There has been a programming change for my weekly Red Sox report. With the Sox having Monday as an off-day every other week from now until the All-Star Game, I have decided to piece together my recaps on Monday instead of after the games on Sunday. That will give me a little more time to let the week sink in a little, because if I wrote about the team yesterday afternoon my piece would have ripped into Daniel Bard a bit more than what would be considered fair.
All in all, the Sox had another very solid week last week. They took 3 out of 4 from the Detroit Tigers at Fenway Park and then went up to Toronto and won 2 of 3 across the border. Perhaps more importantly the Sox moved out of last place in the American League East if only for a day (though now they are still tied with the Blue Jays at 28-26, but they do hold the meaningless tie-breaker). This week they also made it above .500 for the first time on the year, so progress is finally visible for the team that has been “cellar dwellers” for far too long this season.
11:05 PM on May 29th and the Red Sox are finally over .500 for the first time this year! #hallelujah—
Barrett Weyneth (@barrettweyneth) May 30, 2012
Monday, May 28: 7-4 win vs. Tigers (Sox capitalize on Aviles strikeout that wasn’t, Ride Doubront to win)
Tuesday, May 29: 6-3 win vs. Tigers (Nava huge double, Ortiz HRs as Sox beat Verlander)
Wednesday, May 30: 6-4 win vs. Tigers (Middlebrooks, Youk, Ortiz all hit HRs, Gonzo 2 doubles)
Thursday, May 31: 7-3 loss vs. Tigers (Scherzer outduels Josh Beckett to avoid sweep)
Friday, June 1: 7-2 win at Blue Jays (Buchholz 8 strong innings boost Sox)
Saturday, June 2: 7-4 win at Blue Jays (Nick Punto 3-4, 4 RBI Day gives Sox series win)
Sunday, June 3: 5-1 loss at Blue Jays (Bard has historically bad meltdown)
With the 5-2 week the Sox managed to make it out of last place, only to jump back into a tie for it with yesterday’s loss. They do hold the tie-breaker with the Blue Jays so they are technically in fourth place in the AL East, but that is still not where they should be. They currently sit 1.5 games behind the New York Yankees for third place in the division and 3 games behind the Tampa Bay Rays for the division lead, so it is a lot better than it has been over the past few weeks. They remain within striking distance of the top spot, and I guess that’s all you can really ask for at this point in the season.
With the exception of Daniel Bard’s 5 out performance yesterday afternoon in which he allowed 5 earned runs on just one hit (a three run homer by Jose Bautista) aided by 6 walks (including two hit batsman), the Boston pitching staff did pretty well for the week. I have to give them a high-B thanks to this performance though, as it now has Bobby Valentine and the Sox front office questioning whether they have made the right decision in moving Bard to the starting rotation. In my opinion they haven’t, but that is a discussion for a different day as he will make his next start regardless. In fairness, Bard did earn a victory over Justin Verlander this week, so it’s not like this experiment has been a total failure (even with his 5-6 record with a 5.24 ERA). Clay Buchholz, who I have ripped here in the past, was the star starting pitcher this week as he went 8 strong innings on Friday night surrendering only 2 earned runs, scattering 6 hits and striking out 7 Blue Jays hitters. Felix Doubront had a 2-0 week, going 12 1/3 innings allowing just 4 runs (all on solo home runs) and striking out a team leading 13 batters on the week. The bullpen also pitched well, and even with a couple shaky outings Alfredo Aceves managed to go 3 for 3 in save opportunities in closing out some pressure games for the Sox.
Again, yesterday’s performance was really the only negative for the week. Sox hitters took advantage of their opportunities this week and gave their pitchers some wiggle room that was clearly noticeable. For people who may not have played baseball, for a pitcher to know that his offense has his back and can make up for any mistakes gives the pitcher confidence and gives him the opportunity to challenge hitters in ways that he might not be able to if the score was closer. For instance, Buchholz performance Friday was definitely helped by the Sox offense, as they scored in the 2nd, 3rd and 6th innings before blowing the game open with a 4-run 7th inning. For the week, David Ortiz led the team in hits with 10 (including 3 doubles and 3 HRs) and he along with Daniel Nava led the teams in runs driven in with 7. Daniel Nava has played every game in the outfield since being called up, and the production he’s given this team has been incredible (9-27 this week with a team-leading 6 doubles). Jarrod Saltalamacchia added 2 HRs for the week, and Will Middlebrooks, Nick Punto, Kevin Youkilis and Kelly Shoppach all went yard also. Half of Adrian Gonzalez’ eight hits this week went for extra bases (all doubles) and his 3 RBIs for the week were all much needed.
This wasn’t the best week for the Red Sox defensively. A week after making only 3 errors over 6 games, the Sox made 7 errors over the past week to move up to 28 on the season. The good news is that defense was not the reason for either of the losses, so it’s not really something to worry about. Again, Saltalamacchia was the major culprit for the errors this week and he now leads the team with 6 errors on the season which isn’t too surprising given the nature of the catching position. With Salty swinging the bat as well as he has lately you can live with some of the fielding miscues, but it may be something for Bobby Valentine to think about as the season wears on as Kelly Shoppach is the better defensive catcher on the roster currently. The Sox are now in a tie for 5th in fielding percentage so as long as they stay in the upper echelon of the league defense is not something to be overly concerned about.
The Week Ahead
The road doesn’t get much easier for the Sox as they have a couple big series this week back at Fenway against teams from the Beltway. The Baltimore Orioles come to town for three games beginning tomorrow, and then the National League East leading Nationals (who are tied with surprisingly the Miami Marlins and the New York Mets for that division) are coming to visit over the weekend. If the Sox can continue with the stellar play that they brought this past week then it should be a fun couple series for the team, but if they drop-off again it will be a very long stretch against these two teams that are probably over-performing to this point so far.
Pitching Probables vs. Orioles
Tuesday, 7:10 PM: Jason Hammel (6-2, 3.06) vs. Jon Lester (3-4, 4.79)
Wednesday, 7:10 PM: Wei-Yin Chen (4-2, 3.75) vs. Josh Beckett (4-5, 4.26)
Thursday, 7:10 PM: Kevin Matusz (5-4, 4.10) vs. Clay Buchholz (5-2, 6.58)