Zero and Four. That is Red Sox record in extra innings against the Orioles and if this club falls a couple games short in October, they have to look no further than these games to understand why. Folks, outside of these four wins, Baltimore is 12-41, a pitiful winning percentage of .226. Yet somehow, when playing Boston in extra innings, this club becomes the 1970 Orioles. Losing one or two of these games is one thing but to lose all four extra inning games and drop to 4-5 versus Baltimore in 2010 is a disgrace. Remember, the Sox were 16-2 versus Baltimore last season so this evenhandedness is way off budget.
So the Sox missed another opportunity to sweep a team, having dropped two frustrating clinchers in a row. First it was Oakland on Thursday, where the Sox banged out ten extra base hits but came up a run short of overcoming Tim Wakefield and a dreaded Pen. And yesterday, the Sox got a decent effort from starting pitcher John Lackey but failed because the team went 1-8 with runners in scoring position and stranded eleven players. Hell, if we can take two of three the rest of the season, I will be thrilled but at some point, this club has to stop dropping these getaway games. And certainly when they come against teams like Oakland and Baltimore.
* I am not sure there is much to take away from John Lackey’s start yesterday. He seemed to be pleased with his effort, but is there anything here really worth celebrating? Yes, he limited Baltimore to just two runs over seven innings, but Lackey also gave up seven hits and three walks to a woeful lineup that was missing a couple of pieces. That is passable but it certainly isn’t superb and you would think that against that lineup, 124 pitches might buy eight or nine innings, rather than the seven Lackey delivered. All told, Lackey was more “fine” than “good” and the question I have is …. If he can’t be good against Baltimore, then who can he be good against?
And here is one thing worth noting on Lackey. With just two strikeouts over seven innings yesterday, John Lackey’s K/9 dropped to a smidgen under five. In 2005 and 2006, he was basically an eight strikeout guy, and since then, a seven strikeout guy. Hard to imagine he is going to thrive in the AL East as a five strikeout guy.
* The Red Sox are now 1-7 in extra inning games and that seems to me like a pretty big indictment of the bullpen. And on days like yesterday, when Daniel Bard not available, it is painfully clear that this pen is short on quality and quantity. MDC was brutal yesterday, walking his first batter and then giving up a rope double to a .233 career hitter. That put the Sox down a run and after they clawed back to tie it, the Sox had little choice but to use Jon Papelbon in a tie game on the road. Pap then had a shot at a quick inning and perhaps an opportunity to go two, but he couldn’t put away Ty Wiggington and that ten-pitch at bat meant that Hideki Okijima would be needed sooner rather than later. Well, I don’t have to recite Oki’s fine numbers against Baltimore and true to form, Hideki was only able to hold the door shut for an inning.
Folks, I have been saying this for a month … The Sox pen is at least one man short and probably two. Some help might come in the form of Boof Bonser, who probably will be called up today and I think lefty K-machine Dustin Richardson might be useful at some point in the not so distant future. But it looks to me that a band-aid from outside the organization will be needed and needed soon. One name to think about …. JJ Putz who seems to be healthy once again and hasn’t given up a run since May 7th.
* Outside of a two-run job from Victor Martinez, the offense was awfully quiet yesterday. Dustin did manage to keep his hit streak alive with a twenty-nine foot dribbler down the third base line, but the Sox couldn’t come up with anything in the clutch outside of a SF from Pedroia to tie things in the ninth. I thought the Sox would be able to park a couple off Brian Matusz, he being an extreme fly-ball pitcher and all, but the Sox managed nothing in the middle innings and when things were tight late, they just couldn’t buy a big hit.
* Don’t get rid of Mike Lowell just yet …… Last Tuesday, David Ortiz had a pretty dismal night against Oakland lefty Gio Gonzalez and the next morning, I raised a concern that Ortiz’ unbelievable streak looked tired and ready for a correction. That night, Ortiz responded with a big game and made me look like a fool, but it looks like I was prescient after all. Because since going yard in the fifth inning Wednesday night, Ortiz has gone hitless and not looked good doing it. He did manage to hit a ball hard in the ninth yesterday but it seems like Ortiz is now locked in a June Swoon.
* If you want to know why Dustin Pedroia’s numbers are down this year, you only need to look at one thing ….. his splits against LH pitching. For the season, Pedroia’s OPS against lefties is just .512 while it is .884 against righties. Over his career, these numbers are .790 and .833 respectively. So Dustin is doing his thing against righties this season but the reason his overall numbers are down is because of that unusual decline against southpaws. This week, the Sox have two lefties on the calendar … David Huff and Cole Hamels.
* FARM REPORT: Not much to note from yesterday as Portland was rained out and Pawtucket was fairly quite outside of two Lars knocks. So I turn my attention to Salem where Ryan Lavarnway hit a three-run bomb, his fifth in ten games. Lavarnway, a Yale grad, got off to a sizzling start but cooled considerably in May, hitting JUST .250. But he has picked it up a bit in June, slugging .600 and for the year, he now stands at .291/.384/.536. Lavarnway would clearly be headed to Portland by now if he had a position but as a rough-around-the-edges catcher, his defense is holding him back. I realize the Sox would love to develop a catcher with Lavarnway’s bat but it seems like at some point, the Sox might have to take this kid in another direction.
Tonight, it’s Dice K versus Carmona and given Matsusaka’s recent “one good-one bad” pattern, we are in for a stinker.