The Red Sox have now taken three straight from the Angels, including last night's 3-1 victory. In the process, Boston's starters have allowed just six runs in those three games. They've nailed the Angels on two of three steal attempts. The law firm of Delcarmen, Bard and Papelbon have allowed zero runs. And Boston has outhit Anaheim in all three games. They aren't out of the woods yet, but Boston may have finally found the trail.
Last night was perhaps the most impressive of Boston's three wins. In a close contest, the Sox never spit the bit. Their infielders made some amazing plays, especially Scutaro. The pitching was aggressive and in control. They got some timely hits and would have had a larger victory except for one bad call by the third-base coach.
First, the pitching. It was the best John Lackey has looked all year. Pitching against his former team, Lackey went seven innings and allowed just one run on two hits. He got ahead 0-1 in the count on over half the batters he faced and induced ground ball after ground ball. It was vintage Lackey and he deserved the win to go to 3-1 on the year. Not a week ago, Clay Buchholz was the only starter with a sub-four ERA. Now there are three, with Beckett and Matsuzaka still above the line.
Bard and Lester looked fantastic and in prime form for the huge Yankee series this weekend. Yesterday they completely shut down the Angels in the eighth and ninth. No runs, no hits and no walks. Bard got his sixth hold of the year (3rd best in the AL) and Paps earned his eighth save (best in the AL). Papelbon has looked especially good lately. While his WHIP is still high relative to his career (1.20) it's better than where it was a week ago.
Overall, the best pitching stat for Boston was this: only two Angels batters came to the plate with runners in scoring position. And both batters were put out.
While Boston only got three runs for their 11 hits, they looked very confident and calm at the plate. David Ortiz looked to tone down the nay-sayers with a 2-3 night that included a solo shot in the fourth. He's still only hitting .171 with a .680 OPS but he is slowly improving. Can Boston wait to see if he replicates 2009? I don't know...maybe? If the rest of the lineup keeps producing, they'll have that luxury.
Which brings us to Adrian Beltre, who is have a phenomenal season at the plate. Last night he went 3-4 with two RBI courtesy of a two-run shot in the eighth. Beltre leads the Sox with a .340 batting average, is second on the team among starters with 15 RBI, and third among starters with a .844 OPS. He has really come home starting with that away series at Toronto and it doesn't look like he is slowing down any time soon. Now if he could limit the errors...
Tonight Daisuke goes against Kazmir. Let's be honest, it's going to be hard for Boston to get the sweep with this matchup. Until Daisuke proves he can be consistently good (and I think he can) then people are just going to wait for that inning where he explodes.Which makes for a more interesting game...until he actually blows up and then it all goes downhill. But maybe tonight's the night! Maybe...