By Andy Lindberg
It’s sad when it takes until Sunday April 17, 2011, to win back-to-back games. It only took the Sox a shade over two weeks to do it, but it has been done. And lo and behold, they doubled their win total this week! From two wins up to four wins is a big-boy week. I find it sad that I have to say a 2-3 week seemed somewhat successful for the Boston squad, so I won’t say it.
The Sox should have gone, 4-1 this week. I’ll say they earned the 16-5 drubbing they received from Tampa, but Jon Lester got no love in game two of the series and Bobby Jenks was in full hate mode as the Sox dropped the first game to the Jays on April 15
But what rewards that come to those who wait. Josh Beckett really wants to convince the “Fenway Fickle” that he’s going to light it up this year. Well, I refuse to argue with a man who’s, 2-1 with a 1.80 ERA in the Boston rotation. Beckett has finally shown me what I’ve been begging of him for so long: pitch selection.
Beckett seems to be morphing himself into a pitcher in this young season rather than a thrower. Last year he relied solely on his fastball, showing no confidence in his other pitches, and coupled with an injury, paid the price. To this point, Beckett has made sure to incorporate his curveball early in games. His changeup becomes brutally effective when he is throwing his curveball and fastball for strikes and the change of pace leave hitters baffled. Beckett’s rotation on the deuce has been as tight as I’ve seen it while he’s been in a Boston uniform. If he continues to mix up his pitches and rely on all three during every start, Beckett will win at least 17 games this year. It looks as if he’s finally realizing that his fastball speed is declining and he’s becoming a more balanced, controlled pitcher.
In game three of the Toronto series, Jon Lester was less than stellar, but pitched well enough to get the job done. Lester labored through six innings of work only giving up one run, but he walked three and went deep into counts no thanks in part to home plate umpire Doug Eddings, who had a particularly inconsistent strike zone. Nonetheless, Lester buckled down when he had to and in the process earned his first win of the year with help for the first time from the bottom of the order. Jarrod Saltalamacchia had his best game to date with Boston as he racked up two hits and drove in three runs. “Taco Bellsbury,” (Jacoby Ellsbury) added a three-run homer, but his swing is disturbing me.
In the movie Major League, manager Lou Brown tells Willie Mays Hayes that with Hayes’ speed, every time he hits the ball in the air, he owes 20 pushups. Ellsbury’s value is his speed, not his attempt at power. Yes, he drove the ball very well, but that same uppercut hack has gotten him off to a .196 batting average start. For every time Ellsbury flies out, he should owe Tito 20 pushups.
Jed Lowrie added himself yet another hit and is “en fuego.” Lowrie arguably could have gone 3-4 against Toronto in game three, but tough scoring led to two of those knocks being called errors, and thus a 1-4 day with an RBI. It’s at the point where until he stops hitting, Lowrie has to play every day.
How many of you are still worried about Carl Crawford and his .127 start? I’m not as worried about the start as I am with how Crawford’s gotten there. He’s terribly impatient at the plate and has yet to show the ability to work the count and foul off pitches. He’s not being the pest he was in Tampa Bay. Instead, he tries to square up the first strike he sees and either whiffs or meekly grounds out. His slump will eventually end. He’s not going to pull a Mark Reynolds and finish the year under the Mendoza Line, but if Crawford doesn’t pick it up soon, the Boston offense will suffer with the gaping hole wherever Crawford is placed in the order.
This upcoming week the Sox finish off the series with Toronto on Monday at 11am in the annual Patriot’s day game. There is no off-day for Boston this week, as they fly out Monday night to Oakland for two games with the Athletics on Tuesday and Wednesday followed by three with the Los Angeles Angles of Anaheim, finishing up on Sunday.
And I’d like to point out for those of you keeping score at home; the Los Angeles Angles of Anaheim are currently beating out the Nashville Predators and Tennessee Titans for weakest name in professional sports.