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After three false starts trying to write this Game Report, I suddenly realized why I had such a hard time building up a rhythm. Nothing could possibly recapture the nervous energy of actually watching this game. Nothing.

From start to finish, this was an exhilarating, nail-biting, death-defying series of swoops and leaps as the balance of power shifted from Sox to Jays, back to Sox, back to Jays, and back to Sox again until a series of heart-stopping reverses over the final two innings culminated in a routine Vernon Wells catch of a Ramon Vazquez fly to seal a 4-3 Jays victory, an exultant punch of the air from me, and a huge, heart-filling sigh of relief.

If this were a basketball game, it would be the kind that saw 15 second-half lead changes. In baseball's low-scoring evironment, where teams only take nine turns on offense and defense per game (even fewer than in most football contests), it's rare to see the likely winner of a game change a large number of times, let alone so often in the last three innings. But in this game, we saw the likely winner change a rather shocking eight times, as far as I can judge. Seven of those changes happened in the last four innings. The lead didn't necessarily change, but the team that was most likely to win did. What a ballgame. Let's go through those lead changes.

Start of the game

With Halladay taking the mound for the Jays, the Jays are a slight favorite.

Top of the first

The Jays are set down in order, and I would put the odds about even.

Bottom of the first

Manny homers (and what an incredible roll he is on - I think he's the league's most fearsome hitter when he's on a hot streak) and Boston takes the lead.

Second through Fifth innings

In this first half of the game, following the Manny homer, Halladay was a relentless, ruthless machine, mowing down the Sox hitters as fast as a pitcher can realistically go. Nearly every pitch was delivered into the strike zone, nearly every pitch threatened to break a bat with its velocity and movement. Meanwhile, despite his narrow lead and low margin for error, Arroyo was pitching with coolness and confidence, twice retiring Jays hitters in two-on, two-out situations.

Top of the sixth

Koskie homers with none out, and the teams are essentially tied. Then Hinske doubles with one out, and the Jays take the probabilistic lead. Then Arroyo gets Rios and Hudson to gound out, and suddenly the Red Sox are back in front - at least as far as their chances go.

Bottom of the sixth

Halladay gets three Sox to make easy outs. Here, the game is in a very narrow balance. Halladay is still fresh with only 56 pitches thrown, and the game is tied. I would put the Jays narrowly in front after Damon's groundout (and I felt that way watching), despite Toronto's weaker bullpen. It looked for all the world like Doc would cruise through nine - at least.

Top of the seventh

Zaun singles with two out, and if they weren't before, the Jays are narrowly in front. They slip behind again when Shea grounds out. Remember, all these "lead changes" and ups and downs aren't happening in a vacuum. The Fenway crowd is noisy as heck; Doc is showing his usual intensity. Both lineups are playing gritty, determined, lunch-bucket baseball. The way they do best.

Bottom of the seventh

Manny walks with one out, and the lead shifts heavily over to Boston. It's soon confirmed as Ortiz - the most beloved man in Boston - cracks a homer. The park shakes. 3-1 Sox, Doc is pissed, and Kevin Millar pays the price and stands in to get hit. The lead, at least probabilisitically, is increasing. Doc makes Renteria pay with three straight strikes that he never had a chance on, and Varitek gets a classic Roy Halladay at-bat to follow: strike looking, strike swinging, foul, grounder to short that Adams gobbles up. The Sox have the lead, but Doc isn't going to quit.

Top of the eighth

Koskie singles, and the Jays are creeping back. Vernon swings at the first pitch, fouls one off, and the punks who've been riding V-Dub for the last two weeks are tut-tutting to themselves about his aggressiveness.

And then all of a sudden, he shuts them up. Hopefully forever.

Vernon hits it 400 feet. In some parks, that ball bounces on the track, and Vernon steams around second, the third baseman looks for the throw and pees himself a little feeling Vernon stomp the infield dirt as he barrels headlong for third. In Fenway, forget it. Home run. TIE BALLGAME.

