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Acute Awareness

by Mike DePilla
Monday, August 31, 2009

The line on yesterday's game, in which the Sox fell to 1-6 on the nightmare trip, will be that Freddy kept the Sox in it, but the offense failed to take charge and then the bullpen imploded.

While that line is accurate, and Garcia has done an acceptable job in the 5th starter role against the Red Sox and Yankees, I want to make one observation about a trend that has followed Garcia around in his three starts this year

  • The Sox offense has scored a run in 6 innings while Freddy is on the hill in his three starts. Garcia has allowed a run or more to the opponent in their next at bat in 5 of the 6 innings.
  • Moreover, in Garcia's last two starts- in Boston and New York, he has not allowed any runs in innings when the Sox did not score.

I don't really know what, if anything, that means. Just an observation. When the Sox score a run for Garcia, he is quick to give it back to the other team in their next at bat. When the Sox don't score, he is a shut down pitcher.

Some players are accused of not being aware of the situation. (Alexei Ramirez for example.) Considering his reputation for not getting up for games against sub-par opponents and this give-it-back trend, I think Freddy Garcia is too aware of the situation.

Hopefully in Freddy's next outing (at home vs. Boston), the Sox can stake him to a lead and he can hold them there.

******

The bullpen has sure taken a beating lately. But, in their defense, the starters have not been going deep into games and, more importantly, the offense plain and simple has not given them leads to protect. It's too much stress to ask the pen to work 4 or 5 innings every night and never have the lead.

Only once in the past 10 games has the bullpen blown a lead, and that came in an inning that the starting pitcher, Garcia, started (last Tuesday in Boston).

Scott Linebrink has been terrible, which really isn't surprising. I still have faith in the rest of the staff: Carrasco in long relief, Pena for the 6th inning, Dotel for the 7th, Thornton in the 8th and Jenks in the 9th. Are they perfect? No. But if the Sox offense can muster up enough strength for a 2-run lead, and the starter can go at least 6 innings, I don't think the relief pitching would be as much of an issue as it has been.

In late inning tie games on the road, there's no question the bullpen has struggled, and there's no excuse for it. Still, it would be nice to see the rest of the team- the offense and starters- provide a little more in the early innings.

******

One other thing: This team seems to have an acute, maybe too acute, awareness of the media expectations for them. In situations that portend poor performance, the Sox seemed resigned to their fate before they even take the field. West coast road trips, early inning deficits, and of course the biggie that we'll see tonight: playing in Minnesota's Dome.

It's almost embarrassing how many concessions the Sox make when they play there, like they're looking for excuses before the game is played. Has the problem become so mental that it is ingrained in the players' brains?

Back when Johan Santana pitched for the Twins, the Sox gave that seem feeling of surrender every time he was on the hill. Once or twice it would be nice to see and hear them say "F*** it. We're playing hard and we're beating these guys."

Obviously, I'm not saying the Sox should excel in every difficult situation. But I don't want to hear them accept and explain copiously why they are going to lose; I want to hear them lay out how they're going to win.

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