The Red Sox were two outs away from taking two of three from the pesky Tampa Bay Rays on the weekend, only to have victory snatched from their clenched fists in the top of the ninth on Sunday afternoon. A crushing home run from Sean Rodriguez left the Red Sox reeling over a devastating loss giving the Rays the series win at Fenway Park but there are many positives for the Boston squad to take away from the weekend.
The first and probably most encouraging was one helluva performance from Clay Buchholz on Sunday. The struggling right-hander went 7.0 innings strong, scattering 8 hits while surrendering just runs. More impressive was his control as he walked just 1 batter and struck out a season high 6 batters proving he still has his dominating stuff.
For Buchholz, despite not picking up the win even though he pitched well enough, this outing has to restore some confidence. It was only the second time this season he went a full 7 innings and he had control of his change up and fastball all game long. Definitely something to build on for Buchhy and the Red Sox.
Kevin Youkilis went 3-for-10 over the three games and while it’s not a huge performance, the fiery third baseman has his timing back after being on the DL. Well, his first game back he had his timing, but he is continuing to get on base and is answering the questions thus far if he can stay healthy that might warrant a trade. If the Sox decide to keep him he is another huge presence in the lineup, something that will bode well for this club come the dog days of summer.
Adrian Gonzalez went yard on Sunday, belting a three-run shot to left off Jeremy Hellickson who was in a zone. It was only Gonzo’s fourth home run of the year and his first at Fenway Park since April 17th. This is certainly a positive given the amount of criticism Gonzalez has undergone in recent weeks for his lack of power at the plate.
Even Gonzalez is feeling good about the shot, telling NESN that he’s starting to feel more comfortable with his power swing.
“I’ve been having a consistent feel for two days.” – Adrian Gonzalez
For the record Gonzalez now has two home runs in the past seven days. If Gonzo is in fact heating up, look out as his torrid pace could carry the Sox to many wins.
A fourth positive was Josh Beckett‘s starting performance on Saturday where he went pitch for pitch against the Rays stud, David Price. Despite not getting the win, Beckett went 7.0 innings strong while not issuing one free pass, the first time he’s done that all year. It was also the third straight game in which Beckett allowed two runs or less, proving that when push comes to shove, he is the leader of this staff. Suddenly ‘Golf Gate’ is a distant memory.
The blown loss by Alfredo Aceves was difficult to swallow when you consider that he had recovered nicely from his rough start to the year. But rarely do you see a closer go perfect on the year so we’ll cut him some slack for now. The positive is not Aceves but rather his bullpen mates.
Between Andrew Miller, Rich Hill, Franklin Morales, Vicente Padilla, Scott Atchison and Matt Albers, the six relievers only gave up a combined 2 hits over 8.0 innings of work, further enforcing the fact that the Red Sox are developing one of the most reliable bullpens in the majors. Granted the bullpen has been on a torrid pace for some time, it is comforting to again see a reinforced point that in a tight ballgame these guys will shut the door.
One slip from Aceves cost the Sox the series but the positives far out weigh the negatives and this ball team appears to have turned the corner.