Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A Win Is A Win

If last night was an audition for the post-season rotation, then Clay Buchholz choked under pressure. Luckily for the Sox, Chicago had a senior citizen on the mound trying to run down ground balls.

Boston's 12-8 win over the White Sox was ugly, let there be no doubting that particular truth. Buchholz pitched a lousy game; 4.2 innings of work, giving up seven runs on six hits and two homers. Chicago got a runner to third or across the plate in six of nine innings. Boston pitchers got the White Sox to go down in order only twice, in the first and sixth innings. It was not a sterling display of pitching, although Oki handled his 1/3 of an inning cleanly. But the bottom line is that the bullpen held down Chicago for the final 4 1/3 innings of the game (one run, two hits, three walks) while Boston's bats did their work.

And work they did. Boston has become quite adept at scoring with two outs, something they have struggled with most of this year. Their six run third-inning rally came with two outs. In fact, eleven of Boston's twelve runs last night came with two outs. But it all started in the third, thanks to Jose Contreras.

With the bases loaded in the third, Ortiz hit a weak grounder down the first base line. Rather than dog it (and that is not to imply that Ortiz would dog it), Ortiz ran out the ball. Contreras charged the ball to keep it from going foul and it popped off his glove. Ortiz ran around him to first, Gonzalez scored from third and the rout was on. Contreras walked Bay to bring in another run, then uncorked a wild pitch to bring Youk home, and capped the worst sequence suffered by a pitcher in recent memory by serving up a three-run homer to Mike Lowell. Then it was shower time for Contreras.

By that time it was 7-4. The next inning the Sox tacked on two more, which they needed when Paul Konerko cranked a three-run shot in the top of the fifth to make it 9-7. But a J.D. Drew solo shot, a sweet run-scoring triple from Ellsbury and Pedroia's RBI double made it 12-7 and put the game out of reach.

Boston's offense has been otherworldly as of late. Last night every starter except for Ortiz and V-Mart had at least one hit. Every starter reached base at least once. Six of the nine starters had at least one RBI and four batters (Ellsbury, Pedroia, Youk and Gonzalez) had a multi-hit game.

And let's take note of the "weak-hitting" Alex Gonzalez. Many, many people said that he was no better than any shortstop because he couldn't hit and would point to his .212 batting average for the season. What they missed was that Gonzalez was hitting .275 over the last month prior to his arrival in Boston. Since his first game with Boston on August 15, he has appeared in nine games. Gonzalez has gotten at least one hit in six of those nine games. He has scored six runs and collected 3 RBI. Oh, and he cranked a homer in that 14-1 shellacking of the Yankees. He's hitting .257 with Boston right now. Put that together with his glove and I think we can all be pleased with his return to Fenway.

Jason Bay is officially back in the saddle. Since August 9th he has appeared in 14 games. Bay has hit in 11 of those games while collecting six homers and 12 RBI while scoring 12 runs. His OPS for August is 1.113 and now we'll likely hear about how much his potential extension in the off-season is increasing in value. Last night Bay went 1-4 with a run scored and one RBI, his 88th of the year. Three more homers along with 12 RBI will give Bay his 30/100 we expected from him back in April. I think the odds are high he will exceed that expectation. And don't look now, but Bay is sixth in homers, eighth in runs scored, third in RBI and second in walks. Has he gotten any MVP buzz yet. I am not saying Bay should win (his batting average is just .257), but if he keeps up this production I think he at least deserves to get some votes.

And Ellsbury is still stalled at 54 steals. He'll break Harper's record this year for sure. But I'd like it to be sooner than later so the focus can shift to Ellsbury beating out Crawford for the AL title.

So tonight is the second of four with Chicago. It's Jon Lester and Freddy Garcia. Remember when Garcia was a good pitcher? As recently as 2006 he had a 17-9 record with the White Sox. He had that fantastic 2001 season in Seattle when he went 18-6 and was third in the Cy Young voting. But he injured his shoulder in the '06 off-season, hid the injury from the Phillies (who he was traded to that winter) and then struggled with the Tigers and Mets before rejoining the White Sox in January of 2009. He has started one game and didn't look good doing it. So if Lester is on his game, Boston's offensive juggernaut should take care of the rest.


Unknown said...

Dave, I'm wondering what the hell is going on at Fenway? Another 20totals runs scored Monday. That makes 18 homers hit and 78 runs scored over the last four games. Yikes!

I'm officially banning you from mocking Yankee Stadium for the homers it's allowed this season.

Afterall, it's not exactly as if Fenway is known historically to be pitcher friendly.

Unknown said...

Alex Gonzalez is not as bad as he was hitting earlier this season, when he was playing hurt. He's not the .275 hitter he's shown back in Boston either though... but .257 with that defense is really all you need out of him.

I think a lot (or at least some) of credit for last night's win should be given to Beckett. For a guy who clearly didn't have his best stuff on Sunday, he still gutted out 8 innings to give the bullpen a much needed night off. Without that, last night may have gone much differently after Buchholz.

And what's with this Green bandbox??!?! HA!

Dave said...

I don't know where the homers have come from lately. I'd be interested to see if the Monster seats and new right field roof deck seats have changed the airflow.

Nevertheless, Fenway has a long way to go to catch up to The Launching Pad.

And Beckett does deserve a lot of credit for going eight innings and giving the bullpen a rest. Even when he was off he shouldered the load for the team. That's one of many reasons why we like him.