Even from my living room 450 miles away, you can feel the momentum shift. Jamie Campbell mentions how quiet it is - meaning, no doubt, that he can hear himself think for a while. And the Jays are back in front in probabilistic terms, which Eric Hinske confirms by lining a single into center. Whereupon Embree does something unexpected - he gets himself out of the jam. Rios grounds into a double play, Hudson pops out, and as quickly as the Jays put themselves in front, they're looking like underdogs again.

Bottom of the eighth

Halladay re-established himself with two quick groundouts. Then Johnny Damon, in classic style, asserts himself on the game. He singles, and suddenly Doc is confronted with a threat of a different kind - Damon the thief. He balks him over, throws a wild pitch on 2-2, and has to walk Trot Nixon - Boston definitely is back as favorite. Thank god it's Jay Payton and not Manny Freakin' Ramirez on deck - Payton hits the first pitch to Catalanotto and this game is as tied as tied gets.

Top of the ninth

You know, Keith Foulke started really well, with two nasty pitches to Russ Adams. Then something happened that changed the game - as quietly but decisively as you can imagine.

The leadoff hitter against any pitcher, has an important job quite aside from the obvious one of getting on base. The leadoff hitter needs to be patient and take some pitches, like Adams did with Foulke's first, to make the pitcher show off his full arsenal so the rest of the lineup gets to see him work. Russ Adams is the type of hitter ideally suited to this task, but suddenly down 0-2 versus Foulke it looked like he'd be gone quick. As Pat Tabler pointed out in the broadcast, Foulke's not an easy man to face for the first time.

Adams, down 0-2, got to see three more pitches from Foulke. Those two fouls, tiny and inconsequential, and the little fly to left gave (I firmly believe this) the rest of the lineup the chance to see what Foulke was doing. It sent Foulke the message that the Jays were not going to go away. Foulke was throwing some unbelievable stuff at them... Cat went down 0-2 in a hurry as well. And then it happened. Foulke hit Catalanotto with an 0-2 pitch that he was trying to waste, and the Jays started to grind it out.

Zaun walked, a classic Gregg Zaun at-bat, getting to a rising fastball on a 2-1 hit-and-run that saved Catalanotto from an ignominous fate. Foulke, now, tired of seeing Blue Jays clip everything he sent their way, was trying to get guys to chase. By now, the Blue Jays with runners on first and second and one out, were firmly in front. And Ted Hillenbrand sat dead red, and it happened. An excuse-me, seeing-eye, dribbled grounder through the left side between Renteria and Vazquez and Reed Johnson couldn't possibly fail to score.

Right? Wrong. Jay Payton, playing shallow in left, charged the ball and made no mistake, making a great throw to Varitek. Sparky knew he ws beat; he tried to slide right, got his hand caught under him, and Tek calmly tagged him out. And the momentum had shifted. Again. I sat there, no nails left, thinking uh-oh - two out, and the probabilities essentially back to even.

Foulke, though, didn't see it that way. Tired of the treatment he was getting, he fell behind Corey Koskie by trying to get him to chase. Koskie took a 1-1 pitch, then smacked the 2-1 offering for a no-doubt RBI single. 4-3; ecstasy.

Bottom of the ninth

Does Miguel Batista know he makes me nervous? It's like he's baiting me. Batista comes out of the bullpen, and starts (I'm not joking) wandering around like he doesn't know where he is. I know he has trouble finding the plate sometimes, but I've never seen a guy not be able to find the mound.

Eventually, he gets sorted out, and as we head to a commercial break on TV, he heads finally off to take his warmup tosses. I know intellectually that the Jays are a substantial favorite now, but I can't help the nervous feelings. This roller-coaster of a game has actually gotten to me; I expect more craziness.

I get it after one out. Batista's nasty fastball at the knees to Dave McCarty, inexplicably, is a ball and not the strike it was obviously desinted to be. McCarty pulls himself together, fouls off a couple more, and gets his bat splintered on a 3-2 pitch so nasty it had horns. Except the ball, the ball, the freaking ball, dribbles slowly out to Adams' right, and he can't put enough juice on the throw to nail the not-very-swift McCarty. I'm prostrate on the carpet, and this game is one of the best I've seen in ages.

