McAdam at the World Series: Lee unravels in Game One

McAdam at the World Series: Lee unravels in Game One

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

SAN FRANCISCO -- The 2010 World Series was two innings old and the Texas Rangers had a 2-0 lead and Cliff Lee on the mound.

If there's a better recipe, a surer formula for a postseason victory, it wasn't apparent at the time.

But there are no sure things in baseball, and certainly not during October baseball. Things change. Stuff happens.

Even if you're Lee and you have toyed with some of the game's best lineups the last two postseasons. Even if the mere thought of Lee was like a security blanket for the Rangers.

But a strange thing happened to the game's best postseason pitcher Wednesday night. Lee spit back the 2-0 lead in the third, then was rocked for six runs in the fifth. He was pulled before he could get out of the inning, and the Rangers went on to lose Game One, 11-7.

It didn't exactly match the earthquake in 1989 for seismic effect, but you could almost feel the tremors, sense the Rangers' world being rocked.

Cliff Lee was human after all.

"He's been so consistent,'' drawled Texas president Nolan Ryan, "that I think everybody has a tendency to just think that when he goes out there, it's going to be the same. Everybody's going to have problems at some point in time. His command wasn't that bad; he just wasn't as sharp as he's normally been.''

This is all Lee's fault, of course. Not Wednesday night, but the impossibly high standard he had set for himself previously. His numbers were otherwordly, his composure unflappable.

Against the Tampa Bay Rays and New York Yankees, he had made it look easy. Wednesday night was a sharp reminder that this business of turning back the game's best hitters on the game's biggest stage is, most assuredly, not easy.

"Obviously, he wasn't locating as well as he used to,'' said catcher Bengie Molina. "It happens. He wasn't as sharp. We're human.''

In Lee's case, that had been a well-kept secret this month and last October, too.

Wednesday, after all, represented Lee's first postseason loss ever. In each of his first three postseason starts this month, Lee had reached double figures in strikeouts and allowed a grand total of two runs.

The Giants matched that in the third inning alone. And then their fun really started.

As Lee's pitch count soared, the Giants were uncommonly patient. Known for their aggressiveness, they worked counts, wasted pitches and refused to cower.

This wasn't the Lee they had heard about.

"Guys were able to step up and have good at-bats,'' said former Red Sox infielder Freddy Sanchez, "and tried to work the pitch count and put the ball in play.''

And the hits weren't cheap. Sanchez lashed a double to left to score the first run. Andres Torres and Sanchez (again) doubled in the fifth. Cody Ross and Aubrey Huff served solid line drives into center as the inning wore on and Lee unraveled.

The same guy who last week looked as though he could carve the plate up with the precision of a surgeon, was suddenly offering a steady diet of inviting meatballs. The Giants may not have the most fearsome lineup, but they didn't need an invitation to whack what Lee was offering them.

"I threw a ton of pitches,'' recounted Lee, "and I threw a lot of pitches over the heart of the plate. You can't do that at this level. I made some good pitches, too. But for the most part, I was erratic and trying to find it. And for whatever reason, I couldn't be consistent locating pitches.''

Perhaps such a stumble was inevitable. Nobody could maintain that level of dominance forever.

The danger for the Rangers, of course, is that he'd had been so good in these instances that a loss by Lee could be devastating to their confidence. If we can't beat them with Lee, they might be asking themselves, how are we going to beat them?

"I don't think so,'' said Ryan, shooting down that theory. "We went out and scored seven runs and made, what, four errors? It's not too often that you make four errors and win a ballgame.''

Then again, it's not too often that your unbeatable, nearly unhittable pitcher is chased in the fifth inning. It's not often that Lee allows five doubles in a single start (he hadn't since joining the Rangers).

But things change. Stuff happens.

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

Wednesday's Red Sox-Rockies lineup: Ramirez back at first base

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Wednesday's Red Sox-Rockies lineup: Ramirez back at first base

BOSTON -- Hanley Ramirez had to come out of Tuesday night's game after getting hit in the foot with a pitch, but fears that he'd be sidelined for a while were unfounded.

Ramirez is back in the lineup tonight, at first base and batting fifth as always, as the Red Sox host the Rockies in the second game of a three-game series. In addition, Travis Shaw -- who was held out of Tuesday's starting lineup because of a minor hand injury but who came in as Ramirez's replacement after the HBP -- is back at third base, hitting seventh.

Jackie Bradley Jr. has been moved up to sixth as John Farrell continues to search for ways to make sure Bradley isn't pitched around. Bradley will be attempting to extend his hitting streak to 29 tonight.

