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.