Monday, July 23: 9-1 loss at Texas Rangers (Ugly performance by the Sox)
Tuesday, July 24: 2-1 win at Rangers (Joe Nathan stumbles, Sox capitalize)
Wednesday, July 25: 5-3 loss at Rangers (Derek Holland beats Boston)
Friday, July 27: 10-3 loss at New York Yankees (Longball kills Red Sox, Yanks park 3 HRs)
Saturday, July 28: 8-6 win at Yankees (Granderson’s misplay dooms Yankees)
Sunday, July 29: 3-2 win at Yankees (Ciriaco comes through with clutch extra inning RBI single)
With the Sox going 3-3 this week they remain at a level .500 record (51-51). Barring a miracle they are still out of the American League East race, 9.5 games behind the Yankees and still in last place in the division. A playoff spot as a wild-card is still available if the team is able to go on a run, as they now sit 4 games behind Oakland and the Los Angeles Angels for the two wild-card spots. Detroit, Baltimore, Tampa Bay, and Toronto are also still in the way, but one decent winning streak would put the Sox squarely in the playoff hunt. One losing streak would knock the team out of any potential race, so we’re at a very volatile point in this season for Boston.
The Sox faced some very good pitchers over this past week, and the offense coming through when it mattered most in the three wins this week were enough for me to give the hitters a B- grade for the week. Particularly, the offense getting out to early leads in the two most recent games against the Yankees, and then when the pitchers (the bullpen specifically) blew the leads, the offense produced some clutch performances to get the job done. The best hitter over the past 7 days has been third-baseman Will Middlebrooks who went 10-23 (.435 average) with 1 HR and 3 RBIs. Shortstop Pedro Ciriaco also had a fantastic week, producing 6 hits in 18 at-bats (.333), including a single that drove in the game-winning in last night’s matchup.
Dustin Pedroia and Jarrod Saltalmacchia led the team in power this week, hitting 2 home runs each, while Adrian Gonzalez added one home run and a team-leading 4 RBIs over the past 7 days. Outfielder Carl Crawford also hit his first home run of the season and drove in his first couple runs, and he will be needed down the stretch if the Sox are going to make a move up the standings.
Felix Doubront was the lucky Sox starter to get two appearances this week. “Doobie’s” game against Texas was one to forget, but his start last night (6 1/3 innings, 4 hits, 1 earned run, 8 strikeouts) is one that he will try to build off as we reach August here. Josh Beckett (7 innings, 9 hits, 4 earned runs allowed) and Aaron Cook (4 innings, 7 hits, 6 earned runs allowed) were the two other starters, besides Doubront, to earn losses this week. On the good side, Clay Buchholz pitched another brilliant game (7 innings, 4 hits, 1 earned run), and Jon Lester bounced back from a historically bad performance (6 innings, 4 hits, 4 earned runs, 6 strikeouts this week). The Sox bullpen wasn’t as sharp as they’ve been for most of the season, but Alfredo Aceves did put in 4 1/3 innings this week allowing just two base-runners (1 hit, 1 walk). He would have been a perfect 3 for 3 in save opportunities this week if it weren’t that one measly hit, a single by Russell Martin last night that tied the game in the bottom of the 9th inning, but Aceves did get the win by getting out of that inning and then pitching a great 10th as well.
The Sox made 2 errors in each of the first 2 games of the week, but the endings of those games were very different results (2-1 win and a 9-1 loss). In each of those games, Texas did not make any errors, so you can see why fielding is something that means so much less than pitching and hitting. Aviles, Padilla, Pedroia, and Crawford all split the errors, so it’s not really something to worry about.
The Week Ahead
The Sox return home to open a 3-game set with the Detroit Tigers. Clay Buchholz will oppose Max Scherzer tonight, with Josh Beckett facing Justin Verlander on Tuesday, and Aaron Cook dueling with Rick Porcello in the finale. Those first two matchups are particularly intriguing as the Sox are facing some pretty damn good throwers to start the week. After Detroit leaves town, the Sox will play 4 with the lowly Minnesota Twins, so this is a week to make up some ground in the standings.