Standing Room Only: A true Classic

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Standing Room Only: A true Classic

We try to keep the spotlight on Boston in this space, but every once in a while you cant help but burst through the local bubble.

For instance, last night, while the Pats were packing for Pittsburgh, the Bruins were rolling over at the Garden, the Celtics eyes were on New York and the Sox were kicking back a cold one, the Cardinals and Rangers were playing one of the ugliest baseball games Ive ever seen.

Im serious. It was awful, and not just for a potential World Series clincher. This wouldnt have been acceptable for opening day of Spring Training. There were dropped pop-ups in the infield . . . flubbed fly balls in the outfield . . . two booted grounders . . . there were five errors through the first six innings! (And that doesnt count the comedy of errors spewing out of Tim McCarver). But thankfully, in the top of the seventh, with the score tied at four, Adrian Beltre and Nelson Cruz hit back-to-back homers to put the Cardinals (and the baseball world) out of their misery. Or so we thought . . .

Instead, right around 12, as night turned to morning and the Pats (dreaming of Terrible Towels), the Bruins (with Montreal nightmares), the NBA (starring David Stern in a night cap and footie pajamas) and the Sox (passed out in front of an empty box of DiGiornos) were all deep in sleep, the Rangers and Cardinals combined for what will go down as one of the most exciting and historic baseball games Ive ever seen. The most uplifting, heart-wrenching, unbelievable back-and-forth battle since . . . honestly, I dont know. From a personal standpoint, Id have to say Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS or (gulp) Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS, but all bias aside neither could match this stage.

If you saw it, you know exactly what Im talking about. If not, Im sorry, but theres no way I can do it justice. There were so many different heroes, so many different goats. You felt for so many people Matt Holiday, Nelson Cruz, Nolan Ryan, Neftali Feliz, Scott Feldman, Josh Hamilton, Lance Berkman, David Freese, Ron Washington, Tony Larussa, Alexi Ogando, Mark Lowe, Mike Napoli, Joe Buck on so many levels.

The Cardinals were trailing by two runs and down to their last strike on TWO different occasions. Crazy, right? Well, how about the fact that the Rangers were one strike away from WINNING a World Series on two different occasions?

Its funny, because when you have a dog in the fight, you only deal with one side of those emotions, but as an innocent and unbiased spectator, you burn the candle at both ends. Every moments bittersweet, every big play's a simultaneous high five and gut punch. When David Freese, the same guy who hit the game-tying triple in the ninth, the same guy who GREW UP in St. Louis cheering for the Cardinals, hit a walk-off 11th inning homer to send his hometown team to the seventh game of the World Series, I stood up and cheered, yet at the same time, part of me died. The Rangers, man. One pitch away . . . twice! It was an absolute trip. Probably the purest, yet most emotionally-confusing sports viewing experiences Ive had in years.

And as Freese crossed home plate, while a large part of me was relieved to finally get to bed, another part was bummed that the game couldn't go on forever. It was history. We were living baseball history. And I didn't want it to end.

Although in many ways, it didnt. In reality, I guess Freeses homer marked more of an intermission. The real ending plays out tonight, and Boston team or not, Ill be along for the ride.

Rich Levine can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Drellich: Pomeranz lessens heat on Dombrowski's trade history

Drellich: Pomeranz lessens heat on Dombrowski's trade history

BOSTON — Drew Pomeranz is helping out Dave Dombrowski’s balance sheet in Boston.

The Chris Sale and Craig Kimbrel trades have been awesome — beyond awesome, even. The Tyler Thornburg deal looks like a disaster that, maybe someday, Dombrowski will acknowledge rather than sidestep. The Carson Smith deal has produced, if nothing else, no gain. The Fernando Abad deal has not hurt the Sox, and he’s had some decent moments.

But the Pomeranz trade with the Padres, for just top pitching prospect Anderson Espinoza, stood as the most controversial of Dealer Dave’s moves until the past couple months. Now, the Cult of Travis Shaw has slowly made folks forget about Espinoza and the complicated set of circumstances that surrounded that trade.

“Rescind” is something you’re hearing less and less. 

