Missing Ingredient Turns Perfect Red Sox Meal Into Inedible Slop

 Perfect games are pretty rare events but last night, most of the key ingredients were in place. An elite pitcher was on the mound. Said pitcher had everything working. The opposing lineup was weak and overwhelmed. The game was being played in a pitcher-friendly park. Strikeouts were popping up everywhere. Nothing was being hit in the air. So as far as I could tell, the only thing missing was a sturdy defense. Unfortunately, the Sox and Jon Lester found out last night that sometimes all it takes to ruin a perfect dish is one missing ingredient.  

It’s impossible to predict what would have happened had Eric Patterson caught that lazy can of corn. Perhaps Jon Lester would have continued to cruise. Or perhaps he would have lost his perfection on the next pitch. Who knows. But what I do know is Lester was dominating up to that point. And clearly, Patterson’s error broke his rhythm.  Now you can blame Lester for not grinding through a little adversity but that is asking a lot. After all, how can you watch a defender make a play like that and not be a little frustrated or a little distracted?  

Following Patterson’s mishap, Lester just wasn’t the same. He gave up the two-run bomb to Saunders, pitched a clean seventh and then became a bit unglued after the Ms scored a run off a suicide squeeze. So the final line showed Lester allowing four earned runs. Let me tell you, it’s hard to imagine a pitching line that is more incongruous with what actually happened on the field. And that is because Lester, for 5.2 innings was probably more dominant than he’s been since high school. That was Reagan-Mondale stuff out there last night. Total annihilation right up to the point where Eric Patterson dropped the ball. It’s all part of the game but Lester deserved better. Maybe not perfection, but better than a loss and an inflated ERA.

Just to make matters a bit worse, here are some maddening comments from Patterson after the game. “From my standpoint, it just seemed like from that play on the momentum kind of switched over in their favor …. Next guy comes up, puts them ahead. It’s kind of the ballgame after that. It’s definitely frustrating.’’ Ballgame after that? The Sox still had NINE outs and were down one. If that is ballgame then the Sox should unload Beltre next week and start getting ready for 2011.

While Patterson’s comments smack of defeatism, there is some truth hidden in there. And that is because this Sox offense is out of ammo. I realize they aren’t built to play in these expansive AL West parks, but for the second night in a row and the bizilinth time since the break, the Sox offense couldn’t get its dick hard. It’s one thing to get shut down by a Cliff Lee or CJ Wilson. But Jason Vargas and Dave Pauley and the Seattle pen? Sorry, I don’t care that the Sox are missing some parts. They simply have to produce better results.  

And one reason the Sox offense is failing is because not only are they not getting hits with runners in scoring position, but they aren’t making productive, run-scoring outs. Friday, you had Bill Hall and Kevin Cash failing to get a run in from third with less than two outs and last night, Jeremy Hermida was unable to put the ball in play with runners on second and third and one out. The injuries have hurt but missed opportunities like these are why the Sox are having so much trouble scoring runs.

Add these offensive problems to Patterson’s miscue and last night had to fray your nerves if you are a Sox fan. Lester and his best stuff against Seattle …… you have to like your chances. But it wasn’t to be as the absence of that one key ingredient turned a perfect dish into one that was totally inedible.  

Other Points:

* Mike Lowell went 4-4 with three doubles last night. That can’t hurt but drum up some interest and given the injury to Magglio Ordonez, you would think the Tigers will be calling today. But given David Ortiz’ struggles against lefties, one has to wonder if the Sox haven’t given some thought of keeping Lowell around. It really comes down to this …. Do the Sox want Lowell around to cover for Ortiz or do they want a little more flexibility so they will go with Lowrie or a fifth outfielder (McDoanld)?

* David Ortiz is now 5-36 during 8th innings this season and do you know why? It is because he is so fucking easy to neutralize with a lefty reliever. And it’s not just the 8th inning.  Ortiz’ numbers are basically horrible across the board after the fifth inning. Late inning comebacks are tough when your third place hitter is basically an out after the sixth inning.

* Who in the front office is protecting Manny Delcarmen? I ask that because there doesn’t seem to be any amount of failure that can push this guy over the edge. Last night, he comes in to load the bases with a walk, hits a guy to bring in a run and then gives up an almost-granny that missed by about three feet. By my count, Delcarmen has stunk up the joint in five of his last seven appearances and yet he continues to get chances. I find it odd that this is the one guy who the Sox refuse to give up on despite a mountain of indictable evidence.

* FARM REPORT: It was an ugly night for Felix Doubront as he returned to Pawtucket and got lit up. Perhaps he got caught working on a few new things but more likely, he was just a bit flat after being sent down. But aside from that, there was plenty of good stuff happening down in the farm. Lowell snapped an eleven-game losing streak, Ryan Kalish had a couple of knocks, Kyle Weiland threw a gem for Portland,  and Greenville did what it always does and that is win.

Weiland’s story seems to be getting better every day. A third rounder in 2008 out of Notre Dame, Weiland is holding hitters to a .214 average this season and that number is .198 over his last ten starts. Throw in the fact that Weiland is striking out more than one hitter an inning, and you have a pitcher who has been pretty dominant since early May. He might not profile as a starter in Boston but he certainly looks like he could be an effective starter elsewhere.

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