By Andy Lindberg
Sunday was “Sweepday” in Boston. The C’s threw down on the Knicks, (although it was far from pretty) and the Red Sox took it to the Angels (a very pretty series). With a game every day this past week, the Red Sox went [6-1] in grand fashion. The starting pitching was spectacular, especially from Daisuke Matsuzaka, who allowed no runs on one hit in seven innings to the Blue Jays on Monday and no runs on one hit in eight innings against the Angles on Saturday.
For those of you keeping score at home, that’s not one run allowed on two hits in 15 innings pitched by Matsuzaka this past week. He was effective, kept his breaking ball low in the zone and threw several of his pitches with confidence, allowing him to spot his fastball more often and throw a wider array of pitches deeper into the count. The lone blemish of the week was the first game at Oakland, but John Lackey pitched very well, only giving up one run in six innings. Lackey pitched even better against his old team today in Anaheim, going eight innings without allowing a run.
Carl Crawford has picked it up this week as well, knocking his first home run of the season today. The pitching and the hitting are both coming together at the same time, and in the most obvious and obnoxious statement of all time, the rest of the league should be on notice.
There’s not much more detail I can get into about the wins this week, as the Red Sox played well-rounded baseball in nearly every game, not to mention Jonathan Papelbon was outstanding, pitching in three consecutive games and earning a save in each. Kevin Youkilis has encouraged me as well, going to the opposite field for power for two of his home runs on the season, including Saturday at Anaheim.
What does still irk me, however, is the catching situation. I do not think it is any coincidence that Jason Varitek being behind the plate for Josh Beckett and Matsuzaka has seen both hurlers off to a run of extraordinary pitching. The staff is quite comfortable with the captain catching. Since both catchers on Boston’s roster aren’t hitting at all, there’s no controversy over who gets playing time. At this point, anything they provide at the dish is a bonus. But a team cannot win with a vacant hole in the lineup and Varitek in all likelihood cannot remain in tip-top condition starting consistently. Jarrod Saltalamacchia has to show he can perform and be disciplined at the plate. To this point in the season Saltalamacchia has struck out 13 times while walking only three times. This is from a player whose plate discipline was highly touted.
In 2007 Terry Francona stuck with Dustin Pedroia, who was hitting below .200 at the time and the faith paid off. Boston can only hope history repeats itself with Saltalamacchia, as catching depth across the league is minimal.