Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Boston, You're My Home

The Sox rolled back into Fenway last night riding a six-game losing streak. They hadn't won a game against a team with a winning record since the All-Star break. And they were facing the Tigers and Edwin Jackson. Jackson had one of the best BAA in the AL and a WHIP around 1.10, while the Tigers were 59-51. A bad combo for Boston for sure, right?

Wrong. With some hard hitting in the early innings and some great relief work from Ramirez and Papelbon, the Sox won 6-5, breaking both their losing streak and their bad run against winning teams. Combined with the Yanks losing to Toronto and Texas being idle, Boston picked up a game on New York and retook sole possession of the wild-card slot. Things now seem a little more right in the world.

Boston's biggest problem recently was the power outage from the latter half of their lineup. That changed last night. Ortiz went 1-4 and hit a run scoring single in the second. Jason Bay put the Sox ahead 5-3 in the fifth with a solo shot (Bay was 1-3 with a walk for the night). And Nick Green, much lamented and scorned as of late by Sox fans, hit a solo shot in the second and then put the winning run across the plate in the seventh with a sac fly. Even JD Drew got into the act, going 2-3 and scoring that winning run.

And with production like that, it made things that much easier for Boston's pitchers. Penny threw a solid, if not memorable, six innings. Three runs on six hits with a pair of strikeouts should be enough for Boston's lineup to make stand up. And they did...although Delcarmen had a rough outing and cost Penny the win. Delcarmen has hit a rough patch as of late, giving up at least one run in five of his last seven appearances. His ERA has climbed from 2.52 to 3.33 in that time. But that is deceptive as one bad outing can really make your ERA spike. His ERA has been sub-3 most of the year and I expect that's where it will end up at season's end.

But what enabled Boston to win last night was the solid pitching from Ramirez and Papelbon. Ramirez came on in the seventh with men on first and second with two outs and got Guillen to pop up to end the inning. Then, after getting into a one-out, men on second and third jam, Ramirez got Adam Everett to strike out before Paps came on for the four out save. And it was a clean save; no hits and no walks. It took Paps all of 11 pitches to get his 28th save of the year.

It's also time to make note of Jacoby Ellsbury and his stealing prowess once again. He now has 51 steals on the year, trailing Carl Crawford by two for the AL (and MLB) lead. But Jacoby is just three shy of tying Tommy Harper's team record of 54, set in 1973. Four more steals and the record belong to Jacoby. He is already 7th all-time for the Sox with 110 steals. Provided he stays healthy, Ellsbury should pass Harry Hooper's career record of 300 steals before he turns 30.

So tonight it is Game Two. And the big story is the official starting debut of Junichi Tazawa. Tazawa has pitched well in both Portland and the Bucket. And while his initial outing in the Bronx wasn't the best...how many people are going to do great in that situation when it's their first MLB appearance? I think we'll see the real Tazawa tonight. Look for his sweet curveball and an awesome split-finger change that can put a batter into knots. This kid has a ton of potential and the Sox did a great job in getting him to come to Boston.

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