From here, Batista who started so well actually does start to look shaky. Renteria helps him out by lofting a 2-0 pitch high in the air to left, but then Batista helps out a first-ball fastball hitter but giving him a first-ball fastball - Varitek singles, and the Sox are on the charge.

Never in my life have I been so glad to see Ramon Vazquez.

Jays 4, Red Sox 3, and the Jays are still ahead of the Sox in the standings.

All in all, around the majors, this has been the best April of baseball I can ever remember. The way the Jays are winning just enhances that. It's only April and yet many games have been as tense as a September pennant race. I can't help but feel we're being rewarded for the Nightmare last year, but I'm enjoying it while it lasts. The Fighting Jays fought well yesterday and won; I think there are more like this to come. This team feels like how I expected the 2004 team to feel, and that's a good sign to say the least. If the games get any better, I may need to be institutionalized.

Jays 4, Red Sox 3 | 21 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Mylegacy - Wednesday, April 20 2005 @ 12:43 PM EDT (#112846) #
It was a great game.

About Batista; to me he is a different pitcher with runners on base and unfortunately the difference is negative. He seems to have much more composure when the bases are empty.
robertdudek - Wednesday, April 20 2005 @ 12:53 PM EDT (#112848) #
Fantastic report Craig ...

Whenever a game is tied, the road team will nose ahead marginally when they get the leadoff man on and the hometeam will then edge ahead if the road team doesn't score. It's all part and parcel of a game that's tied for several innings in a row, which this one was.

The throw from Payton was adequate, definitely not great. He was throwing from deep shortstop position and the throw was significantly off-line. Varitek had to move a metre to his right, reverse his momentum and dive to block the plate.

The decision to send Johnson was poor because Fenway LF allows the LF to be very close to action. The third base coach must have known that by the time Payton charged the grounder, he'd have a very short throw home.

On a quality throw, Johnson would have been out by 15 feet. The average leftfielder throws Johnson out on that play at least 90% of the time, with the 10% being comprised of either terrible throws (in that situation likely of the airmail variety) or catcher errors.

Dr. Zarco - Wednesday, April 20 2005 @ 12:59 PM EDT (#112849) #
Craig, that was a terrific read. It very nicely summed up my rollercoaster emotions too. It got me thinking that in whatever upcoming October the Jays are in the playoffs, games like that will pretty much be the end of my sanity.

Craig, something you touched on was the play of Russ Adams. I think he really had a great game. He looks far more poised than his 1.5 months of major league experience-especially his refusal to strikeout of late. Yesteday vs. Schilling and again today. There's more-the 2 shining defensive plays, almost a 3rd. The basehit in the 2nd. The 10 or 11 pitch at bat that was partially responsible for the surprisingly-strong Arroyo being lifted for Embree, who promtly gave up the lead. In my book, Adams 100% deserved to stay out there in the bottom of the 9th instead of being lifted for Johnny Mac.
Dave Till - Wednesday, April 20 2005 @ 01:06 PM EDT (#112850) #
I wasn't able to watch this game until this morning (I taped it on my VCR). I may keep this one.

Great game report from Craig B. A few things to add:

- That 5-4-3 double play that Koskie, Hudson and Hillenbrand turned is one of the best twin killings I've ever seen a Jays team pull off. Hudson now turns the double play better than any other second baseman that has ever played in a Toronto uniform. (Alomar was good, but he positioned himself behind the bag to protect himself, so he wasn't as fast as the O-Dog.)

- Adams also made a couple of nice defensive plays behind Doc. Great defensive infield + ground ball pitcher = many good things happening.

- In my opinion, Halladay had his B+ game, not his A game. He didn't strike out many batters, and some balls were hit hard off him. (The shot hit by Ramirez may still be travelling.) But, it goes without saying, Doc's B+ game is more than good enough to win, and the Jays' fielders seemed up to the task of fielding some of the harder-hit balls.

- Make no mistake: this was a great road trip. The Jays have just finished playing nine consecutive games on the road, including a west coast swing with no travel days, have played against two post-season teams from last year, and played 5-4 on the trip. This is an impressive accomplishment.

- The Jays have now played 12 games on the road so far this season. No other American League team has played more than 8.

