Sunday, June 14, 2009

Rolling Through Philly

Well, I think we know how to use Julio Lugo now; save him for inter-league play. The guy who is absolute death to the Red Sox back in the AL somehow magically transforms into a powerhouse when he crosses leagues.

Lugo went 4-5 last night, driving in two runs on a pair of singles and scoring a run himself en route to an 11-6 win for the Sox over the Phillies. And he went the whole game without committing an error. It was a gold-star game for Lugo, who I still want to disappear from Boston faster than Whitey Bugler did when John Connolly tipped him off. Lowrie, get back here already, will ya?

Ellsbury is showing no ill effects on his shoulder. In the two games in Philly he has gone a combined 4-9 with three walks and a homer. The long-ball came last night as the final Boston run in the top of the ninth. Ellsbury now two homers on the year, or 1/12 the number of steals he currently has. Ellsbury also racked up his 24th steal last night, good for 2nd in the AL.

And we cannot neglect the good night from Jason Bay. Bay went 2-5 with 3 RBI and a pair of runs scored. His two-run homer in the first set the tone for the whole game. Bay is having a MVP-caliber season right now: 17 homers, 60 RBI, 45 runs scored and zero errors in left. If he keeps this up, then Theo needs to swallow hard and sign Bay to a above-average contract extension. I am hard-pressed to see where else the Sox could find that kind of production from left-field right now, either in the open market or within the organization.

The pitching, for the most part, was solid. Okajima, Ramirez and Papelbon locked down the final four innings for the win. But the Sox brass has to officially be concerned about Daisuke now. He could only go four innings, giving up four runs on seven hits and throwing 91 pitches in those four innings. Those are not good numbers, people.

Excepting his June 2 win over the Tigers (where he still couldn't go more than five innings), Daisuke has given up 3+ runs in seven outings this year. He has given up 4+ runs five times in those seven outings. Daisuke has yet to make it through six full innings this year. His highest Bill James Game Score this year was 54; the next closest was a 43. In short, Daisuke has sucked so far in 2009.

Is it an injury? Is this just his "spring training", as Daisuke likes to say? Can this all be blamed on the World Baseball Classic? Damned if I know. But it seems to me that the biggest difference between 2008 and 2009 is that Daisuke played in the WBC and that he isn't able to get out of jams the way he did last year.

Daisuke's inability to get deep in games and get wins is going to force some tough decision-making on the brass. Can you trade a chip like Brad Penny when Daisuke is pitching like this? And if you do so, and then move Daisuke onto the DL and bring both Smoltz and Buchholz into the rotation, your pitching depth has gotten mighty shallow in a hurry. But Penny's value is as high as it will ever be...tough decisions, indeed.

Overall, though, Boston's starting rotation has begun to come around. They now have an ERA under five (4.82), which may be faint praise but it's something. And it's better than the Yankees, so there's always that to enjoy. But it's been the bullpen that has saved their bacon. Boston's bullpen is the only one in the AL with a sub-3.00 ERA (2.84). If the rotation even begins to match the competence of the bullpen, the Sox will be very hard to beat the rest of the way.

One other thing...this game could have been a lot worse for Philly. The Sox scored 11 runs on 13 hits, but left 13 runners on base. It's great Boston won and won big, but you'd like to see that number down a little bit.

Today it's Josh Beckett and J.A. Happ squaring off. Happ is an unknown to Boston but is apparently having a decent season; he's 4-0 with a 2.98 ERA. But with Beckett back in form, the Sox should have the edge here.

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