Three-run home runs cover up a lot of blemishes and last night, Adrian Beltre was the cream the Sox needed to hide another pitiful effort from John Lackey.
Folks, last night had all the making of a Sox loss through four and a half. It just felt like one of those nights when nothing was going to click. After all, Lackey was getting hammered and the Sox were stranding base runners by the case load. By the bottom of the fifth, it felt awfully late.
But up strode Beltre, with two on and two outs, and like he has done for the past five weeks, Beltre delivered in a big way, ripping a 1-0 curveball over the left-centerfield wall. And with that swing, the Sox were on their way.
It’s stating the obvious that nobody predicted this offensive surge from Beltre. Yes, there were some, including myself, who thought Beltre would bounce once he got healthy and away from Safeco. But Beltre is blowing away even the most optimistic forecasts. In a nutshell, Beltre has killed the ball since April 21, he has mashed on the road, his hitting with runners in scoring position has been ridiculous, and he is doing crazy damage when he gets BEHIND. Yes, his average on balls hit in play suggest that he may be a bit lucky, but his line drive percentage is also way up, meaning that he is being rewarded for scorching balls. Can this last? Probably not at Beltre’s most recent pace but I think it’s time to freshen up some of my pre-season offensive estimates. As such, I am lifting my March OPS estimate from 800 to 840 and I am raising my RBI estimate from 90 to 105. I will leave my home estimate at 20 for now.
* It’s hard to say anything nice about John Lackey’s start last night other than he managed to survive. Because after getting five quick outs to start the game, Lackey got smacked around like a human whack-a-mole. By the time it was over, Lackey had given up TWELVE hits, two walks, and four runs over those final 4.1 innings.
Ands this is what the delusional Lackey had to say after the game: “Honestly, it’s a little frustrating, ’cause I thought I did better than what some of the numbers are going to show.’’ Say what? If anything, I thought he was worse than his line as plenty of his outs were scorched right at guys. Yeah, he got hurt by a seeing-eye double to right but make no mistake about it, the A’s molested John Lackey last night.
Lackey has now had five disappointing starts in a row and his hits/9 has risen to an unseemly level of 10.7. This is basically two hits per game higher than the John Lackey that the Sox thought they were getting this Winter. And I don’t see this as a matter of bad luck. Instead, it looks like he just doesn’t have very good stuff. Two starts ago, I mentioned that he was throwing a AAAA curve. Well last night, it was barely a AAA curve and if I were John Lackey, I would have been scared to throw it to lefthanders. Besides that, the home run he gave up to Barton was a terribly located fastball and unless he gets that cutter working against lefties, he will continue to get smoked by southpaws. Again, it is way too early to write this guy off, but these recent results are not encouraging.
* Victor Martinez …. Welcome home. VMART obviously had a miserable April, but he found his stroke in May and with five hits last night, he becomes the early leader in the race for AL player of the month. He is just crushing left-handed pitching right now.
* Dustin Pedroia should change his at bat music to Foreigner’s “Cold as Ice” because right now, he is a 67.5 inch popsicle. Granted, he did hit the ball hard twice last night and he did break a 0-17 streak with a double in the eighth, but he is still stuck in a 10-68 slump. The Laser Show is broken right now.
* Let’s hope David Ortiz didn’t cut a deal with the devil that expired on May 31 because last night, he looked awful. Gio Gonzalez got him with a 94 MPH fastball and then fooled him with a curve in the dirt. Both at bats had ugly endings.
* Manny Delcarmen is now formally on review for an upgrade to outperform. The guy is having a real nice season and a great stretch. Since May 9, he has given up just three hits in 10.1 innings and hitters are hitting just .128 off him. I’ve never really trusted this guy and I don’t like the fact that his strikeouts are way down, but might as well ride the guy while he’s hot.
* Well, it didn’t take long for Mike Cameron to end up back in the infirmary. It doesn’t “sound” like he is headed back to the DL but at this point, you have to figure that Cameron is NOT an everyday player now or in the future.
* FARM REPORT: Ryan Kalish went 0-4 in his AAA debut and the red-hot Stolmy Pimental gave up three runs last night (5 IP), but Lars had a couple of hits and Kendal Volz continued to impress with five excellent innings for Greenville. But perhaps the most important performance of the night came from Boof Bonser who tossed seven innings for Pawtucket and yielded just one run and five hits. Bonser’s rehab clock ends this week and given his recent work and his versatility, I suspect that he will be up with the Big Club soon. That means Scott Atchison will most likely return to Pawtucket.