Red Sox Weekly Review

By Matt Noonan 

The Boston Red Sox enter a brand new week with a two-game losing skid, thanks, Seattle, I’m sure the local nine appreciates it!

However, despite their west coast struggles from this past weekend, which usually seem to occur in the month of August, yet again, Tim Wakefield watched another start end without his 200th career victory. Indeed, it’s heartbreaking news, however, will Wakefield eventually win and celebrate that special milestone? Of course, but obviously it won’t be against the Mariners, as the Sox wrapped up their season series with a 5-3 loss on Sunday.

Kevin Youkillis ended Sunday’s contest with his 17th home run, as well as his 78th RBI of the season, however, it wasn’t enough to spark the Sox offense.

Yet, despite the Sox struggles on Saturday and Sunday, they managed to win two-of-three games against the Minnesota Twins. Alfredo Aceves and Matt Albers each recorded wins on Monday and Tuesday, while Jonathan Papelbon collected two additional saves. Although on Wednesday, Jon Lester struggled and so did the offense, as Minnesota’s bats came alive to win the series finale, 5-2.

WEEK OUTLOOK: The Sox will return to Fenway Park on Tuesday for a day-night double header against the Tampa Bay Rays. They’ll wrap up the two-day series on Wednesday and then travel to Kansas City and Texas for an eight game road trip.

DIVISION UPDATE: The New York Yankees-Rays contest was postponed due to rain on Sunday, but, since the Red Sox ended their weekend series with two back-to-back losses, the Bronx Bombers currently remain a half a game behind Boston in the American League East division. Also, New York has a comfortable 8.5 game lead over Tampa Bay and Los Angles for the Wild Card, yet, despite the winner of the AL East, it’s pretty certain that both the Red Sox and Yankees will be playing baseball in October.

Boston Red Sox First Half Assessment

By Andy Lindberg

Offense: A.  It’s hard not to give Boston the high grade when they have finished the first half with a .278 team batting average, good for first in the majors.  The 107 home runs the Red Sox have hit are tied for third in the league behind the New York Yankees and the Texas Rangers.  The Red Sox have scored the most runs (482) and have accumulated the most hits (872) in all of baseball.  Boston’s batters have also proven to be very patient while leading the majors with 345 walks on the season, which has contributed strongly to their league lead in on-base percentage at .354.  This mix of OBP and batting average has thrust the Red Sox into first place in the American League after a horrific April start.  Adrian Gonzalez, the major league leader in batting average (.354) has been astounding to watch at the plate and in the field.  His sweet swing is tailor made for Fenway Park, utilizing the Green Monster in which to deposit pitches that are over the outside part of the plate.  David Ortiz has been revitalized and Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis are now both batting over .280 (.284 and .285, respectively) after slow starts.  One wonders what the average could be if not for JD Drew’s .229 clip.  The numbers don’t lie, Boston is the premier offensive team in the Majors, and remains so without a productive or healthy Carl Crawford in the lineup.  Jacoby Ellsbury (28 stolen bases) has set the table very well for the Red Sox while the platoon situation behind the plate with Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Jason Varitek has been surprisingly effective for what the Red Sox desire of them.  There’s no way Boston misses the postseason if they continue the offensive output they have produced thus far.

Defense: A.  Shockingly, the Red Sox are tied for first place in the Major Leagues with six teams in terms of fielding percentage (.987).  The Red Sox are in a three-way tie for first in errors as well, with only 44; a statistic that is only matched by Tampa Bay and the Chicago White Sox.  For a team that hits the lights out, it is surprising to see a Red Sox team field so well when in recent years, they have not.  Between Varitek and Saltalamacchia there is one error.  Kevin Youkilis only has six at the hot corner and Adrian Gonzalez seems to be able to do it all with only two miscues on the season, good for a .997 fielding percentage.  Tops in the league deserves a top first half grade.

Pitching: B-.  What seemed to be the big strength heading into the season for the Red Sox could turn out to hurt them the most.  Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz are both on the 15-Day DL while John Lackey is as inconsistent as can be.  Josh Becketthad a knee scare, but he seems to be well while earning an All-Star berth.  Daisuke Matsuzaka is likely done in a Red Sox uniform.  All in all it could be worse, as Boston is 14th in baseball with a 3.92 ERA.  The Red Sox are 12th in strikeouts and are tied for fifth in batting average against at .239.  They are also eighth in the league in WHIP (walks + hits per inning pitched) with a 1.26 mark.  Boston is still having issues closing games.  While the blown saves from Jonathan Papelbon are not as glaring as they were in 2010 (Papelbon has only blown one save this year), he has a 3.93 ERA and has allowed 36 hits in 36.2 innings pitched, a poor statistic for a closing pitcher.  Rich Hill was lights out until suffering an injury that led to Tommy John surgery, and both Bobby Jenks and Dan Wheeler have been poor to this point as bullpen additions.  The surprises are Matt Albers (3-3, 2.55 ERA) and Alfredo Aceves (4-1, 3.41).  Aceves has been doubly valuable as Boston has been able to plant him in the starting rotation four times due to injuries to other starters.  Also as a replacement, Andrew Miller (3-0, 3.57) has been nothing short of outstanding in his four starts for Boston this year after being inserted into the Rotation for Buchholz and Lester.  Should Boston regain their pitching health and keep it, coupled with the offense we may be looking at a very serious contender for a World Series appearance.

Lindberg: Thoughts on the Sox

By Andy Lindberg 

I doubt this past week could have been any soggier in fair New England. For the Red Sox, they escaped the weather woes with only one rainout, which was Tuesday’s game against Baltimore.