- The Jays have the second-best runs-scored/runs-allowed ratio in the American League. Of course, this is a small sample size; the proof is that the team with the best ratio is Detroit. (!!)
hugh - Wednesday, April 20 2005 @ 01:06 PM EDT (#112851) #
Excellent game report -- I missed the game from Koskie's homerun till the end, and you captured the tension very nicely in there.

Great result, as well. These are the games the Jays used to lose last year -- injured Halladay out after 5, bullpen blows it. Batista sure makes me nervous, but so far he's been terrifically effective.

The fighting Jays, indeed.
Pistol - Wednesday, April 20 2005 @ 01:11 PM EDT (#112852) #
"Sparky knew he ws beat; he tried to slide right, got his hand caught under him"

On the replay I thought that Johnson pulled back his left arm intentionally knowing that he would have been tagged out if he left it out trying to touch the plate.

With Koskie on deck (and hot) and just one out it probably would have been better to hold him up at 3rd, but in the end it didn't matter.
Cristian - Wednesday, April 20 2005 @ 01:23 PM EDT (#112855) #
What was forgotten was that Sparky's dance around homeplate before getting tagged out allowed Zaun to go first to third. Chances are, Zaun doesn't score from second on Koskie's subsequent hit. Great play on Reed's part whether or not it was intentional.
jsoh - Wednesday, April 20 2005 @ 01:27 PM EDT (#112856) #
have played against two post-season teams from last year

Err. Vlad the Impaler's on line 1. He'd like to take umbrage at this 'two playoff teams from last year' assertion that you're making :)

But yes. Nice trip. And with the exception of the first Boston game, they were in most of those games that they lost.

robertdudek - Wednesday, April 20 2005 @ 01:35 PM EDT (#112857) #
Here are some homemade GPA (Gross Production Average) calculations [GPA= 1.8*(OBP+SLG)/4]:

AL Top 10 (30+PA) PA, GPA
Roberts,Brian	67	0.443
Dellucci,David	38	0.410
Jones,Jacque	49	0.389
Young,Dmitri	61	0.366
Hillenbrand,S	65	0.363
Tejada,Miguel	63	0.355
Inge,Brandon	61	0.345
Jeter,Derek	67	0.344
Guerrero,Vlad	61	0.344
Suzuki,Ichiro	62	0.342

... Bottom 10
Hall,Toby	43	0.186
Uribe,Juan	47	0.185
Boone,Aaron	55	0.179
Mench,Kevin	43	0.177
Dye,Jermaine	47	0.174
Davanon,Jeff	39	0.173
Matthews,Gary	51	0.166
Marrero,Eli	32	0.153
Olivo,Miguel	34	0.125
Buck,John	40	0.124

126 Qualifiers

Blue Jays
Hillenbrand,S	65	0.363
Zaun,Gregg	53	0.324
Hinske,Eric	57	0.319
Johnson,Reed	33	0.293
Catalanotto,F	48	0.266
Koskie,Corey	60	0.254
Adams,Russ	39	0.231
Rios,Alex	53	0.228
Wells,Vernon	62	0.205
Hudson,Orlando	67	0.200
Jordan - Wednesday, April 20 2005 @ 01:39 PM EDT (#112858) #
Two other interesting things from last night's excellent game:

- Roy Halladay had a three-pitch inning (single, double play, groundout). I can't remember the last time I saw anyone retire the side on three pitches. Even more ironic is the fact Red Sox hitters are an incredibly patient lot.

- That Koskie DP was, as Dave says, just tremendous. Kudos also to Sportsnet for showing the replay at full speed from an overhead camera. It illustrated vividly the incredible speed with which these guys play the game. Major-leaguers are amazing to watch.
Craig B - Wednesday, April 20 2005 @ 01:43 PM EDT (#112859) #
Wow, thanks for all the comments guys.

There was too much in this game to write about all of it and have this to you guys before suppertime. I'm glad to see y'all picking me up for my lapses!
R Billie - Wednesday, April 20 2005 @ 01:44 PM EDT (#112860) #
Johnson did pull his arm back hoping to avoid the tag and slide it out to catch the corner of the plate. But Varitek dove back and blocked the plate completely and Johnson couldn't swipe home without touching the catcher's glove. By the time he got up there was no chance to go back because Varitek was on his feet too. That play was a lot closer than it should have been because Payton threw it high and wide. The throw itself beat Johnson home by a good ten feet.

