By Andy Lindberg
It took them until May 15, but the Boston Red Sox are now sitting pretty at .500. A sweep of the hated rival New York Yankee ballclub over the weekend finally solidified a non-losing record for the boys from Beantown.
After squeaking out a 2-1 win over the Twins on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday the Sox fell in horrific fashion to the Toronto Blue Jays over a quick, two-game series.
John Lackey fared extremely poorly in Wednesday’s 9-3 drubbing, giving up all nine runs while showing frustration not only at himself, but at his teammates as well. Lackey’s next start will see him debut new mechanics. Instead of raising the ball over his head in the glove, he will keep it low to try for a more balanced, accurate delivery. For those who have not paid attention, the Sox did the same thing with Josh Beckett after his first year with Boston. Even since then, Beckett has found more success with the new delivery than he did with the old. Hopefully the same will be said with Lackey.
Speaking of Josh Beckett, he’s kind of a freak so far. Beckett allowed no runs in six innings against the Twins on Monday and threw six more shutout innings against the Yankees on Saturday night, a game in which he outdueled CC Sabathia yet again and picked up his second win against New York this year. Beckett has yet to relinquish a run to the Bronx Bombers. Beckett is 3-1 with a 1.75 ERA this season.
Adrian Gonzalez hit five home runs this week and leads the American League in RBI with 34. Giving up Rizzo and Kelly seems well worth it to this point in the season.
Personally, I and many other Boston fans were frustrated after the two losses to Toronto. The sweep of the Yankees in New York was delivered in spectacular fashion, especially in the third game of the series. Trailing 4-1 after the Yankees tagged Sox starter Jon Lester around, Kevin Youkilis clubbed a three-run home run to deep left field to knot the score at four apiece. After a David Ortiz solo shot to take the lead, Yankee third baseman Alex Rodriguez decided to try out a new fielding strategy. Apparently he thought letting the ball skitter between his legs and allowing a run to score was a good life choice. It was not and in the eighth, Jarrod Saltalamacchia finally broke out and pulled a hard line drive home run over the wall in right. Jonathan Papelbon shut it down for the save and the Sox walked out of the Bronx with a nice new set of brooms.
Lester earned his 5th win of the season on Sunday. It took Lester until May 25th of last season to notch his 5th. I mention that solely because I desperately want to see him hit 20 wins. David Ortiz to this point in the season is hitting .295 with seven home runs and 19 RBI. He also sports a .504 slugging percentage and a .881 OPS. (Side note, OPS–or on base percentage + slugging– is just that. It’s a batters slugging percentage plus his on base percentage). On May 16 of last year, Ortiz was hitting .232 with a .484 slugging and a .779 OPS. Ortiz’s overall hitting has skyrocketed. He’s catching up with the fastball that took him two months to get to last year. He’s consistently putting the ball in play. This spring, Ortiz requested more spring training games to get his timing to where it should be in mid-season form. It worked.
This week the Sox yet again play every day with last Thursday, May 12, being the one and only day the Red Sox have off in May. The Sox play every game at Fenway this week, beginning with the Orioles for two, then Detroit for two, and finishing the week by hosting the Chicago Cubs. The Cubs have not been to Fenway since the World Series in 1918. These are three clubs Boston should beat, and pounding Baltimore a little further down in the standings only helps Boston’s cause. If the Red Sox win tonight, they will have a winning record for the first time all year.