Thursday, July 29, 2010

Hangin' Tough: Red Sox Have First Winning West Coast Trip Since 2004

Every time the Red Sox seem to be on the verge of collapse, they somehow, some way pull off some big wins to keep from falling impossibly far behind a playoff spot – they are currently 5.5 games behind Tampa Bay for the AL Wild Card. With a ton of games coming up, more regulars coming back from injuries, and very little time off, it was crucial that Boston get hot again.

An Unlikely But Clean Sweep In Anaheim

When word came Monday that newly acquired Angels ace Dan Haren would make his first start against the Red Sox, a collective “Uh oh!” could be heard around Red Sox Nation. Then, for once, the Sox caught a break. Haren got injured by a Kevin Youkilis line drive in the fifth and left the game, which Boston won 6-3 behind Clay Buchholz, who went seven strong innings, allowed one run, and punched out seven Angels en route to his 11th win. David Ortiz hadn’t hit more than one homer in the second half until this night, when he hit two bombs, numbers 20 and 21, and drove in three runs overall.

Another welcome sight Monday night was the return of starting catcher Victor Martinez (from a broken left thumb). He had an RBI single this night, which was a revelation, since the collective output of Gustavo Molina, Dusty Brown, and Kevin Cash never homered, drove in a run, or hit an extra base hit in 65 total at-bats for the Sox this year.

Note: This article was first published at Blogcritics Magazine

Monday, July 19, 2010

Red Sox Still Reeling; Reinforcements On The Way

Note: This column took a much-needed week off during All-Star week

In the last five seasons, the Red Sox entered the All-Star break in first place in the AL East. In 2010, the injury-saddled Sox not only couldn’t continue that streak but went into the break in third place for the first time since 2000 after going 2-4 in its last six games of the first half. The only real highlight in that stretch worth noting now was Jon Lester getting his 11th win and manager Terry Francona collecting a milestone 900th win July 9 via a 14-3 ass whipping versus the Blue Jays. The Sox would go on to win that final three-game series of the first half, two games to one.

At Fenway Park this past weekend, the Sox lost a four-game series with the red hot Texas Rangers, three games to one, and through July 18, are now losers of eight of its last 11 games, falling to 3.5 games out of the AL Wild Card race and 6.5 behind AL East-leading New York. And the one win they got came Saturday against the much sought after Cliff Lee, a pitcher that was bound to go from Seattle to the Yankees until last-minute talks broke down on July 9, the day he eventually ended up getting traded to Texas. More on that game later.

This ix an excerpt of my latest Red Sox column, which was first published at Blogcritics Magazine earlier tonight.

Music Review: R.E.M. - Fables Of The Reconstruction (Deluxe Edition)

This is a short excerpt of my latest review. See link at the end for the full article.

Continuing R.E.M.'s recent string of reissuing classic albums from its earliest years, this week marked the reissue and 25th anniversary of the Athens, Georgia group's sometimes overlooked third outing, Fables of the Reconstruction. It is now out as a two-CD collection with all original tracks remastered on one disc and demos of all tracks, plus three non-album demos on a second disc.

Where the first two albums Murmur (1983) and Reckoning (1984) are considered among their best works, this album was considered a bit of a step down for R.E.M. upon first release. It was also the album that nearly broke up the band.

These workaholics were in the middle of an impressive run where they would put out one studio album for six straight years (from 1983-1988). But between long commutes to the London studio every day, poor food and weather, and nervous breakdowns by these mid-20-somethings, it's a wonder Fables sounds cohesive at all.

For this record, the quartet parted ways with its previous producers, including Mitch Easter, and left its native land for London to work with producer Joe Boyd, who'd previously worked on pre-Dark Side Of The Moon-era Pink Floyd and folk acts like Nick Drake, among others.

The results made for a (mostly) darker R.E.M. record (ex. "Old Man Kensey") than fans may have expected, but one where singer Michael Stipe came into his own as a lyricist, getting into storytelling of the American South for the first time. The oddest one, which fans would learn more about many years later, is that steady rocker "Life And How To Live It" is based on an author from their hometown (Brivs Mekis) who wrote and published a book called Life: How To Live, then suddenly pulled all existing copies off the market and kept them home.

This article was first published July 16 at Blogcritics Magazine

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Red Sox Continue Battling Injuries And Division Rivals For Playoff Spots

The Red Sox lost last night 6-5 at the Trop to Tampa Bay and as a result, its place atop the AL Wild Card standings and now sit in second in that playoff chase. Worse, the BoSox now sit in third place in the AL East for the first time since June 26, when they were percentage points behind the Rays for second place, and have fallen to two-and-a-half games back of AL East-leading New York.

The fact that it took this long for the Sox to show signs of wear and tear is simply amazing. With Clay Buchholz, Manny Delcarmen and Jason Varitek joining Mike Lowell, Dustin Pedroia, Jeremy Hermida, Jacoby Ellsbury, Victor Martinez and Josh Beckett on the disabled list last week, that gives Boston nine players out of action until at least the All-Star break. That’s an amount that could field almost an entire other team’s starting lineup.

You’d be hard–pressed to find another major league team missing that much talent and still find itself at or near the top of two playoff races for as long as Boston has been. Last night, the injuries finally began to take its toll on Boston – more on that game next week – as it began its final two series before the All-Star break against divisional foes Tampa Bay and Toronto.

Now, here’s more of my take and highlights of last week’s happenings in Red Sox Nation.

For the full post of this week's Dead Red column, first posted at Blogcritics Magazine, click this URL.