The Boston Red Sox are in the midst of a ten-game road trip, and have gone two and four in their last six games. They have only allowed more than five runs once in their past seventeen games, although they have only gone eight and nine in those games. This means the hitting has been really bad in that stretch, but they have the talent to turn that around. If the Red Sox pitching can keep this kind of ERA up, then the Sox will easily make the playoffs because the hitting will come. Even if giving up five runs in a game isn’t great, they have generally been less than that, not to mention their hitting should produce five or more runs a game anyhow.
Terry Francona realized the hitting needed a boost, so he switched up the lineup on Sunday, resulting in an 8-2 win. The new look lineup features Dustin Pedroia leading off, followed by J.D. Drew, Kevin Youkilis, Jason Bay, Mike Lowell, David Ortiz, Jason Varitek, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Nick Green. I was surprised to see Ellsbury moved out of the number one spot, but I had been calling for Youkilis followed by Bay and it finally happened. I think it provides more power and a better on-base percentage towards the top and some speed at the bottom. I think this lineup will feature some changes later on, but for now it will produce runs better than the old lineup did.
I talked about how the Sox pitching has been doing well as of late, and that is largely because of Josh Beckett’s and Jon Lester’s last starts. They were supposed to be the Sox number one and two starters, but they had two of the worst ERAs in baseball through the middle of May. Jon Lester threw six innings, striking out a career-high twelve and allowing only one run. It looked like he finally had his stuff back, and this could be the beginning of his dominance like last year. The ace of the squad, Josh Beckett, threw seven innings, allowing one run and striking out eight. If the Red Sox want to repeat their performances of 2004 and 2007, they will need Beckett and Lester to pitch a lot more like their last starts.
Jason Varitek was a free agent last year, and there was some debate over whether the Sox would sign him or not. They finally did agree to a deal, though many Sox fans had been hoping for a change at the catcher position, considering Tek’s prior year performance. But he is the Sox captain, and he has shown it this year. He is second among AL catchers in home runs, only behind Joe Mauer of the Minnesota Twins. Varitek is not known for his batting average, so it is nice to see him bring up his power to counter his batting average of .239. If he can continue hitting ten home runs every fifty games, I will be more than pleased.
The Red Sox sit a half game behind the rival New York Yankees, and after getting some players back from injuries they should take control of the AL East. They have two series at home against division leaders before starting interleague play with Philadelphia on Friday, June 12th. Including their current series with Detroit, they will be facing 4 straight division leading teams. They have a three-game series at Fenway against the Yankees, which will most likely determine the division leader for a little while. You better believe the Sox want to keep this good stretch against the Yankees going and take sole position of first place in the very tough AL East.