That was a very difficult play to score on because the Payton with his good speed in left was shallow in small left field. Only a disastrous throw (which that nearly was) would have allowed Johnson to score.
Mark - Wednesday, April 20 2005 @ 02:34 PM EDT (#112861) #
Props for "da box" by our friend Will Carroll (and future anouncement?) in a BP chat today.

Bill (Buffalo): Will, we'd love for you to come to Buffalo, New York or possibly Toronto. There are some rabid fans in this area of the country.

Will Carroll: Toronto - been there twice and loved it both times. The crew at Batter's Box always gets out the numbers. Hope to be back this year, maybe at SABR.
jsut - Wednesday, April 20 2005 @ 02:47 PM EDT (#112863) #
The Jays got 2 hits (Hillenbrand and Koskie) in the first. Aside from that slight error great report for a great game.
A - Wednesday, April 20 2005 @ 02:54 PM EDT (#112864) #
Craig, thanks for the game report. I feel like I sat behind your eyes and watched the game.

I can't remember the last time I saw anyone retire the side on three pitches.

The last three pitch inning I recall is a couple seasons back by the Big Unit. But I believe that was more the conventional three outs in a row (no single/DP).

Wildrose - Wednesday, April 20 2005 @ 04:23 PM EDT (#112866) #
Great synopsis Craig, makes me sorry I missed most of the game. In a side-bar story in Today's Globe, Jeff Blair mentions the Jays have signed a promising, Candy Maldonado like, Dominican for $600,000
Sister - Wednesday, April 20 2005 @ 06:06 PM EDT (#112870) #
I quite enjoyed the game summary. At the same, I do miss some of the box banter that followed game summaries in previous years when media headlines were also included. It was a nice place to do one-stop shopping for Jays headines. I realize that this was a lot of work to put together -- but they were clearly appreciated.

Arms Longfellow - Wednesday, April 20 2005 @ 06:40 PM EDT (#112879) #
What I like about this year's team is that there isn't a SINGLE guy on the team whose playing ability I dislike, hitters and pitchers. I definitely couldn't say that in years before (with guys like Berg, Politte, Woodward, etc.). I feel like whoever is up to bat, fielding a ball, or on the mound ... they have a good chance to do what needs to be done.
Thomas - Wednesday, April 20 2005 @ 06:40 PM EDT (#112881) #
Wonderfully eloquent report.

I agree McCarty looked dead on that fastball and even he seemed surprised his back arch and "look how close this ball is to me" body movement worked.

I thought Johnson's slide was a fantastic attempt to avoid the tag, but unfortunately his body was so far away from the plate that, following him drawing in his hand to avoid Varitek's glove, he couldn't reach across afterwards to get the plate with any body part and Varitek had the easy out. The umpire seemed to be getting into the game as he punched out Johnson pretty enthusiastically. As said above, it wasn't a wise decision by Butterfield, but even good coaches have braincramps.

It was a great game.
Magpie - Wednesday, April 20 2005 @ 06:54 PM EDT (#112886) #
Wonderful job, Craig. A great game and you did it justice. Super.
King Rat - Wednesday, April 20 2005 @ 07:56 PM EDT (#112927) #
I was at Fenway last night. I think it may have been the best game I've ever seen in person, not least because I was one of about five spectators who went home happy. I will say this: I didn't dislike Red Sox fans before, but I don't think much of them now.

Manny's shot was HUGE. I don't think I've ever seen a ball get up in the air that quickly; it looked for all the world like a pop fly to the shortstop, only about ten times bigger.

Koskie had, in my view, his real coming-out night as a Jay. The double play, the four hits, the homer-which, from my perspective, was where the tide started to turn-the Fenway fans weren't nervous until Koskie hit it, and then never got their calm back, even after Ortiz' home run-it was a great individual performance. Just a smashing game.
Jays 4, Red Sox 3 | 21 comments | Create New Account
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