AL East Standing: 1st
Weekly Record: 4-2
Current Record: 67-45
(Every Saturday I will attempt to give some brief thoughts on the past week for the Boston Red Sox. It will be filled with hopes, frustrations, exhilaration, pain, and puns.)
Someone call David Bowie and Billy Zane, cause it’s a walk off. The Sox had back-to-back walk-off nights in Fenway against the poor Seattle Mariners. On Wednesday, after a solid outing by John Lackey, the Sox and Mariners went toe to toe deep into the night, thankfully ending after 15 innings as Stephen Drew singled with the bases loaded after 5 hours of game time, his second walk-off hit of the season.
The next night, however, the Red Sox outdid themselves. I’ll admit, I turned off the TV as soon as Henry Blanco knocked that grand slam off of Ryan Dempster* in the 5th to put Seattle up 7-1. While there is no doubt that Felix Hernandez is a fantastic pitcher, arguably the best in the game, his stellar performance (7IP, 8 K, 1 ER) wasn’t nearly enough to maintain my interest.
*Quick note: As the question of which Sox starter would get dropped from the rotation when Clay Buchholz returns becomes a much-talked about issue, Dempster, as the consensus weakest link, needed a hell of a start to restore confidence in fans and his coaches. And boy oh boy, did he disappoint. For a touted workhorse, Dempster hasn’t gotten to 7 innings in over a month and his control has been all over the place. It’s looking more and more like his talents are more suited for the bullpen come postseason time.
I got a text alert when Shane Victorino hit a solo home run in the eighth. Big deal. 7-2. Then, about 20 minutes later, I got three texts from more dedicated Sox fans, all saying the same thing: “Turn on the game now.” So I did. And what I watched was a hell of a comeback. And what struck me, and what should scare other teams, that it wasn’t a sweeping emotional rah-rah comeback. The Red Sox were efficient, cool, calculated. After a flurry of singles, and a huge coaching mistake by the Mariners, the score was 7-7.
Then Daniel Nava, the heartwarming underdog and (after the “Boston this is for you” homer) folk hero, hit a first-pitch shot right to center that would have been a double-maybe-triple, but because the bases are loaded, will go down in the annals as a single. As he calmly rounded first, you could see a smile on his face as his teammates mobbed him, Pedroia hitting home and sprinting for the huddle. As great as it’s been to see the Sox win, it’s been even better to see how they’ve won and the confidence that this weird mish-mash of a team exudes. Players like Jonny Gomes, Daniel Nava, Mike Carp, who all have been cast away or disregarded by teams, have transformed into monster clutch players and essential pieces of this playoff-hopeful team.
One-Up: Brandon Workman
It may seem weird to put the recently demoted Workman here. First of all, his last start (weirdly all three of them have been 103 pitches) was masterful, shutting down the Mariners lineup with a 6 IP/9 K/1 ER line, picking up his first win of the season on the way to an easy 8-2 win for the Red Sox. Workman was almost immediately demoted with the acquisition of Jake Peavy, but Workman’s stock is at an all-time high and he will be absolutely essential to the bullpen, pretty much negating the need for Cherington to spend for another reliever. Should the Red Sox need a spot start between now and October, Workman will be the easy choice, and Sox fans should look forward to see him as a rotation fixture in future seasons.
One-Down: Will Middlebrooks
Poor Will can’t catch a break. Sent down when he has a rought start. Stays there when Jose Iglesias finds his bat quicker than Scotty Smalls did in The Sandlot. Suffers through weeks and weeks of trade rumors, in which Sox fans seemed fine letting him go, at least when compared to losing JBJ, Xander Bogaerts, or the plethora of pitching prospects in the Boston farm. Then, when Jose Iglesias leaves in the Jake Peavy trade, presumably opening up a spot for him to return, Cherington and Farrell instead opt with putting out the underwhelming platoon of Brock Holt and Brandon Snyder. Personally, I’d put Middlebrooks in right now, even though he isn’t exactly lighting up Triple-A (.255/.316/.433). I have a hard time believing that Holt/Snyder are that much safer a hitting bet than Middlebrooks. And the one thing we do know is that Middlebrooks needs to perform is confidence. What better way to restore his confidence than to definitively put him back in the lineup and hope that he finds his stroke come October, adding another dangerous power bat in an already loaded Sox roster. Seems to me like the Sox have nothing to lose here, but this will be something to keep an eye on.
One-Up: Jake Peavy
Jake Peavy looked good in his first Sox start on Saturday night. Like really good. His fastball was alive and, most importantly, he was efficient. Through seven innings, he only gave up two earned runs (including a solo home run to Paul Goldschmidt. I’ve seen exactly two games in which Paul Goldschmidt has played, and I’m not ashamed to say, he scares the ever-loving shit out of me. I apologize for cussing, but my word) and two walks, with seven strikeouts. For fans who pondered whether Iggy was too big a price to give up for the injury-plagued (and apparently blind) pitcher, this was a comforting start. It was nice to see Fenway give him a standing ovation, and even nicer to see him acknowledge them with a tip of the cap, but also in the post-game interviews. He seems like an easy fit into the team-first energetic spirit that has defined this year’s Sox team.
One-Down: Jon Lester
Three steps forward, one giant step back. Lester had a rough outing against the Diamondbacks, giving 6 ER, 1 HR (Seriously, WHO is Paul Goldschmidt????), and a terrible 11 hits over 4.1 innings. It certainly wasn’t his worst start of the season (and the 0 BB is a small comfort), but it was a discouraging performance for those (including myself) who had hoped that he had hit a turning point towards his usual excellence in his recent winning streak. Lester next takes the mound against the Royals, and hopefully he gets back to his winning ways.