When it comes to sports, I am hardly a glutton for ridiculous punishment. So my interest in a baseball game usually ends when a team’s lead swells to eight. Moreover, I have long mocked those who cheer double-digit baseball victories or five touchdown football wins. To these eyes, that is a signature characteristic of a bad sports fan.
Having said that, I am not going to go crazy over last night’s 17-8 Red Sox win at Fenway, especially since it masked a very uninspiring performance from Clay Buchholz. Sure, it was a win and the Sox are obviously in desperate need of those. Especially after that debacle over the weekend in Baltimore. And yes, it was nice to see some guys hit the ball hard. But do I think this gets things turned around? Hardly. And do I think the numbers from last night are conclusive or instructive? Not really.
Instead, this is what I take from last night. 1) The Sox finally smacked around a lefty and that is good. We have two of those on this week’s ledger and it’s about time we took one out. 2) JD Drew is no longer heating up. He’s hot. 3) Clay Buchholz, after taking two steps forward, took a small step back last night. 4) I don’t care what UZR or the guys in Seattle say, I am not sure Adrian Beltre can catch. 5) Victor Martinez may not be permanently busted behind the dish. And 6), Manny Del Carmen is now on review for a ratings upgrade from neutral to outperform.
* So, the Sox banged out twenty hits, four bombs and seven doubles. Even Beltre broke his home run cherry. The Sox have now banged out 37 home runs, which ranks third in the league and they rank second in the league in slugging. Sure doesn’t fell like it, does it? The problem here is the Sox have been way to dependant on the long-ball this year. And when they don’t get them, they don’t score. I haven’t seen the numbers but my guess is the Sox must be near the lead in “percentage of runs coming off bombs.”
* JD Drew rubbed out four hits last night and he is now 13 for his last 32 (.406) with three bombs, four doubles and ten RBI. He is still a little south of his norm and another good week away from where he needs to be, but Drew is catching fire and when this guy gets going, it usually lasts a few weeks. The Sox need that in a big way right now.
* Last night, Dr. Clay Jekyl was pretty disappointing. Coming off a good start versus Texas and a great start in Toronto, I was hoping he could string together another nice outing and we would have the makings of a foundation. Nope, it was the old Clay last night as once again, he fell behind, looked rattled with runners on base and didn’t seem able to put anyone away. Here is all you need to know about his night. He threw first pitch strikes to only 12 of 27 batters and he only got five swinging strikes all night. Against Toronto, he got eighteen and against Texas, he got 26. For a guy who has “swing and miss” stuff, he sure didn’t look like it last night.
Worse yet, those same old demons – the ones that retard Clay’s concentration – were back last night. Case in point …. Up 5-0 in the fourth, he walks Hunter to leadoff the inning and then he obsesses about the baserunner to the point of distraction. Ultimately, he picked Hunter off, but the whole incident seemed to unnerve Buchholz and he ended up surrendering three runs. Now Clay deserves some credit for escaping the second with a routine groundball , the fourth with a K and the fifth with a harmless fly off the bat of Matsui, but all in all, it was not a great night for the Scarecrow.
* For those scoring at home, Adrian Beltre booted another last night and now has six errors on the season. That puts him on Renteria pace and how long will it be before we hear the whispers that Beltre is having trouble adjusting to the Fenway surface. I have six hundred words to say on this subject but for now I will just say that I am not the biggest fan that UZR stat that claims Beltre was a run prevention machine in Seattle. He sure hasn’t been one so far in Boston.
* Don’t look now, but Victor has now thrown out two in a row. Nabbing Wiggington on Saturday is hardly a great feat but catching Izturis last night is a nice kill. Martinez has about $15M in pay over the next three years riding on whether he can “catch and throw” and perhaps that realization has him putting in the work necessary to get this thing headed in the right direction.
* Manny Del Carmen. The guy has given up just three hits in 12.2 innings. I can’t keep him rated as a “neutral” for very much longer. I’d like to see fewer walks but he hasn’t given up a run in eight outings and he looks ready to take over some of Oki’s role. Another couple of good outings and I will bump him to “outperform.”
* We didn’t get any follow-through from Buchholz last night but hopefully that won’t rub off on Lester tonight. History will not be on his side as the Angels have always been a thorn in Lester’s side. The Angels counter with Ervin Santana, who sports a career ERA of just above five versus the Sox. Easy call for Francona tonight on who catches ….Martinez is 5-10 off Santana and Varitek is 0-14. Ortiz is .333 career so he’ll be in there DH’ing.