It's one thing to lose two close games to the Yankees. That's a heavyweight bout between two opponents of great size and stature. It's another to lose a close one to Kansas City, which is like having Lennox Lewis lose to some scrub by unanimous decision.
So thankfully, Josh Beckett matched defending Cy Young winner Zach Grienke while Boston's bats propelled them to a 8-3 win over the Royals. With the win, the proper order of things has begun to reassert itself.
Yesterday's win was not only the first one for a Boston starter in five games, it was the first decision recorded by a Boston starter in five games. The last time it took this long for a Boston starting pitcher to record a decision to start the season was...actually, I don't know. I checked the records back to 1995 and then decided I could be here all day trying to find such a random factoid. So it's been at least 15 years. But if any of you enterprising readers want to take a crack at it, your reward is my gratitude. And since I am a misanthrope, that's something worth getting.
Back to the game. Beckett needed to get this win. Had the Sox lost two in a row in KC, the pressure would have been on Buchholz to salvage something. But Beckett stepped up in a big way. Except for a Rick Ankiel run-scoring single in the first, Beckett held the Royals down until the seventh. Then the wheels came off a little as the Royals collected four hits, two runs and a near-decapitation of Beckett when David DeJesus' run-scoring single with two outs grazed the back of Beckett's head. But Josh came right back and got the next batter out to finish the inning. Then Okajima and Ramon Ramirez got a little redemption with a clean eighth and ninth inning respectively to seal the win.
But as good as that was, Boston's bats were better. The Sox are continuing to prove that they can still hit the long ball as the lineup cranked out five home runs.* And even more note-worthy was that Jason Varitek was responsible for two of them.
I can't imagine that this will begin a "Jason should start!" movement among Sox fans. But if it does...just stop now. Last night was a remarkable hitting performance from Jason, to be sure. But Varitek is historically at his best in April and May. And he is old...for baseball. He can't start and be this effective. But as a sub he may be able to stay effective over the whole year. And if Jason could do this on a spot-start basis in September? That would be a huge benefit for the team.
Another bright spot was Jeremy Hermida's first start of the year in the outfield. He combined with 'Tek for consecutive homers in the fifth off Greinke. Youk and Pedroia collected the other two homers for the Sox, with Pedroia's being a two-run shot in the ninth. And Ellsbury continues to rebound from a poor Opening Night performance. Jacoby went 3-5 with two runs scored and a RBI. All in all it was a good night all the way around for Boston.
This afternoon the Sox wrap up their KC trip with Buchholz taking the mound against Gil Meche. If you look at their numbers from last year, you could definitely argue that Buchholz was a better pitcher. But it is a new year and we'll have to see if Clay continues to exhibit the maturity and consistency he finally found last year. One thing to note: KC papers are reporting that Meche is being limited to 100 pitches today. If the Sox can work the counts and knock Meche out early, they can get to a Royals' bullpen that has already been heavily worked the past two games.
* For those of you playing at home, Boston currently has more homers (8) than the Yankees (4). What power outage?