What a difference a week makes. Seven days ago, the Sox were coming off a devastating loss to the Yankees and everything was falling apart in Red Sox nation. The rotation was a mess, the bullpen was busted, the RS dollar was collapsing, the Sox trailed the Yankees by 6.5 games and it looked like the season might not survive the next nine games. Things were so bad that I feared the conclusion of Lost might reveal that the Sox really didn’t win the 2004 World Series.
Fast forward a week and things are looking just a bit better as the rotation has caught fire, the pen has had a nice vacation, the RS dollar has bounced, the Sox have made up 4.5 games on the Yankees and that nine game stretch has been easily navigated. Folks, there are still some clouds in the sky but it looks like the Sox have righted the ship and joined the fight.
As for last night, well a little luck went an awful long way for the Red Sox as the possible difference between victory and defeat may have come down to a hanging speaker at Trop Field. Who knows what the alternative outcome would have been, but let’s just say the Sox caught quite a break in the third when a Dustin Pedroia popup hit a speaker and was called a dead ball. That gve Pedroia some added life and he used it to drop a single into right field with one out. About twenty minutes and forty pitches later, the Sox had earned a bunch of walks, plated three runs, led 4-0, and were on their way to a 6-1 win over the Rays.
So the Sox caught a break. Good for them as those have been few and far between this year. But credit them as well for playing a crisp game that featured some good pitching and home runs from the May Boys, Kevin Youkilis and David Ortiz. All told, the Sox are now 7-4 on this current thirteen game bender and just a victory away from the best case scenario I imagined when this half-marathon began.
I guess last night’s game ball goes to Clay Buchholz who threw six clean innings for the victory. Buchholz gave up just six hits and a walk as he moved to 6-3. Those are the headline numbers but the real story on Buchholz happened in the bottom of the third last night. The Sox had just rallied for three runs and Buchholz took the mound after a half-hour delay with a four run lead. The 2008 Buchholz would have given at least a couple of those runs back immediately, but the 2010 Buchholz was all business as he got Crawford to ground out, Zobrist to strikeout looking and Longoria to go down swinging. Hopefully, that inning is another positive step in the Clay Buchholz maturation process.
Buchholz has now given the Sox three solid starts in a row (I’m being generous on the first one) and next up will be Kansas City and Zach Greinke. I’m still waiting on additional confirmation before I get more constructive on Buchholz, but the signs are encouraging. Also encourging, Buchholz actually seems to be developing a little swagger which is far removed from the deer-in-the-headlight imitation from 2008.
* The signs are flat out flashing for Youkilis and Ortiz right now. Ortiz, after slugging his 8th home run of the month last night, has an OPS of 1.190 in May. That is the third highest monthly total of his career. Ortiz has got to the point that if his numbers stayed right where they are for the rest of the season, the Sox wouldn’t have much to complain about and any upside from here puts Ortiz in line for a well-paying job next April ….. somewhere. And Youk? Well, just more of the same last night as he slugged his fifth home run in eight games.
* After the game, it was announced that Darnell McDonald had been designated for assignment. Darnell, thank you for a job well done and here is a check for $80,000 (35 days x $2300) …. you earned it. He wasn’t around long but he contributed while he was here and I, for one, will remember his debut for a long time to come.
* Adrian Beltre collected three more hits last night and it now hitting .337. But just as importantly, he has been playing excellent defense of late. This signing is working out well.
* Hideki Okajima threw two nice innings last night and I think the secret with him is he really should only be used with rest. His problems, at least the big ones, usually come on the back-end of back-to-backs.
* Has MDC fallen so far that he can’t be counted on to close out a 6-1 game? Francona is going to kill Bard if he can’t find another guy to clean up these 5-0 and 6-1 games.
* There was a Jed Lowrie sighting yesterday in Tampa. Quite frankly, I am tired of this guy. I still think he could be a valuable utility guy but at this point, I am sick and tired of hearing about this guy’s struggles to get on the field.
* FARM REPORT: It was an ugly day on the Farm as Portland got smoked and Pawtucket almost got no-hit. But the one bright spot for Pawtucket was Dustin Richardson who threw two clean innings with five strikeouts. Richardson had an outside chance of making the club out of spring training but got left behind so he could work on his control. Well, his control probably still isn’t where it needs to be but he has become a strikeout machine as he has K’d 12 over his last six innings and 33 over 25 innings this season. The Sox could use a lefty with the big club and in a month, Richardson might be the answer.