State of the Red Sox Saturday
The Red Sox are 19-10, four games behind the Yankees and two games ahead of Oakland in the still-completely-meaningless wild card standings, which is exactly where they stood in both races last Saturday. After taking two of three from the defending World Champion Anaheim Angels, the Red Sox swept Kansas City in dramatic fashion.Then there was last night.
Boston wasted plenty of opportunities in the early going, and it was the Twins who struck first with a run in the fifth inning. Then the Twins scored two more the next inning and another two the following inning. Last year I would have felt the game was over, but last night I thought to myself, "Boston still has three innings to play, there's plenty of time left." Sure enough, the Red Sox scored six runs in the bottom of the seventh (although they could have scored more had they not left the bases loaded). While the Red Sox were making their comeback, my girlfriend, Stacy, was getting upset because she's a Twins fan. I told her not to get too upset because Minnesota still had two innings to try to score against Boston's bullpen. I wish I hadn't said that. The Boston bullpen promptly returned all six runs and the Red Sox lost 11-7.
Still, it was a good week. Now, on to the players.
This week was much better for the rotation as four of the six starts were quality starts (at least 6 IP and no more than 3 runs allowed).
Pedro Martinez had another good start wasted. He allowed two runs and struck out 10 in seven innings, leaving with a 4-2 lead, which the bullpen blew. Pedro has a 2.90 ERA and a 1.04 WHIP, but he's just 2-1 thanks to two bad bullpen outings and one bad day from the offense. Still, the Red Sox have won Pedro's last three starts and that's really all that matters.
Thursday was a very important start for Casey Fossum. It was a chance to have two good outings in a row. Unfortunately, he didn't get the opportunity to try to recover from a bad first inning. He gave up a twp-run homer to the fourth batter of the game, threw his next pitch behind the next batter, and was ejected. I personally don't think Fossum was trying to throw behind Raul Ibanez. The Royals had plunked three Red Sox hitters in the ninth the night before, so if there was going to be retaliation it probably would have been immediate or to the Royals best hitter. It's my understanding, however, that both teams were warned prior to Thursday's game. In that case, it makes no sense to retaliate and have your starter tossed in the first inning when you still have a shaky bullpen. Fossum says that he was upset about the home run and was just overthrowing the ball, and I believe him.
Derek Lowe finally looked like Derek Lowe on Wednesday, although he still had some control problems. He walked three batters, but he only allowed two hits and he got 11 ground-ball outs. After the beating he took in his previous start, Wednesday was very encouraging. Hopefully he can build on it and get on track for the rest of the season.
Tim Wakefield battled through another start Tuesday, allowing just two runs on seven hits and a walk in six innings. Wakefield never gets enough credit, but it's starts like these that allow the Red Sox to stay on winning streaks.
After last Saturday (three runs in eight innings) and the first four innings last night (just one hit and no walks or runs), I thought John Burkett had found the Fountain of Youth. The old Burkett returned over the next three innings, though, and I can't say I'm surprised. I just don't expect Burkett to be any good this year, so every decent start he gives us is a bonus in my eyes.
I'm much more happy about the state of the rotation today than I was last Saturday, and I'm glad Pedro's going tonight. I think he's about ready to go on one of his nasty hot streaks.
It was a good and bad week for the Boston bullpen.
Chad Fox blew another save, injured himself and is now on the DL. Ramiro Mendoza had one decent outings and then two bad ones and I still don't trust him. Brandon Lyon helped rob Pedro of a win, but has had two good appearances since then. Steve Woodard saved the Red Sox by throwing almost five innings after Fossum got tossed.
The two relievers I've been most impressed with recently are Mike Timlin and Jason Shiell. Timlin hasn't allowed a baserunner in his last three appearances (5.1 innings) and Shiell also hasn't allowed a run in his last three outings (3.2 innings).
Catcher - Jason Varitek and Doug Mirabelli are both slumping right now. Varitek is the better hitter in general, so I'd like to see him get most of the playing time, especially since I think he's such an important presence on the field for the Red Sox.
First Base/DH - Kevin Millar has been hitting for a decent average the past week, but he's not drawing many walks and he's not hitting for power. Hopefully his hot start wasn't a big fluke. Jeremy Giami and David Ortiz are both still struggling, and I'm starting to get fed up with them. One of them needs to get on a hot streak soon.
Second Base - Todd Walker was one of the keys to Thursday's win, but he didn't do much else last week. I still think he'll be a valuable part of the Red Sox offense and certainly better than what Boston got from second base last year.
Third Base - Shea Hillenbrand has stopped racking up so many RBI, but his OPS has climbed to .889 over the last week. He's still not walking much (none the past seven games), so I don't know how long this can last. Bill Mueller has been great in a part-time role and I think he could definitely handle the job full-time. There have been rumors of the Red Sox getting Scott Williamson in exchange for Shea and I would definitely be in favor of that. It sounds like there was nothing behind those rumors though.
Shortstop - Nomar Garciaparra is 10-for-23 in the last five games as he attempts to get his numbers back up to a respectable level. He hasn't been walking or hitting for power, but that'll come back soon. Right now it's just good to see him swinging the bat well.
Left field - Manny Ramirez continues to be the glue that holds this offense together. He's hitting .361 and his OPS is up to .997 after posting a 1.218 OPS the last seven games. May could be one of those months where Manny hits over .400 and drives in 40 runs.
Center field - Johnny Damon's in a pretty bad slump right now, and apparently he's pretty mad that he's had four days off so far this year, saying that he doesn't need to hit for a high average to help the team. I agree, but he does need to be able to play at a high level in the second half to help the team. Last year, Damon wore down after the All-Star break, and I'm glad to see Grady Little giving him more frequent days off. Damian Jackson can't hit, but he's been a nice little role-player for the Red Sox so far (he's already thrown out two batters at the plate from the outfield).
Right field - Trot Nixon continues to be a quiet spark for the offense. He's hitting .333 with a .926 OPS and rarely has a bad game. Trot's always been one of my favorite Red Sox and this year I find myself liking him even more (and wanting him to be up in important situations even more).
It's still way too early to make any broad statements aboutt he Red Sox. One stat that everybody is happy about actually disturbs me. The Red Sox are 8-1 in one-run games this year. Just as Boston was unlikely to go 11-23 in one-run games last year, the Red Sox are unlikely to win eight of every nine one-run games from here on out. The offense is going to have to start getting it going earlier in games and the bullpen still needs to be more reliable. All in all, though, I feel very good aboutt he 2003 Red Sox on May 3rd.