Within the dreary doldrums of the foggy, misty Fenway Park, the Red Sox compiled a weekly record of [5-1] to briefly take hold of first place in the division, only to now reside a half a game back of the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays, a feat many viewed as ludicrous merely two weeks ago.

On Monday night against Baltimore, the night began in less than stellar fashion with Daisuke Matsuzaka getting drilled in the chest on a liner up the middle on the very first pitch of the ballgame by Oriole second baseman Brian Roberts. From there, Matsuzaka never recovered, giving up five earned runs in 4.1 innings while walking seven batters. Shortly thereafter, Matsuzaka was placed on the 15-Day DL.

Down 6-0, the Red Sox stormed back with five runs in the sixth inning to pull within one. In the bottom of the ninth, down 7-6, Boston sent Adrian Gonzalez to the plate with two men on. Tired of Carl Crawford getting all the attention for walk-off hits, Gonzalez added one of his own, ripping an offering from Kevin Gregg off of the Green Monster, and plating both runners for the win.

From there, the Sox could virtually do no wrong. After the rainout, the Red Sox swept up the Detroit Tigers, winning the first game 1-0 behind a Jarrod Saltalamacchia eighth inning double.

The second game saw Boston take a 3-1 lead over Detroit’s ace Justin Verlander, only to see Daniel Bard give it right back on back-to-back bombs. Not feeling the fact that he didn’t get the Monday walk off, Carl Crawford enjoyed his third game-winning hit of the year, a bases loaded single in the bottom of the ninth to dead center field to win it.

The weekend set saw Boston face-off against the Chicago Cubs for only the second time since 1918 and for the first time in Boston since that date.

The first game went to Boston in a 15-5 dismantling of the Cubbies, despite another start in which Boston’s Jon Lester struggled. Game two went to the Cubs when Boston’s bullpen melted down in the eighth inning. With Boston holding tight to a 3-1 lead, poor defense and shaky pitching by Matt Albers led to eight Chicago runs.  However, in game three, Tim Wakefield thought it was 1995 again and completely shut down Chicago for a 5-1 win. Wakefield is now six wins away from 200 career wins.

It seems as though Jarrod Saltalamacchia is beginning to enjoy showing off what he can provide, as on Sunday he hit his third home run in his last four games. Kevin Youkilis and Adrian Gonzalez are as hot as they come right now and David Ortiz hit his 300th homer in a Boston uniform.

I was initially concerned when John Lackey and Matsuzaka went on the DL only because I thought it would tax Boston’s bullpen too much. Alfredo Aceves pitched very well on Saturday, but unfortunately, the bullpen did break down like I expected. This could be an issue going forward in terms of that fifth spot in the rotation. Starter by committee is not the best way to go.

Coming up this week Boston travels to Cleveland, a squad that sports the best record in baseball. After that, beginning on Thursday, Boston travels to Detroit to finish the week with a four game trip. Boston seems to be hitting its stride, winning eight of their last nine games, and they will need to pitch far better out of the bullpen to keep the pace with both Tampa Bay and New York.

Lindberg: Thoughts on the Sox

By Andy Lindberg 

It seemed as though in the middle of this past week, that Boston reaching .500 was a pipe dream. There was little consistency in the Red Sox efforts this week, even though with a Mother’s Day win, they secured a winning [4-3] record for the week.

The week started out nicely with Boston continuing its recent dominance over the Angels, winning the first two games 9-5 and 7-3, respectively. But then came three consecutive losses, the last two of which were an 11-0 drubbing by the Halos and a 9-2 spanking by the Minnesota Twins. But Boston came back Saturday and Sunday with wins in which the offense looked like it got back on track.

Adrian Gonzalez has been tearing the cover off the ball for the past week and has seemed to notice the large green wall in left field is very easy for him to hit the ball into or over.

Jacoby Ellsbury has a 17-game hitting streak and Carl Crawford is now batting over .200, his average sitting at .211 after Sunday’s contest.

The pitching had it rough with a brutal rain delay in the Angles series, but a few bright lights in the ‘pen are still Matt Albers (1.42 ERA), Daniel Bard (2.55 ERA), and shockingly enough, Jonathan Papelbon (2.70 ERA, 5 saves). The starters were decent for this week minus another horrific effort by John Lackey, who gave up eight earned runs in four innings against the Angles on Thursday.

Right now there is too much inconsistency on the part of the Red Sox and they have yet to put together a string of complete baseball games where the pitching and hitting both shine.

Sunday began the Jose Iglesias era at Fenway, far earlier than most projected it would. In the ninth inning, Iglesias came in as a defensive replacement at shortstop and made the final assist of the game, throwing 5-3 for the final out, which prompted an ear-to-ear grin from the rookie.

Personally, I was extremely stoked to see Iglesias because I love watching defensive monsters at shortstop. I was begging each Twin batter to hit the ball to short in hopes of Iglesias making a diving stop, performing a back flip and throwing the ball behind his back all in one grand effort to get the runner out at first. Now, that didn’t (and won’t) happen, but Fenway got its first glimpse of the possible future at shortstop. With Marco Scutaro now on the 15-day DL, Iglesias’ first at-bat or start is probably not too far off, and might be something to look forward to this coming week.

Ahead, the Red Sox wrap up the Minnesota series on Monday with Josh Beckett taking on Nick Blackburn before Boston heads to Toronto on Tuesday. Jon Lester opens the Toronto series, followed by John Lackey on Wednesday to round out a short, two-game series. On Friday the real test of the week begins with three games at the Hurt Locker in the Bronx.

I feel like Iglesias will rob Derek Jeter of a base hit with a diving snag and fire one toward third base to catch a napping Francisco Cervelli to end one of the games.

Hey, It could happen, right?