Red Sox Chase Down the Rays in Twenty-Eight Days

On May 23rd, the Tampa Bay Rays were twenty games over .500, being compared to the 1984 Tigers and leading the Red Sox by 8.5 games. At that point, it seemed fool-hearty to pencil the Rays in for anything less than 95 wins, meaning that the Sox would need to play at least .600 baseball just to tie the Rays. And given how hot the Rays were at the time, the number probably figured to be much higher.

Well, less than one month later, the Boston Red Sox have gone 19-7, the Rays have gone 10-15 and the two teams are now tied for the second in the American League East. So instead of taking four months to chase down the Rays, the Sox did it in just 28 days.

Having won six straight and two out of every three since their May 2nd low-water mark, the Sox are flying. Yeah, they have done much of this heavy-lifting at home and they have feasted on the NL, but they have also done it with spare parts and unlikely sources. And as we approach the half-way point, what looked like a lost season six weeks ago, now looks like an entertaining Summer ahead  in the least and perhaps one that will be remembered as something pretty special. 

The past two days at Fenway were hardly awe inspiring but the Sox did just enough to close out a sweep of the Dodgers and an 8-1 homestand. The starting pitching was fine, the bullpen did its job, there were a couple of long balls and Dustin Pedroia continued to do his thing, which at this point, is everything. Little Pedey’s game winner on Saturday probably won’t make my “ten best moments of 2010” but it may make it as an honorable mention and I’d like to make two points at this moment:

1) I LOVE the fact that the interpreter for Dice and Oki plays a leading role in Boston’s walk-off celebrations. Given his enthusiasm, I’d throw Masa Hoshino a playoff “share” even if he couldn’t speak a word of English.

2) I was glad to see Pedro didn’t get hit with the cliché “shaving cream pie” during his post-game interview. Folks, the “pie” is owned and operated by ass clown idiots whose sense of humor is stuck back in fourth grade.

I don’t want to delve too deeply into the weekend so here are some quick hits ….

*Tim Wakefield pitched well enough on Saturday and don’t look know, but Wake has an ERA of just 3.42 over his past three starts and during this time, he has walked just three batters in twenty-one innings. I am Wakefield’s biggest critic but even I can’t harp on those numbers from a “bridge” starter.

*Clay Buchholz wasn’t very sharp last night, particularly early, and he sure didn’t throw enough strikes but give the kid credit, when he got into trouble, he used his changeup to put out the fire. A week ago I wondered aloud why he wasn’t throwing his curve and change more often. Well, his curve looks a bit broken right now but as we saw last night, nothing is wrong with his change. Ten wins from Clay on June 21st is clearly ahead of plan and if Buchholz can stuff San Francisco next Saturday, he very well could find himself pitching in the all-star game.

*Dustin Pedroia is known for getting hot but this is ridiculous. The Laser Show is now twenty for his last forty, lifting his average by thirty-one points and his OPS by seventy points. He clearly was the MVP of the homestand but let’s now see if he can take it on the road.

*At what point does Daniel Nava become a roster problem for the Red Sox. Yes, the sample is small but the kid is 10-27, he is a much better outfielder than Hermida, and he switch hits. Just thinking out loud here but by the time Hermida is healthy and ready to play, Nava may have his job. Is it crazy to think that down the stretch, the Sox keep five outfielders and those players are named Drew, Ellsbury, McDonald, Nava and Cameron? (I’ll have more on this soon)

*A friend of mine just mentioned to me that he thought Mike Cameron was playing himself into a “defensive” replacement role. Not sure it is quite that far along but I agree that Cameron looks like a big problem right now. He simply can’t hit right-handed pitching and it’s looking more and more like he is nothing but a platoon player. For that matter, Darnell McDonald doesn’t look much better against right-handers. The Sox can get away with having Either Cam or McDonald face a righty but as we saw last night, having both in there is not pretty.

*Marco Scutaro is grinding but he looks hurt. And this is where it would really help to have Jed Lowrie available. So Jed, pull you head out of your ass and get in the race.

*Adrian Beltre threw one away on Saturday and now has 12 errors on the season but you’d have to be blind to claim he hasn’t played well at third. Even with the errors, Beltre’s UZR/150 is 13, meaning his glove has still been a big positive. Throw in the bat and Beltre might provide in excess of $20M in value for just $10M in cash.

*That’s it for now …. Enjoy the off-day and we get back it Tuesday with Lester pitching in Denver. The upcoming trip won’t be easy as the Sox have an appointment with Ubaldo Jimenez on Wednesday and some time with Tim Lincecum on Saturday but on the bright side, they miss Matt Cain and get Denver without Troy Tulowitzski. With Lester going twice, I am hoping for 4-2 but prepared for 3-3.

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