Bloody Sox

Red Sox Rants — and other random opinions about sports

Archive for the month “April, 2009”

Three impressive wins!

This had to be one of the great regular season Red Sox-Yankees series in my memory. Of course, it helps that the Red Sox won all three games. But these were all great games, with clutch performances and thrilling drama.

  • Game one, Friday, Jason Bay ties the score with a two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth and Kevin Youkilis wins it with a walk off shot in the 11th.
  • Game two, Saturday, the Sox rally from six runs down to win 16 to 11.
  • Game three, Sunday night, Jacoby Ellsbury steals home against Andy Pettitte, leading to the 4 to 1 victory.

And not to be overlooked in last night’s win is the performance of the Sox young pitchers. Justin Masterson throws five and a third impressive innings to get the win, while Hunter Jones and Michael Bowden — just up from Pawtuckett for this one game — pitched beautifully out of the pen. That the Sox could fill two bullpen spots effectively with Pawtuckett callups is maybe the most hopeful sign of all.

The Sox begin a road trip this evening in Cleveland. Let’s see if they can maintain the momentum and energy level they had during this homestand.

Now that’s what I’m talking about!

Youk and Bay slay the Yanks! Time to gloat… at least for one day.

What a difference a few days and a seven-game winning streak make!

A little over a week ago, I was lamenting the lame way the Red Sox had started the season, but after reeling off seven-straight wins, the Sox are tied with the hated Bronx millionaires, whom they clash with tonight. This weekend series in Fenway will be interesting for many reasons… as all Red Sox-Yankees series are. But it will also be another early gauge of the quality of this Red Sox team. Clearly they were not as bad as their 2 and 6 start…. but are they as good as their seven-game winning streak? They may be, or close to it. The bullpen is rock solid. The starting rotation, while a little bit shaky here and there, is good. Now the hitting is coming around, especially from the top of the order.

Everyone seems to think tomorrow’s pitching matchup between Josh Beckett and A.J. Burnett is the highlight of the series, but I think I’m more interested to see how Lester comes back after his masterful performance last Sunday against the Orioles. If he can keep that up, the Sox will be in great shape. And then, I’m also eager to see how Justin Masterson fares in his second start in place of Dice-K on Sunday night. The young right-hander is matched up against the crafty, veteran lefty Andy Pettitte. That will be a great game, I think… and probably the rubber game of the series.

Anyway, all I know is that baseball season is truly underway when the Sox and Yanks face off. And that begins tonight!

Dice-K to the rescue… Gulp!

I was really, really hoping that a trip to Oakland would revive the Red Sox, but judging from last night’s anemic 8 to 2 drubbing by the A’s that isn’t likely. Now the Sox have to hope for a great pitching performance from Dice-K tonight.  While Matsuzaka might be lights out in the WBC, he doesn’t exactly fill me with confidence every time he toes the rubber for the Sox.

Regardless, however, the Sox lineup problems remain. (Production from the leadoff spot; David Ortiz bat speed; Mike Lowell’s bat speed; J.D. Drew’s bat.) We can only assume Pedroia is going to come around. But can we assume the other holes in this lineup really are going to be filled? Now Jed Lowrie is on the D.L.

Let’s face it, when you have to hope for the return of Julio Lugo, it is never a good sign.

Not how we hoped they’d start the season

So, here we are, one full week into the 2009 baseball season and the Sox are dwelling at the bottom of the American League East standings. Hmmm. This is not how I pictured the season getting under way.

Sure, I know we’re only six games into a 162-game schedule. Of course there is no need to panic. But it isn’t as if these games don’t count. The Sox lost the AL East crown last year by one game, if memory serves me correctly. How different might the playoffs have gone if the Sox had played the Rays with home field advantage?

Nevertheless, I am not panicking. It is just that too many of the things we hoped wouldn’t happen appear to be exactly what is wrong with this team. The offense has struggled to score runs. Jacoby Ellsbury has failed to “set the table” from the lead off spot. David Ortiz has just four hits, all singles.  Jed Lowrie was replaced in the lineup yesterday by Nick Green (who had two hits!). Mike Lowell is batting just .174.

Other bad things that we were not expecting include the following:

  • The starting pitching has been good but not great, and not good enough to overcome the poor hitting.
  • Dustin Pedroia is batting under .200 — maybe because his family has been threatened.

But there have been good things. Kevin Youkilis has been Superman. Jason Bay has been steadily good. Jason Varitek has two home runs. The bull pen has been strong. And J.D. Drew has yet to injure himself.

These are things to build upon. No one expects the Blue Jays to win the AL East… so things should settle down in the coming weeks. Let’s hope so!

UPDATE: I just looked over the statistics for the bullpen… Not as strong as I had thought. Justin Masterson and Hideki Okajima have each appeared in three games and each sport 13.50 ERAs. Yikes! That ain’t gonna get it done.  But really it is early. Honest.

Play ball!

What am I to make of the Sox chances this year? I’ve been pondering this question for a few months now, but since baseball season is now officially upon us, I’ve got to put something down in writing, something to make my thoughts “official.”

Having been a Red Sox fan during the frustrating ’70s, ’80s and ’90s, I remain skeptically enthusiastic. I like the pitching on this team, though I’m not as high on the starting rotation as some. There are still many questions. Will Josh Beckett, coming off an injury plagued season, be able to regain the ace-level stuff he had in 2007? Will the remarkably resilient John Lester bounce back from the shit-load of innings he pitched last year, or will we see residual fatigue hamper his effectiveness? Will Dice-K be adversely affected by pitching in the WBC, and even if not, will he be a more efficient pitcher than in ’08?  Is Tim Wakefield truly ageless, or will the years of flinging the knuckler finally catch up to him? Is the fifth starter spot truly filled with the combination of Brad Penny/John Smoltz/Clay Bucholz?

The wrong side of a few of those questions may eliminate the Sox pitching advantage.

However, I have fewer questions regarding the bullpen, which I believe will be very effective this year. 

So that gets us to the offense. I think we can be confident in just three of our position players’ offensive production. Jason Bay, Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis should be good — but will they be great? Maybe, but the odds are that none of these three will match their 2008 numbers. But they will not have to if Mike Lowell, David Ortiz and J.D. Drew have solid seasons. Jason Varitek will have a better season than last year — if he doesn’t, he may not even be the starting catcher by the end of the season. Jed Lowrie will be solid, but not spectacular. But the key to this season is going to be the lead-off hitter. If this team is going to be playing in October, their offensive MVP needs to be Jacoby Ellsbury. He’s the spark that will light this offense. If he can be the player we glimpsed at the end of ’07, I believe the Sox can play deep into the fall. If he is not, Theo Epstein will have a longer off-season to contemplate why he gave Drew such an idiotic contract.

The bottom line: I am cautiously optimistic about this season, but I think the Sox could finish anywhere from first to fourth. That’s just the reality in today’s A.L. East.

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