Buchholz Brilliant as Sox Rout Jays
Another big performance from a pitcher who has thrown down the gauntlet in 2010. Clay Buccholz has been nothing short of incredible so far in 2010, lowering his league-leading era to 2.49 last night in a 10-1 domination north of the border. Buchholz allowed 1 unearned run in 8 strong innings against a lineup that has more home runs than most 2 other teams combined, but his performance was one of the best of the year, in a year with many options. Clearly, the Sox offense also had a field day against Shaun Marcum, who in 2 previous starts this season had allowed just 1 run on 6 hits with 11 strikeouts in 14 innings. Wednesday night was certainly an exception as the Sox powered their way to a big lead thanks to Bill Hall’s 2 dingers and didn’t look back until the game was over.
The game was critical in many ways, one being the afternoon loss by the Tampa Bay Rays to the Detroit Tigers, which opened up the door for the Sox to gain a game in the AL Wild Card. The Sox now sit just 3.5 games back in the Wild Card, closer than they have been in months, and the offense and pitching staff appear to be hitting their stride just in time. The confidence was spilling out of the Sox locker room after the game as the players celebrated another step towards pushing towards the playoffs. The Sox nearly gained a game in the AL East as well, but a late comeback for the Yankees gave them the 7-6 win over the Texas Rangers, so the Sox finish the night 5 back in the division.
Anyone who has read my stuff, knows that I am an eternal optimist, almost to a fault. This season however, has made me doubt and even come close to writing off the 2010 version of the Red Sox on a few occasions in July, when it appeared the playoffs may not even be in the conversation come mid-August, forget the Sox gaining momentum and building a winning streak. This has been a trying year for everyone even remotely involved with this team from the fans to the front office to the clubhouse staff who have had to make a new jersey nightly for the new call-up and frankly, had to try and fit Saltalamacchia on the back of a shirt while still being able to fit the number. Nothing has been easy in 2010.
If the Sox can continue their winning ways, continue building momentum and confidence and roll into the post-season, this will no doubt go down in history as one of the gutsiest and most impressive performances int he history of the franchise. We are a long way from the post-season still, but the grit and determination this team has shown when 17 different players have gone down with injuries is amazing. Frankly, even if the Sox miss the post-season, Terry Francona deserves the Manager of the Year award just because this team still has a chance at being a contender in August. Resolve is like chemistry, it is something that is near impossible to teach, but a team either just has it or doesn’t. This team has both and they are showing their face at just the right time.
With the return of the ‘laser show’ on Tuesday, this team will get a even bigger spark and push. Dustin Pedroia is the catalyst for this team fighting in 2010, because he is the quintessential gritty player who always has something to prove. If this team has bonded and grown with him just sitting in the dugout, imagine what they will be like when he is on the field. Of all players, Pedroia loves to be doubted and uses that as motivation to succeed. Throughout his career he has been doubted because of his size and he has done nothing but stuff the criticism back in people’s faces with great pleasure. It’s certainly not all about Pedroia, but being able to add back a player like him at this time in the season is amazing.
The Sox have an opportunity to sweep themselves out of Toronto this afternoon and on to a plane headed for Texas. The 3-game set with the Rangers will be a true test for this club, as the Rangers have pulled away from the pack in the AL West and are cruising towards the post-season. The Sox will face 3 starters in the series with eras between 3.01 and 3.37 and with a combined record of 28-14, each with 9 or 10 wins. On top of the starters, the Texas offense is brutal 1-9 with power guys like Josh Hamilton, Vladmir Guerrero and Nelson Cruz in the middle of a stacked lineup. This 3-game set will either prove that this team is ready for the big-time or will bring them back down to earth, but let’s all hope Mr. and Mrs. Momentum will carry the Sox and continue their winning ways.