I'm almost asking myself why I am writing this. During my hiatus, the Red Sox basically turned the dial up to 11 and stomped their way up AL East ladder. Now they sit just four games out of first and just two games behind the Yankees for what would currently be the wild-card slot in the post-season. Quite a far cry from the end of April when a bunch of pink hats and airwave bloviators were ready to blow this team up.
The single biggest change? The starting pitching. As I said over a month ago, that would be the key to Boston getting back on track. Just look at the last four outings for each starter:
- Jon Lester has allowed just three runs (two earned) in his last four starts to go 4-0. He has struck out 22 and walked 12. He threw a complete game on May 20 and lowered his ERA from 3.91 to 2.73.
- Clay Buchholz went 4-0 and threw a complete game shutout on June 4 against the Orioles. He struck out 21, walked 7 and allowed three runs over that four game span, lowering his ERA from 3.46 to 2.39
- John Lackey went 2-1 in his last four starts, trimming his ERA from 4.86 to 4.72. He has allowed four runs or less in his last four starts, the longest streak of the season for Lackey.
- Tim Wakefield has been shaky but has still gone 2-2 in his last four starts, replacing the injured Josh Beckett. His win last night cut his ERA by half-a-run, from 6.02 to 5.48.
- Daisuke Matsuzaka has had the most impressive turnaround. He has allowed three runs in two starts and no runs in his other two starts, going 3-1 overall. His outing two nights ago was brilliant, an eight-inning win where he allowed no runs and four hits. He has lowered his era from 7.89 to 4.59.
No starter has worse than a .500 record over their last four starts and two (Buchholz and Lester) are undefeated. Combine that with Boston's potent offense (what power outage?) and a solidifying bullpen, and you get a team that is proving that Theo Epstein's plan was a solid one. In Boston's last 20 games, they are 16-4. No, that isn't a misprint. Boston has held their opponent to three runs or less in 13 of those 20 games. And their defense, once mired in the bottom rungs of the AL, is now 4th in the AL based on fielding percentage.
The team Theo envisioned in spring training is now the team we are seeing on the field. And if you are a Boston fan, you are liking what you are seeing. If you're a Yankee fan? Well, maybe you started talking trash just a little too soon and forgot what happened with your team in 2009.