After getting embarrassed by the 8-24 Baltimore Orioles, the Sox came home and took out their aggression on the free-fallin’ Los Angeles Angels. The Sox put together 4 solid games and swept the Halos right out of Boston carrying a 7-game losing streak on their cross-country trip to Seattle. These past 4 games, the Sox offense has come alive and the club is getting increasingly better starting pitching. Sitting at 1-game above .500, the Sox are still 6.5 back of Tampa Bay Rays in the AL East, but are making significant progress towards playing better night in and night out.
In the 4-game series, the Sox starting pitching allowed 11 earned runs in 26 innings, including an 8 inning gem from Lester in game 2 and a 7 inning domination from Lackey in game 3 against his former club. The Sox bullpen was strong with the exception of Schoeneweis’s 4-run 9th in game 1, as they allowed a combined 1 earned run in the final 3 games (6.2 innings). With the Sox offense exploding in game 1 for 17 runs and then putting 19 up on the board in the final 3 games, there was a ton of celebrating in Boston.
The question remains if the Sox pitching staff can continue to shine and settle into a solid groove as the season wears on. If the starting rotation can consistently give the Sox 6 or 7 innings of 3-runs or fewer, this team could still come close or reach the 95 win platform as they have the past few years. That is one huge ‘if’, but all it takes is a run of strong performances to raise the confidence level of the players, which increases the level of team play as a result. The entire Sox lineup and pitching staff appears to be bonding with each hard-fought victory and defensively, the gaps and gaffs are beginning to disappear.
The encouraging signs were everywhere, including J.D. Drew hitting the ball everywhere there wasn’t a fielder and Victor Martinez gained comfort and confidence trying to throw-out potential base-stealers as well as driving in some runs with his bat (HR and 4 RBIs in game 4). There was even a small inkling of hope from David Ortiz, as he had 2 hits including a home run in the game 3. Not everything is working well for the Sox, but the list of problems and struggles has shrunk significantly over the past 4 days.
The next stretch of games is crucial for the Sox. Friday night, the New York Yankees come to town for a 3-game set, followed by another AL East team, the Toronto Blue Jays. In the next 19 games, 11 are against AL East opponents, including 5 against the Yankees. If the Sox can continue to hit the ball well and get solid starting pitching, they have an opportunity to sling-shot their way back into the division race in the next few weeks by winning the division match-ups. Of course, it is much easier said than done, but it is critical for the Sox to make up ground in May, allowing themselves an opportunity to stay in the race as the year wears on.
The Sox swept a struggling team, so it’s not worth much, right? Wasn’t that the same thing everyone said about the Orioles before the Sox got swept? Regardless of how you look at it, 4 straight wins, is 4 straight wins. A win doesn’t just add a number to the W column, it grows confidence and the belief that the team can win every game if they play hard and focus. Let’s hope the Sox are finally beginning to focus and have a lot of W’s ahead.