Thursday, June 18, 2009

500, 100 And A Fish Fry

I think the first thing to talk about is Boston's MLB record-setting 500th straight sellout at Fenway. The streak began on May 15, 2003. On that day, Pedro Martinez went six innings against Texas and struck out eight en-route to a 12-3 Boston rout over the Rangers. Pitching the ninth for Boston that day? The immortal Bruce Chen, who had been taken off waivers from Houston just a week earlier.

It really is an impressive streak. Only three other teams in all of professional sports have longer streaks, and they're all basketball teams. The Bulls went 515 games, the Celtics have gone 567 straight and the Trailblazers set the all-time pro sports record with 744 straight sellouts. But if the Sox keep playing like this, they could challenge that record in a few years. Anyways, just one more thing that denotes how Boston is the top baseball franchise in the 21st century.

There was another milestone yesterday. Brad Penny earned his 100th win of the season, throwing five strong innings to lead Boston to a 6-1 win over the Marlins. Even though he issued four walks, his control wasn't bad. He threw first-pitch strikes to 19 of 23 batter and threw 66% of his pitches for strikes overall. Penny gave up just one run on three hits. But what was truly impressive was finding out just how damned tough Penny is. He took a line drive off his chest in the first inning that struck him above his heart. I'm thinking if that's you or me, we go down like someone shot us. Penny stays in the damn game, hits 98 on the radar gun and picks up his 100th win. Dude is tough as nails. And his performance makes the idea of trading him that much harder to contemplate, even though the scouts are out in force.

That first inning, which ended with Florida holding a 1-0 lead, was the highpoint of the game for them. From then on the Sox chewed up Florida starter Andrew Miller piece by piece. They had at least one person on base every inning Miller pitched except the fifth. They put up a pair of runs in the second and fourth innings. Combined with Penny's gutsy pitching, Miller couldn't pitch the game he wanted and the Sox took advantage of it.

David Ortiz's "June Micracle" continued with a 1-2 outing, three runs scored and two walks. His OPS for June is now 1.168 and he shows no signs of slipping. Ortiz looks like a different man up there; he is more confident and more selective in the pitches he'll go after. He's no longer trying to force an outcome but is taking what he's given and is pouncing on mistakes.

Pedroia was solid in the leadoff role, going 3-5 with 3 RBI. Dustin has been struggling a little in June (.185 batting average and .501 OPS for the month), so it was good to see him put two good outings back-to-back. Ellsbury looked good batting second. He went 1-3 with a pair of walks, drove in a run and scored a run. But on the downside, he finally committed an error in the outfield. Actually, let me correct that...he got screwed and was charged with an error.

If you saw the play, Jorge Cantu laced a bullet into left-center field for Florida's only run. Ellsbury ran full-speed for it and just missed it. How is that an error? Ellsbury is the fastest guy in the majors or close to it. If he can't make that play, then no one is making that play. It should have been ruled a hit.

And a nice hand for The Pride of Woonsocket, Rocco Badelli. He went 2-3 with a run scored and a nice RBI single in the second that tied the game at one. It's good to see him coming in and contributing. Even better, he looks healthy. Whatever treatment he is taking for his channelopathy seems to be working.

Tonight is the series closer and it looks, on paper, like the biggest mismatch. Jon Lester, who has looked outstanding over his past few starts, goes against Ricky Nolasco. Nolasco is 2-6 with an ERA of 7.62...looks like someone that belongs on the Yankees' roster. Nolasco isn't a bad pitcher; last year he went 15-8 for the Marlins and threw 212 innings. But this year he hasn't had any success, winning his last game on May 8. Put that together with Lester's last two outings and the Sox have to be liking their chances tonight.

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