Monday, April 26, 2010

A Tale Of Two Games

Two games. Identical 7-6 scores. Boston was outhit by Baltimore in both games. Boston had an error in both games.

Boston won the game on Saturday. Boston lost the game on Sunday. But there was very little difference between the two.

Both games featured solid starting pitching for Boston. Lackey went seven innings and allowed just three runs on Saturday. Wakefield gave up just two runs on seven hits in his 6.2 innings of work on Sunday.

Both games saw the bullpen implode. Boston relievers allows three runs on Saturday and a whopping five runs on Sunday.

Both games saw the Orioles hit at will. They rang up an amazing 31 hits in the two games. But if not for Boston's 'pen imploding in the seventh and tenth innings of Sunday's game, they would have been swept.

All in all, what these two games told us is that we still don't know what the identity of the 2010 Sox is going to be. They are hitting well and generating power. Boston is third in the AL with 24 homers and sixth in OPS, which was supposed to be a problem. Their pitching, which was supposed to be a strength, has been something of a liability. Boston's staff has the third-worst ERA in the AL (4.70). Their starters are allowing batters to hit at a .288 clip (second-worst in the AL) and have the third-worst ERA (5.06). Only Clay Buchholz has an ERA under three (2.70).

And then there is Boston's defense. It was supposed to be the hallmark of their season. Granted, injuries to Cameron and Ellsbury have taken away two solid gloves. Nevertheless, Boston has the third-worst fielding percentage in the AL (.981) and trail only Detroit and Kansas City for most errors. This was not the defense Boston fans were told to expect in 2010.

So right now, we have a team that can hit, is shaky in pitching and whose defense has been noticeably subpar. Basically, we have the mirror opposite of what we expected. It's the Bizarro Red Sox.

Actually, it's more like the 1996 Red Sox.

In 1996, Kevin Kennedy led a team that could hit well (top six in the AL in homers, OPS, hits, runs and RBI). It was also a team whose pitching was sub-standard (third-worst in hits allowed and runs allowed, second-worst in WHIP) and atrocious when it came to fielding (AL-worst .978 fielding percentage, 135 errors, defensive efficiency rating of .665*). The 1996 Red Sox started the season 7-19 in April and finished third with a record of 85-77.

Now, the odds are that the 2010 Sox will not end up like this. For one thing, the Sox don't have guys like Wil Cordero and Arquimedez Pozo** in the field. The pitching talent is above the level of guys like Aaron Sele and Joe Hudson. But it goes to show you that big bats and power are not the way to win. We already tried that. It failed.

What's happening now isn't Theo's fault. Nor is it Tito's. Theo's concept of pitching and defense being paramount is the right idea. Tito can't pitch and field for his players.

What needs to happen is that Boston's players need to stop channeling the '96 Sox. They need to remember who they are and what they can do. That could start tonight in Toronto. Josh Beckett goes up against Dana Eveland. Right now, Eveland is having the better season (2-0, 1.93 ERA). But if Beckett is on...well, let's hope that's the case. The Sox need to get back on track against the Japs and Orioles...because next week they have the Angels and Yankees at Fenway.


* This is not a good number. At all.

** How do you like that random reference? Pozo hit one homer in 1996 with the Sox, a grand-slam against the Twins. He was back in the Bucket in 1997-98 and then went to Japan in 1999.

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