The lineups:

ROCKIES:
Charlie Blackmon CF
DJ LeMahieu 2B
Nolan Arenado 3B
Carlos Gonzalez RF
Mark Reynolds 1B
Gerardo Parra LF
Ryan Raburn DH
Tony Wolters C
Cristhian Adames SS
---
Chat Bettis P

RED SOX:
Mookie Betts RF
Dustin Pedroia 2B
Xander Bogaerts SS
David Ortiz DH
Hanley Ramirez 1B
Jackie Bradley Jr. CF
Travis Shaw 3B
Ryan Hanigan C
Blake Swihart LF
---
Steven Wright P

McAdam: Just like old times for Red Sox at Fenway

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McAdam: Just like old times for Red Sox at Fenway

BOSTON -- The last two seasons, tourists weren't the only ones eager to visit Fenway Park. Opponents, too, couldn't wait to get to the old ballpark.

In 2015, the Red Sox barely finished above .500 at home (43-38). In 2014, their performance at Fenway was truly troubling -- 34-47, worse than they were away from home.

The days of juggling rotations to avoid unfavorable matchups against the Red Sox in Boston were a distant memory. It didn't much matter who pitched at Fenway. The Red Sox weren't much to worry about.

That's not the case in 2016, however. Overall, the Sox are 17-9 at home this season. Since April 24, they're 12-2.

And they're not just winning at home; they're bludgeoning other clubs into submission. Since the start of the season, the Red Sox are averaging 6.73 runs per game at Fenway Park . . . and over the last 18 games, they've pumped that average up to exactly eight runs per outing.

In 11 of their last 13 home games, they've scored at least six runs and pounded out 11 or more hits.

So it was, again, Tuesday that the Red Sox kicked off a three-game set with the Colorado Rockies with another eight-run performance.

A decade after the PED era crested, the Red Sox are putting up late 1990s/early 2000s offensive numbers at home.

"Our roster, our personnel has changed,'' said John Farrell after the 8-3 win over the Rockies in explaining the surge in Fenway offense. "We've added young, energetic, athletic guys that are able to go first-to-third, which is key in this ballpark because a man at second base in not always a guaranteed run on a base hit, particularly to the left side of the field.

"It's an all-field approach. That's the other thing. This has historically been a great doubles ballpark. Our hitting approach plays to that. The combination of those two things is the reason why.''

Indeed, the numbers bear all of that out. When it comes to their numbers at home, the Red Sox lead the league in runs scored, doubles, hits, total bases, batting average, slugging percentage, on-base percentage and OPS.

They've scored 175 runs at home; that's 59 more than the next-best team (Texas) has scored in its home ballpark.

Why, the Red Sox even lead the league in home triples (seven), evidence of how much more athletic they've become.

Farrell's right to point out the improved athleticism. Once more on Tuesday night, Xander Bogaerts scored from first base on a double by David Ortiz, something Bogaerts has seemingly done several times a week at Fenway this season.

The ability to take an extra base or two extends big innings and puts further pressure on an opponent.

When slow-footed catcher Christian Vazquez is rifling a ball to the triangle and ending up on third with a triple -- as was the case Tuesday -- then you know that things have changed at Fenway.

Chili Davis, the Red Sox hitting instructor, has been preaching the importance of using the entire field, and hitters are listening. On Tuesday, Ortiz slapped a single through the shortstop hole against the shift in the first for a two-run single.

Then, two innings later, Ortiz pulled a ball into the right-field corner for two more runs.

It's like that night after night, game after game for the Red Sox. The hits and runs pile up, and the wins follow.

The Sox are advised to take full advantage now of a schedule that is decidedly home-friendly in the first half of the season. In August and September, they'll will play the vast majority of their games on the road.

For now, though, there are plenty of games lined up at Fenway . . . an opportunity to keep the offensive numbers surging and the opponents cowering.

Bill "Spaceman" Lee is running for governor in Vermont

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Bill "Spaceman" Lee is running for governor in Vermont

BURLINGTON, Vt. — A former Major League Baseball player is running for governor in Vermont as a member of the Liberty Union party, which bills itself as nonviolent and socialist.

Bill "Spaceman" Lee tells WCAX-TV voters will "need umbrellas" if he's elected, because "it's going to be raining dollars," referring to money trickling down from the wealthy.

Lee pitched for the Boston Red Sox from 1969 to 1978. He was inducted into the team's Hall of Fame in 2008.

Lee says he's a "pragmatic, conservative, forward thinker." He supports legalizing marijuana, a single-payer health care system and paid family leave.