominant force against lefties that he once was. Perhaps that's why it always seems that Mueller, Nixon and Varitek are getting to him. Then again, perhaps his numbers against lefties are getting worse solely because of the Sox.
2005-04-06 06:48:36
9.   jonblack
Clement is birdlike? But Pavano, at 6'5" and 245, is a "load"? Actually Pavano looks like he could crush mere mortals in his hands. Since you go in for those cliche adjectives, he's a "lumberjack type" or "strapping." Two other notes: it's very brave for a heterosexual male to call another guy "birdlike." And it's hard to get past the pubic hair on Clement's chin.

Pavano easily outpitched Clement yesterday. The score didn't quite reflect it because the Yanks didn't hit when men were on. Clement's line should have been much, much worse.

2005-04-06 07:37:13
10.   Dave D
Alex, I think we need to make the nickname stick. Italian Stallion is corny, "Meat" is right on. For someone who is not a strikeout pitcher, he looked good. I would assume that is due to the Red Sox getting their first look at him but they have seen him before (they crushed him if I believe).
As for Mo, the Sox are in his head. Look at the show of emotion on the Tek HR. Look at his comments afterward. The Sox have a solid strategy for him and it's pretty successful right now. Kaat is right, he needs to be more aggresive and show them something different. Otherwise Sturtze will have to pitch the ninth.
2005-04-06 08:20:06
11.   Dan M
I'd love to see a Yankees pitcher - anyone at this point - have a little "intentional wildness" against David Ortiz. His comfort zone against the Yanks is approaching its two-year anniversary.
2005-04-06 08:43:02
12.   Matt B
I have to agree with Kaat and Dan M. No one's advocating hurting the guy or starting a beanball war, but a little brushback pitch or two might help a great deal. I'm not overly worried about Rivera, I think the familiarity the Sox have with him is the key. It's just time to come up with a new plan against those Sox lefties. I don't see other lefties doing a helluva lot against him.

Oh yeah, Pavano looked terrific, Clement looked like the same maddening pitcher he's always been. He really could have wound up with a truly hideous line had the Yanks hit with men on.

2005-04-06 08:51:43
13.   NetShrine
I wonder if the Yankees Annies think Pavano's face is > Tino's butt?
2005-04-06 09:22:07
14.   Patrick
You say Clement didn't pitch well, but he's great and all Pavano gets is called a load? :-D

Like jonblack said, Pavano outpitched Clement and as Matt B said, he looked terrific. As Patrick said, you got to give him his due. :)

As far as Rivera, the familiarity thing helps the Sox. That said, there is no one I'd rather have than Rivera. More than anyone, he can take that loss and then come back tomorrow and beat you because his mind is right. That's important.

2005-04-06 09:54:23
15.   jayd
A magnificent win. Just as the self congratulatory tone had begun to creep into the rotund Don Orsillo's voice (Drag out the stats on Mariano vs 2004 Sox etc.) Oh Captain, Mon Capitan, plunges the well aimed dagger (We're baaack…) precisely where RS Nation richly deserves it. So we crush them one day, rip their hearts out the next. God this is fun.

But it's only two games, though, right? No panic. And today makes only three. Wakefield had a disastrous Spring and will be lucky to last two innings. We need ARod to have a big day for the barbecue to get the right roast look to it. Carmine Hose Media heaps huge praise on Matsui here, something they were never able to do for Jeter, particularly during the age of NOMAH when acknowledgement of Jeter's exploits was considered to be poor taste. Remember (No Panic), we run this to 6 and oh and the Nation begins devouring its young…Anybody checking the Trailways Buses to San Diego this time of year – CC Yawkey Way on that.

2005-04-06 09:59:45
16.   KJC
"And it's hard to get past the pubic hair on Clement's chin."

Hopefully Millar will show him how to grow a proper beard...

2005-04-06 10:14:01
17.   Alex Belth
Sorry you didn't dig the cliches. I don't get what is brave about a hetrosexual male calling another guy "birdlike." If he was drop-dead gorgeous, I'd call him that. I don't know what sexual preference has to do with it.

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