Wednesday, June 24, 2009

National Domination

Boston started their last stretch of inter-league play last night, traveling to Washington, D.C. to face the woeful Nationals. The one thing Washington had in their favor was John Lannan, a young pitcher who is not intimidated in the least by top-flight teams (ask Aviv how the Yankees did against Lannan). So the Boston plan was obvious; get past Lannan and prey on Washington's inferior bullpen.


Mission accomplished.


Lannan held the Nationals in the game at a 3-3 tie until the seventh. But after 109 pitches, he had to make way for the relief corps...such as they are. And that is why the Sox won 11-3 last night.


My god, that bullpen is frighteningly bad. Is there a worse one in the majors*? Every single pitcher the Nationals brought in gave up at least one run. It was brutal.


Compare that to the stellar play of the Sox. Especially on defense. There were two remarkable plays by the infield last night:


  • Nick Green's remarkable play in the third. He snags a sharp grounder from Nick Johnson, tags out Guzman at second as he shoulder-rolls over the bag and the player and then fires to first to get Johnson. It was as slick a play as you'll see all year.


  • Mike Lowell's catch-and-fire in the seventh. With Gonzalez on first, Guzman hit a rocket of a line drive at third. Lowell snagged it out of the air and, without hesitating for a second, fired to Youk at first to double off Gonzalez. Just a fantastic play.

And while Washington's bullpen exploded, Boston's bullpen locked things down. Over the final 3.1 innings, they surrendered no runs and just two hits. Okajima was especially impressive, needing just eight pitches to get through the seventh.


And the Boston bats sprung back to life. The only non-pitching starter to go hitless was J.D. Drew, and even he drew two walks and scored a run. Pedroia had a remarkable productive night as the leadoff batter, going 3-6 and scoring two runs.


But the two offensive stars were in the outfield. Jason Bay and Jacoby Ellsbury were flat-out awesome at the plate last night. Bay went 4-6 with three runs scored and three RBI, including a solo shot in the second. That gives Bay 19 homers on the year. Ellsbury went 4-4 with a walk, three RBI and a run scored. He also hit two triples. These two guys pretty much could do no wrong last night.


This is how you want to kick off a nine-game road trip. Hopefully that will continue tonight, with Jon Lester facing Craig Stammen. Stammen is a new face that, like Lannan, racked up a win over the Yankees in the Bronx. So he isn't a pitcher to be treated lightly. But like last night, all the Sox have to do is wear him down and get him out of the game. At that point, the Nationals become a very, very soft team.


And with that, I will be out until Friday. Sorry for the unfiltered Yankee bias that will dominate the pages.


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* Only one team has a worse bullpen than Washington. The LA Angels' bullpen has a 5.64 ERA. Washington's is 5.59 and likely to get worse. By comparison, Boston's bullpen has a MLB-best 2.84 ERA.

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