Runs Hits and Errors: Last Place, 4th Place, Who Cares?
There has been hand-wringing aplenty within the nation about Boston’s lackluster .500 record this year. The fact that they stumbled badly out of the blocks again and that injuries have once again become a major story is a source of much Maine to Rhode Island (and beyond) angst. While I still firmly believe that Boston is not playoff bound this year, as the games grind on and the AL East remains as tight as a last call drunk it’s becoming clear that no one in the division is going to run away and hide. It’s more likely, in fact, that many fans from Toronto to Tampa Bay will be biting their nails down the stretch as the Sox, Yanks, Rays, Birds and Jays take turns kicking the crap out of one another.
Witness last week’s results. Boston lost two of three to Tampa Bay, kicked around a Detroit Tigers team (three wins in four attempts) indicative of the weaker AL Central and recently took two out of three from Toronto to climb out of the cellar to the lofty heights of fourth place only to slide back into a last place tie (still fourth place!) on Sunday.
"Fourth place, schmorth place. Who cares? Your team is only 3 games out of first place. Minnesota is 10.5 out, Oakland is nine out, the Cubbies are 12.5 out and the Padres are 15 out. For some of these teams, their season is not going to turn around. So what happened in week nine that kept the Sox in the hunt?"
When you score more than the other guy, that’s a good thing. What allowed the runs scored to stand up was pitching, pitching, pitching. Last week Sox starters consistently went deeper and pitched better. Remove Daniel Bard‘s ugly Sunday implosion (1.2 innings pitched, 1 hit, 5 runs, 6 walks, 2 hit batsmen, 3 run-homer) and Sox starters since May 25 have averaged 6.3 innings per game. Even in defeat Boston’s starting five have been much better. They averaged 5 Ks, 6 hits, 3 runs and just 2 walks. Felix Doubront continues to improve, bagging two wins during the stretch.
Returning to the lineup after a seven-day mandatory sit-down for a concussion, Ryan Sweeney picked up right where he left off. Since returning to the lineup, Sweeney has hit .389 with an OPS of .450. Are Sweeney’s year to date numbers dominating? Hardly. Still, a .313 BA and a .346 OBP have been very pleasant surprises.
Since joining the Red Sox, Scott Podsednik is batting .370, swiped three bags and driven in three. Last week Podsednik batted .400. That’s more output than Carl Crawford has had all year.
David Ortiz put together another torrid week. Papi hit .417, had an OBP of .517 and slugged a gaudy .917.
As has been the case all season, the Red Sox continue to enjoy solid defense. Boston has a .986 team fielding percentage, fifth best in all of baseball, trailing only the MLB leading Yankees (.990) among AL East teams.
The Bard experiment is over. A major error continues to be committed by keeping him in the starting rotation. Find a home for Youk, get a starting pitcher and send Bard back to the bullpen where he has a chance to be effective.