For one thing, Clay Buchholz pitched his second straight solid game. Yes, he got tagged with the loss and dropped to 1-3. But this was the proverbial "strong loss". Clay went seven innings and gave up two runs (one earned) on five hits. If there was one down note, it was that his walks equaled his strikeouts (three each). He only threw 60% of his pitches for strikes and only 52% of his first pitches to batters went for strikes. But by and large Clay was able to work around those control issues. And that is hopefully a sign that he is gaining that mental toughness he has been lacking thus far. If Clay can get his head straight - and keep it straight - then he has a future in the majors.
And the bullpen pitching was top notch. Delcarmen and Cabrera each took an inning and were solid. Especially Cabrera; he struck out all three batters in the ninth and made it look pretty easy. Cabrera could be one of Theo's best pickups this year if he keeps throwing like this.
But all this occurred against one of the best young arms in the majors. When you think "fireballer" Justin Verlander has to be at the top of your list. He put together a masterful performance yesterday. Eight innings of four hit ball with no runs and eight strikeouts. The kid hit 100 MPH in the eighth inning on his last pitch, a swinging third strike on Jason Bay. Verlander just held Boston down.
Now, some wags in the media and elsewhere are blaming Tito for this. They are saying that by taking out Pedroia and Drew, with Youk being suspended, was malfeasance and "how dare he!" and other such bluster.
To this I say, "Shut your trap, because you sound ridiculous."
You could have had Pedroia, Drew AND Youk in that lineup and I don't think Boston would have won. Sometimes you just run up against a pitcher who has a fantastic game. Verlander is a pitcher that has many games like that. There's no shame in losing when the other pitcher is channeling Cy Young and Christy Mathewson simultaneously.
Second...the season is 162 games long. Sometimes you run into these night/day games before a road trip and you want to rest some of your players. It makes sense over the long haul of the season. Pedroia needed the rest. Drew...well, I guess he needed a day off that wasn't related to him getting hurt. So yes, the result is Josh Reddick in right and Chris Woodward at second. I will point out that Reddick did get a hit, one of only four Boston had in the game. And Woodward got hit twice, so his OBP was pretty good for the game.
Third, and most importantly...Boston had their chances. In the first innings they had runners at second and third with one out. The result was Bay and Ortiz both striking out to end the inning. In the third inning Boston had runners on the corners with two outs and Bay struck out again. In the eighth inning Ellsbury led off with a double, which was followed by three straight outs. So it wasn't like this lineup was unable to generate chances to score. They just couldn't get it done when it counted. And I don't think Woodward or Reddick had anything to do with Jason Bay striking out three times and going 0-3 with runners in scoring position.
It's almost like people want to blame Tito for Boston being in second, or just want to take a successful manager down a peg because that is what the sports media (and too many fans) in Boston love to do. And it's crap. Tito has done a masterful job with this team. He didn't pick J.D. Drew, or Julio Lugo, or any other player. His job is to work with what he is given. And that has resulted in two titles and three visits to the ALCS in five years. Who in their right mind wants to complain about success like that? Do you know how many other managers have done that since 2001? None. Terry Francona is also the only manager in the past eight years to win more than one World Series title. So maybe everyone needs to sit down and just chill out. So he rested Pedroia yesterday. Big deal. Get over yourselves already.
Now we move to what is the most important series the Sox have faced thus far. They travel to Texas, again, for a three game tilt. Last time the Rangers swept them and made Boston look pathetic in the process. Hopefully we'll have a different result this time. The Rangers are just half a game back in the wild-card race, so all these games matter. Tonight it's Lester facing Milwood. Lester thrives in big games like this and I have no doubt he'll do so again. Milwood is hittable, but he was good in his last game against the Sox on July 20 (six innings, six hits and two runs). Hopefully Boston brings their bats with them this time.