It’s remarkable what a 2.70 ERA in a 40-inning, seven-start stretch can do. Pomeranz is looking like a lot shinier these days, particularly after Tuesday night, when he came back out despite a rain delay of more than an hour in a 9-2 win over the Twins.

From the day that 40-inning stretch began, May 25, through Tuesday, only four qualified starters posted a better ERA in the American League: Corey Kluber (1.29), Jason Vargas (2.27), Jordan Montgomery (2.52) and Mike Pelfrey (2.64).

For comparison: Chris Sale is 10th in that stretch, at 3.54. Rick Porcello has 6.08 ERA in the same time.

Realistically, where the Sox stood last season, they needed Pomeranz. He was healthy enough to throw. That’s the reality everyone who wanted the deal undone always undersold: the back of the rotation was crumbling. 

But that was just one layer of the deal.

The Padres did not provide as much medical information as they should have, and the Sox stuck with Pomeranz despite the opportunity to look elsewhere.

Espinoza hasn’t pitched for a Padres minor league affiliate yet this season. He’s playing catch from flat ground as he comes back from a forearm injury, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported recently. 

Trades, to this observer, are typically best evaluated by reviewing the process behind them — which is to say, by looking back at the information was available at the time the deal was made. And at the time, it was known that the Sox were paying for Pomeranz beyond just last season's second half. They were paying for a controllable arm who could help out the rotation this year too.

Dombrowski may well have acquired Pomeranz at his peak value, which is unsurprising. But what mattered most was whether the team believed Pomeranz could contribute effectively beyond 2016. That, once they had all the health information, whether they properly evaluated what it would mean for his future.

It looked bad when Pomeranz started the season on the disabled list. He had a stem-cell injection in his forearm in the winter, too. There wasn’t much to hang your hat on at the start of April. 

Realistically, Pomeranz probably isn’t 100 percent right now. Even within the relative world of pro baseball — where no one is ever 100 percent — Pomeranz is probably further from it than most. 

But he's powered through. Pomeranz’s attitude might actually fit Boston better than most realize. He also is, whether people want to acknowledge it or not, a pitcher with a high ceiling in terms of ability (if not innings).

He also is, whether people want to acknowledge it or not, a pitcher with a high ceiling in terms of ability (if not innings).

How Pomeranz holds up is to be seen. But the team’s judgment that he would have value beyond last season, a value worth surrendering Espinoza for, is looking better and better.

Francona misses second game this month because of health issues

Francona misses second game this month because of health issues

CLEVELAND -- Indians manager Terry Francona missed Tuesday night's game against Texas after his second trip to the hospital this month.

The Indians said doctors for now have ruled out major health issues and Francona will be monitored the next several weeks.

Francona, 58, left Monday night's game because he wasn't feeling well. He spent several hours at Cleveland Clinic and underwent a series of tests.

Francona was released from the hospital on Tuesday and spent the rest of the day at home. He was expected to return to the dugout Wednesday when the Indians host the Rangers. Cleveland lost to Texas 2-1 on Tuesday.

Bench coach Brad Mills ran the team in Francona's absence. Cleveland began the day in first place in the AL Central after rallying for a 15-9 win Monday.

"Tito actually wanted to come back to the ballpark today," team president Chris Antonetti said Tuesday. "I told him he can't come back to the ballpark today. He only got a couple hours of sleep last night, so despite his desire to want to be here, I thought it was best that he gets some rest tonight and just come back tomorrow. His plan when he was getting released from the hospital was to come over here."

"I don't think he was exceedingly happy with me," Antonetti said with a laugh. "That's OK."

Francona was hospitalized June 13 following a game at Progressive Field. He underwent tests and was released a few hours later, returning to work the following night. Last August, he missed a game after experiencing chest pains but was back the next day.

"Thankfully, we've got some great doctors that are coordinating his care," Antonetti said. "They've done every test they can possibly imagine. They've all come back clean. They're now working to try to figure out what are some of those things that are causing him to not feel so well."

Francona, a close friend of Mills for several years, has retained his sense of humor through his health issues.

A statement released by the team Tuesday read, "Mr. Francona also wanted to express that medical personnel have not yet ruled out an allergy to Bench Coach Brad Mills."