It is building like a Sonic Youth or Explosions in the Sky song. The drum beat is speeding up. The guitars are kicking in. The noise is beginning to deafen. Folks, the Sox are getting ready to erupt. I can just feel it. And if John Lackey doesn’t fuck things up this afternoon, this kick-ass song is going to blow the roof off the joint!
Momentum can be fleeting in baseball and that is why my enthusiasm is slightly tempered this morning. After all, John Lackey could piss half of Boston’s MO down the drain by 1:30 this afternoon. That said, for the first time in two months, I am starting to feel it.
I realize the Sox recent record doesn’t’ support much hyperbole. After all, Boston is just 22-18 since Pedroia went down, 15-12 since the break, and 6-4 since Youkilis jammed his thumb. But they are 11-5 since that Sunday debacle in Seattle and they are 4-2 on the toughest and most significant trip of the year. More importantly, they found a way to win a couple tough games against Detroit, the pen stood amazingly tall on Monday, they won a gut-wrencher on Tuesday and they exploded last night. Good things are happening and they are happening at exactly the right time. And that is because in five days, the Laser Show is back and the schedule softens.
With that said, the stars are aligning for an explosion next week. They are getting healthy. They are getting hot. And its coming together at exactly the right point on the schedule. As such, if this club can finish off this trip, I think the positive feedback will start feasting on itself and this club could rip off a huge streak. Maybe not a 19 of 20 like the 1988 “Morgan Miracle,” but something that positions this club to do something in September. And if that happens, I think we will look back to this week as the point where this Sox concert kicked into overdrive.
As for last night’s game, it was a feel good story all-around. Buchholz was terrific on a night there was no apparent strike zone, the Sox got Marcum in trouble right off the bat with a 36-pitch first inning, Bill Hall went crazy, Lowell had a nice night, Drew showed more signs of heating up and Beltre continued his surprising march toward an MVP. And below the surface, the Pen got a much-needed and deserved night off, Victor Martinez actually drove in a run and the defense played mistake free after Lowell booted one early. All told, you couldn’t have asked for much more although any game without a hit from Kalish leaves me wanting more.
So now all eyes are on John Lackey who gets the ball for his most important start of the year. After all, he is being entrusted with lots of Sox momentum and if he can stuff Toronto, this rally will be confirmed. Unfortunately, the Jays have pounded Lackey this year and his last start at the Rogers Centre was a disaster. So there is risk to today’s story. In fact, lots of risk. But if Lackey can step up with a big outing, the Sox will be FLYING when they leave Toronto. So John …. GET IT DONE!
POINTS OF INTEREST:
It’s now safe to declare a winner in the Bill Hall versus Casey Kotchman trade. With 65 percent of the precincts reporting, it is clear that Bill Hall is a landslide winner. I didn’t see this coming. In fact, I wrote at the end of April that I didn’t think Hall would be with the team after Memorial Day. Well, since May 1, all Hall has done is slug .512, hit 15 bombs, scored 32 runs and driven in 35 runs (in 200 at bats). Casey Kotchman couldn’t do that in a year. In fact, I’m not sure Kotchman could hit 15 out in an entire week of batting practice. So let’s call this one for Theo and correctly label it as a prescient trade that has paid off handsomely.
* It’s two days late but Terry Francona has finally decided to give Marco Scutaro a day off. For the life of me, I can’t figure out what took so long. This guy has been dragging for more than a week and it simply made no sense to let him fritter away at bats while Lowrie stood at the ready. If it were up to me, Lowrie would get another SS start in Texas and at least one start a week at short for the rest of the season.
* Apropos of something: The Red Sox offense has the lowest Ground Ball:Fly Ball ratio in the AL, meaning they hit a LOT of flyballs. Now pitchers are often hailed for having a high GB:FB ratio so doesn’t it makes sense that having a low ratio is good for an offense? (The answer to that question is ….. yes!)
* Two BOMBS in two nights …. Is JD due for his once-a-season tear? A two-week rip from Drew is not in my “Sox get hot” thesis but boy, if it happens, I like this Club’s chances.
* If there is a blemish on Adrian Beltre’s resume it may be this … he has already grounded into 21 doubple palys this year. At that rate, he will finsih the year with 28 0r 29, which blows by his career high of 19. The Red Sox, meanwhile, have grounded into 95 DPs this season, which is three more than the league average. Interestingly, the Yankee total of just 74 seems WILDLY anomalous when compared to their season total in 2009. Can’t wait to watch that looming regression …. I’m speaking to you Robbie and Alex.
FARM REPORT: It was a nice night in Portland as Anthony Rizzo slammed his 20th bomb of the season and Alex Wilson managed to throw five innings without getting hammered, but the name I will highlight is Luis Exposito. The catcher slugged a two-run home run and while I realize that nobody cares about RBI anymore, I just wanted to point out that Expo now has 82 of them in less than 400 at bats. Yeah, he has plenty of OBP hitting in front of him but his numbers with runners on and with runners in scoring position are excellent so that RBI total is not some giant illusion. Instead, it shows that this guy can be trusted with a rally. Moreover, he has simply raked since the all-star break and has proven that AA is no longer for him. In fact, going back to last August, Expo’s AA numbers are sick. Whether he stalls or not in AAA is a question to be decided but as it stands, Expo has positioned himself to be a part of the Sox future and with Salty also now in the mix, the Sox decision over what to do with Victor Martinez this winter becomes all the more complicated.