It didn't look good at the beginning of yesterday's 11-6 win over the Angels. Daisuke had gotten the pattern exactly backwards, having his worst inning right off the bat. Putting the Sox in 4-0 hole to start the game...I thought he was done. But then, somehow, the old Daisuke reasserted itself and that led to Boston improbably sweeping the Angels in a four-game set and laying the stage for a huge weekend series with the Yankees.
When you see Daisuke issue three walks, two hits and four runs in the first inning, you almost decide to write off the game by default. That is usually the sign he simply doesn't have it going. So for him to turn it around and then go 4.1 innings allowing just three hits and one run...it was impressive. All totaled, that may be the ugliest win ever registered by a Boston starter. But it is a win.
It also didn't hurt that Scott Kazmir, one-time pitching wunderkind, had a worse game. He made it just 4.1 innings and allowed seven runs on six hits while walking 5 and striking out three. So not only did Daisuke settle down, he was the better pitcher overall.
Delcarmen looked human, allowing that two-run shot that gave Daisuke five earned runs on the night and himself one. But Delcarmen still earned his third hold and looked confident. His breaking ball has improved immeasurably from last year and was using it to good effect last night. It was also good to see Oki throw a clean two-thirds of an inning.
On the other side, Victor Martinez had a hell of a night. He went 2-4 with four RBI, courtesy of a two-run blast in the third and a two-run double in the fifth that tied the game at four. Jeremy Hermida pinch-hit for Bill Hall in the fifth and proceeded to go 1-3 with three RBI, the last one coming on a fielding error from Howie Kendrick. Pedroia got his average over .300 with a 2-4 night that included three runs scored. He's now hitting .303 with a .908 OPS. Overall, a good sign for Boston was that they saw more pitches overall (197) than Anaheim (170), despite Anaheim getting that extra half-inning. That means they were making Anaheim's hurlers work, wearing them down and getting into their weak bullpen.
You cannot understate how important this sweep was for Boston. Not only are they over .500 for the first time since Opening Day, they also have a winning home record for the first time since Opening Day (9-8). Combine that with just dominating the Angels, and Boston could not be in a better spot for facing the Yankees.
The matchups are not easy. Tonight it's Hughes and Beckett. Hughes has (unfortunately) been pitching like a pro. 3-0 with a 1.44 ERA, Hughes has come into his own. Beckett is coming off a disastrous game in Toronto where he allowed eight runs in three innings.But it's a big game, and you have to think that Josh will step up to the occasion. I think we'll see a real pitcher's duel tonight. Which probably means it'll turn out to be a run-fest.