“And the winner of the 2010 ‘Just What I Needed’ award goes to Jon Lester, for his August 14th gem over the Texas Rangers.”
Let’s see here ….. the Sox were coming off two blistering defeats. They were up against a solid pitcher on the road. The game time temperature was 102 degrees. The bullpen was SHOT. The team was playing with just a two-man bench. Not exactly a great set of facts to work with, right? So it was incumbent upon Lester to go deep last night if the Sox were going to snap out of their malaise and keep pace with the Rays and Yanks.
Well, Lester turned out to be the perfect tonic as he locked the Rangers down for eight innings, which is all the more impressive because the Sox gave him hardly anything to work with ….. AGAIN. But even without covering fire, Lester charged ahead and kept the Rangers at bay all night. Yeah, they had some success getting leadoff guys onboard but Lester never flinched and never made things difficult with walks or mistakes out over the plate. And when the Rangers got their chance late with a one-out triple, Lester got tough and stranded that runner like he was a passenger on Oceanic 815.
Most importantly, Lester left little room for the Rangers to feast on Boston’s shortened bullpen. On a night when both Bard and Papelbon were not available, the Sox pen was awfully exposed but Lester took care of business and only left three outs on the table. And if the Sox offense had not come through with some ninth-inning insurance, I am convinced Lester would have been out there to finish things off.
Luckily, the bottom of the order strung together some hits and Bill Hall went “Prudential” on the Rangers with a big run-scoring single. And when Scoot added a Sac Fly, the Sox were largely out of harm’s way and Lester’s night was over. That he didn’t slam the final door is inconsequential. What is important that on a night that the Sox needed him badly. And it was hot as ass. Lester went out and threw a scintillating 77 (gamescore) and the when the dust cleared, the Sox had righted their ship. That folks, is just what the Sox needed.
Is it just me or does it seem that Victor Martinez is in the middle of every failed rally? The numbers seem to confirm that my eyes are not failing me as Martinez is hitting just .224 this season with runners in scoring position. That compares to a lifetime RISP average of .305. Making matters worse is the fact that since the break, Martinez is hitting just .256 and slugging just .359. Now there really aren’t any better options to replace him, but it goes without saying that the Sox need their number three hitter to start behaving like a guy who isn’t afraid to knock in a few runs.
It was a nice bounce back night for Hall who was miserable Friday but had the big knock in the ninth last night. And one thing I like about Hall …. He always seems available for a post-game quote. This guy is proving that he is not some disaffected mercenary. Instead, he seems totally vested in this club’s effort.
Timing is everything. Yesterday, this blog wrote, “Vlad has one of the lowest baseball IQs in the game. “ Like clockwork, Guererro proved that point once again by getting caught stealing in the ninth while the tying run was at the plate. This is about the 374th in recent memory that Guererro has done something stupid on a baseball diamond so last night was hardly a surprise. But what I do find surprising is when I run across baseball “fans” who aren’t aware of Guererro’s massive shortcoming. I’ve long thought “instincts” were a baseball tool and Guererro’s instinct tool is on par with Juan Pierre’s “throwing” tool, Jason Kendell’s “power” tool and Mike Lowell’s current “speed” tool.
FARM REPORT: Let’s just say that the Sox first round draft pick from the June Draft – Kolbrin Vitek – has not exactly blown away the NY-PN league. Being a college kid and a first rounder, one would have expected Vitek to feast on short-season pitching. But it hasn’t happened. Vitek did get off to a solid start with Lowell but he faltered in July and didn’t hit a thirg earlier this month. But things are turning for Vitek who is now seven for his last fifteen and last night, he stroked his third long-ball of the year. Vitek’s overall numbers still don’t scream “first round” but they now seem headed in the right direction.