AL East Standing: 1st
Current Record: 63-43
Weekly Record: 3-3
(Every Sunday I will attempt to give some brief thoughts on the past week for the Boston Red Sox. I twill be filled with hopes, frustrations, exhilaration, pain and puns. Lots of puns.)
(QUICK NOTE: You may notice a complete lack of trade deadline talk below. That’s because I just wrote about 2,000 words on the very subject HERE. So if you love incoherent yelling about Jake Peavy, undying adulation of the Red Sox’ farm system, or to hear about how much I hate Ruben Amaro Jr., give it a read)
Showdown: As of 7/29, the Red Sox stand at first place in the AL East, at 63-43, just half a game above the Tampa Bay Rays who are 62-43. Previously in the week, the Rays actually took 1st place, before the Sox’ first series win against the Orioles this season. Tonight is the rescheduled rained out game, in which David Price and Felix Doubront will face off. In other news you will find me parked on my couch with a six pack of Red Bull, hooked up to a catheter, and three boxes of Kleenex to stop my nose from bleeding like Desmond Hume after too much time-traveling.
Yes, all of a sudden the comfortable lead that the Red Sox had on their AL East brethren has completely disappeared, as the Rays have become the hottest team in the MLB not because of their stellar pitching, but because of their offense. After tonight’s game, both teams get a mini vacation, as the Sox go up against the Seattle Mariners while Tampa Bay travels to Arizona (where they unfairly avoid going up against Patty Corbin).
David Price’s turnaround could not have come at a worse time for the Red Sox, what with Clay Buchholz’s baby-cuddling-induced injury keeping him off the mound and The Jose Iglesias Regression Happy (Sad) Hour. The Rays appear to be, once again, the real deal and at this pace will be neck-and-neck with Boston to the bitter end.
Turn Around: Don’t look now, but we have the old Jon Lester back. With two stellar performances against cosmic nuisances Baltimore and Tampa Bay (13.1 IP, 11 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 16K), and four great starts out of his last five, Lester has shown flashes of his former excellence. Remarkably, he’s done it almost consistently without his cutter, relying on a deadly four-seamer/two-seamer/change combination to befuddle hitters, attacking the strike zone mercilessly.
If this is finally a turning point in Lester’s season (running to Home Depot to find more wood to knock on), the Red Sox should have a great playoff rotation should Buchholz return at even 80% of his start-of-the-season self. The top four would look something like: Buchholz, Lester, Lackey, Doubront. First off creates a really nice righty/lefty/righty/lefty line but also allows Dempster to come out in mid-relief or spot-start if something should happen, making his control problems much less of an issue and giving him the chance to flash his power stuff without holding back. Lester’s great game should also lessen the pressure on Ben Cherington to go grab an ace in the next few days, like Cliff Lee, whose price is apparently 3-4 top prospects (No thank you Rubes Jr. No thank you.)
One-Down: David Ortiz’ Control Over His Rage
Seriously. That phone took a damn beating. I’ve watched the video of Papi’s eruption maybe a dozen times, and it still fills me with equal parts joy and fear. Why the joy? Because you don’t mess with the Papi. I don’t care if you’re an umpire or whatever. If Papi says that the pitch was out of the strike zone you agree with him. Pronto. Another lovely example of the 37-year-old Ortiz’ absolute refusal to become cuddly with his advancing age, showing the same fire and energy that was on display in 2003/04.
Why the fear? Did you see those shards go flying at random? If Dustin Pedroia takes a piece of plastic or wood to the eye, the Sox’ season is doomed, in a nightmarish Tony Conigliaro situation. Also, this is no time for Ortiz to be suspended, not with the Rays and Orioles looking to make a bid for 1st. Luckily the situation didn’t escalate too far (and love to see Pedey talking Papi down) and hopefully it’ll end at that.
One-Up: David Ortiz’ Everything Else
The day after his ejection, as boos rained down from Camden Yard’s faithful, Ortiz put on a clinic, going 4-4 including a 2-run home run. Ortiz is having a remarkable season, with a killer .329/.413/.605, 24 doubles, 2 triples, 20 HR, 67 RBI, and more walks (47) than strikeouts (46). Also Ortiz has still managed to hold onto his sense of humor, pretending to go hit the phone on Sunday as his teammates laughed around him (also kudos to Ryan Dempster and Jonny Gomes on their tin can phones).
One-Down: Daniel Nava
Nava is hitting a troubling 4-24 since July 12th, with only one of those being for an extra-base and no RBIs in that span. In Saturday’s game, he went 0-3 with a walk and three strikeouts. Luckily Jonny Gomes/Mike Carp have filled in more than adequately for the switch-hitting folk hero, but as one of the strengths of the Red Sox has been their depth in the outfield, they can’t afford to see too much regression from our favorite underdog, and will absolutely need his bat/glove come playoff time.
One-Up: Koji Uehara
Koji has given up one earned run since June 9th. In that span he has a 32/1 K/BB, and accumulated eight saves. The Red Sox have no need to look for a shutdown closer, they’ve already got one in-house.
Coming Up: Me yelling/crying/sighing about whatever deadline move the Sox end up making.