Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Wake-ing Up

Ooohhh...bad pun right off the bat. Sorry about that. But how, if you are a Sox fan, can you not be thrilled with the way Tim Wakefield is pitching in 2009?

What made last night's eight-inning, one-run display so enjoyable is that a performance like that is almost standard for him this year. Out of eight starts he has six quality starts. With the exception of two bad games against Tampa and the Angels, Wakefield has dominated the opposition. He has, beyond argument, been the best starting pitcher for Boston in 2009. And his 5-2 record is proof of that fact. It's also good for fourth-best in the AL. Oh, add in that Wakefield has given up the third-fewest amount of hits (43) of any starting pitching in the AL with 50+ innings under their belt.

And thank God Wakefield has been on because the Boston bats decided to take the day off. They were only able to get four hits off of Toronto starter Brian Tallet and two more off B.J Ryan in the eighth. The only player to have multiple hits was Ellsbury, whose bat has woken up in the past three weeks. For the month of May, Ellsbury is hitting .329 with a .770 OPS. And he's riding a 14-game hitting streak to boot. But the heroes were two lesser-known men. Jeff Bailey and George Kottaras drove in the two runs in the second inning, which was great because everyone else seemed content to do a lot of nothing.

That includes David Ortiz. It's getting really bad with him; he is batting just .203 right now. His slugging percentage (.293) is lower than his on-base percentage (.317). How is that even possible? He has more walks (21) than RBI (15). The bottom line is that he is hurting the team by being in the lineup. I understand that the Boston brass have to handle this carefully. But if Ortiz cannot turn this around, the Sox have to put him on the DL and either get Chris Carter in there or look for some outside help. You cannot have a guy flirting with a sub-.200 batting average ahead of your clean-up hitter.

Oh, did you notice Lugo made another error last night? That's four in 12 starts. Work that out over the course of the season and he'll end up making Renteria look like a competent shortstop. Lowrie cannot heal up fast enough.

But let's end this on a positive note; Papelbon seems to be getting into his groove as evidenced by his strong performance last night. He has not given up more than one hit in an appearance since May 4. The last time he allowed a run to cross the plate was April 27. He has steadily lowered his ERA by almost a full run since that same date (from 1.93 to 1.00). He now has 11 saves on the year (best in the AL) and has yet to blow a save in 2009. Paps also has the best ERA of any closer in the AL not named Frank Francisco. It's looking like another All-Star year for the lad. Maybe he'll actually be the closer this time.

Tonight it's the surprisingly effective Brad Penny against Toronto rookie Brett Cecil. This distresses me not only because Cecil is pitching well (2-0 with a 1.80 ERA) but because the Sox have never faced him before. And Boston never seems to do well against a pitcher they have never seen before. Hopefully, that isn't the case this time.

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