Thursday, April 30, 2009

Sox Bounce Back

I think it is fair to say that things were looking a little...bleak last night.

Jon Lester looked decidedly average, giving up five runs on seven hits in six innings. Even his seven strikeouts were overshadowed by those two dingers and his flubbing of that bunt in the first.*

Youkilis didn't play last night, leaving a gaping hole in the lineup. Bay was pushed into the cleanup slot, where he almost never hits, and went 0-4 with a walk. Pedroia went 0-4 with a walk as well and is 3-15 in his last four games.

The upshot was that the Sox were down 5-2 going into the eighth inning. And then the Indians made their mistake.

Carmona was holding his own against the Sox and Cleveland's first reliever, Rafael Perez, held the lead. But then Wedge decided to take Perez out for the eighth and insert Betancourt, who has been decidedly average this year. He could only get one out and allowed a run to cross before leaving with the bases loaded. At which point Wedge made his second mistake and put in Jensen Lewis. Lewis should be closing for the Indians as opposed to late-inning setup. He has already blown two games in 2009 as of last night. And over the past two years (2008-09) Lewis has a cumulative 5.79 ERA and a whopping .455 BAA against Boston.

You see where this is going, right?

Three batters and two runs later, the Sox had tied the game up at five. The Sox got some solid relief from Delcarmen and Oki to make it to the 10th inning. And for some reason, Wedge left Jensen in the game. Which set the stage for Van Every's game-winner homer.

The Red Sox have had great results so far in 2009 from their call-ups, be they hitters or pitchers. Van Every is a journeyman bench player who spent most of his career in the Cleveland system. He came to Boston in 2008, started in Pawtucket this year and...he wins the game last night. Such has been the fortune of the Red Sox by-and-large this year.

Another good thing last night was Papelbon throwing a good 10th for his sixth save of the year. He has been shaky in his performances to some extent this year. So to see him strike out a pair and walk just one batter was pretty encouraging. Hopefully he follows this track and gets back to his usual dominant self.

Outside the game itself, the big news was that the Sox are shutting John Smoltz down for a week. The brass says it isn't serious, but even a minor setback gives one pause. The exact reason for the slowdown isn't known; the Sox are good at keeping this kind of thing under wraps. I'd guess it is his shoulder, but who knows. Once again, though, it's situations like these that demonstrate the importance of having an abundance of pitching.

First Pitch Strikes

Lester has been improving his control over the past year-plus. But last night he only got first-pitch strikes/outs on 10 of 27 batters. That works out to just a 37% rate, which is abysmal and a large reason why he left after six innings. You won't win a lot of games when you consistently fall behind in the count like that. Hopefully Lester can get back on track in his next start.

Next Game

April 30 / Away against Tampa / Beckett vs. Garza / 7:08 PM : What's with the 7:08 time? Back against Tampa...this could go either way. Tampa is falling fast and the Sox had success in the Dome last year. On the other hand, Tampa gives the Sox fits on a regular basis. Beckett could be great or stink the joint out. So who knows what will happen.

* And you thought I was kidding when I said yesterday that the pitching staff needed extra fielding practice. That's two fielding errors from pitchers in two days. Not so funny now, is it?

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