Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Ace High

Last night Josh Beckett spearheaded Boston's 8-3 trouncing of the Athletics. In doing so he also became the American League's first 12-game winner of 2009. Just another night on the mound for Boston's resident ace.

His line doesn't reflect how dominant he was; three runs on eight hits in seven innings. But Beckett struck out ten batters while walking just one. He threw 75% of his pitches for strikes. He threw first-pitch strikes to 70% of the batters he faced. His ten strikeouts match his season-high, which he set in his first game of the year. It was another dominant performance from Beckett and it shows that he lost nothing over the All-Star break.

Right now Beckett leads the AL in wins, is third in complete games (3), fifth in strikeouts (127) and win percentage (.750) and seventh in WHIP (1.15). Beckett has gone from looking like he was shot at the end of April into a position where he should once again be in the mix for a Cy Young Award.

After Beckett left in the seventh, Bard and Delcarmen pitched a strong inning each to close the game out. Bard did allow one run to cross (charged to Beckett) but looked strong in striking out two of the four batters he faced. And Delcarmen put the side down in the ninth with relative ease. Both these guys have been mentioned in trade rumors as the deadline approaches. I'd hate to see either of them go; they are the validation of Theo's approach to building the bullpen. Mostly homegrown guys leavened with the occasional free agent signing or trade is a plan that works, be it the pen or the team in general.

From the plate, the big story is the continuing re-emergence of Jacoby Ellsbury as a leadoff batter. He's had two or more hits in his last four games, three RBI and a run scored. He looks more comfortable at the plate and is making solid contact; of his nine hits in the last four games, four have been for extra bases. It's no mistake that the Sox have won three of these four games. Having the leadoff batter on base completely changes the way an opposing pitcher approaches the lineup.

It also doesn't hurt that Pedroia has had a scorching July. Last night he went 2-4 with a solo shot in the first inning. For the month he is hitting .366 with an 1.021 OPS.

And let's give a hand to newcomer Adam LaRoche, who is proving that he is indeed a second-half monster. In his first three games in Boston he is 5-12 with three RBI and a home run. He slots in very nicely on the backside of the lineup. The Sox now have a productive backup at first, which is a nice luxury to have.

Boston has three more at home with the Athletics before going on a rough AL East roadtrip that culminates with four against the Yankees in the Bronx from Aug. 6-9. Suffice it to say, that series has become very important to both teams. But as for tonight, Clay Buchholz gets his third start and goes against Vin Mazarro, Mazarro is 2-7 with a 4.75 ERA over 10 starts. He got his last win on June 7th and one would like to think the Sox will tee off on this guy. Of course, one would have liked to think that the Sox would have at least taken two games in Texas. And we all know how that turned out. So let's hope the Sox continue to press the opposition from the start. A couple of runs in the first innings matched with a strong start from Buchholz should set the table for another Boston win.

As for trades...who knows? Depending on whom you read at any one time, the Sox are:

  • Doing nothing
  • Emptying the farm for Halladay
  • Are staying away from Halladay
  • Are in on Cliff Lee
  • Are in on Victor Martinez
  • Are in on Cliff Lee and Victor Martinez
  • Are pursuing Adrian Gonzalez

In the end, I think there will be a trade made. But as Tito said the other day, they are bouncing around names we aren't even thinking about...no, not Hanley Ramirez. Don't even start that foolishness.

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