By Matt Straub
Our State of the Red Sox column is back for its seventh installment on this Memorial Day with a literal up and down week including a benches-clearing scrum with the Tampa Bay Rays a positive sign going forward. As always, we want to hear what you have to say about your favorite (or least favorite) team below in the comments section. And check back next week for the latest from the Red Sox right here.
Opening StatementTo say it was an up-and-down week for the Red Sox would make a lot of sense. After all, the team’s week went like this: win, loss, win, loss, win, loss. They managed to get two of three from the Baltimore Orioles, a team which has been a problem for the Red Sox for a couple of years now, then missed a great chance to take two of three from the Tampa Bay Rays, which would have looked mighty nice on the resume as Boston made its case that it could be a contender. But hey, at least they won the fight.
|The Rays and Reds Sox went at it Saturday. (AP photo)|
The High Point
Believe it or not, it came in a loss. The Red Sox have been trading barbs and beanballs with Tampa for a while now, a feud that has been going on between the franchises for more than a decade and between these groups of players for a couple of weeks now. It all started when Adrian Gonzalez, hoping to psych himself up and get out of a slump and get the media off his back, guaranteed he would hit a home run before a game in Tampa. The Rays, thinking he was disrespecting them, hit him intentionally that night. The teams have been going back and forth since, and it all boiled over in the ninth inning, when Franklin Morales hit Luke Scott. Scott is the opposite of a fan favorite in Boston after making disparaging remarks about Fenway Park. The Sox have made Scott their desired target, and he asked Morales if it was on purpose. Before he could get his answer, both teams were on the field. The Rays were upset with Bobby Valentine, thinking he ordered the pitch (like Rays manager Joe Maddon hadn’t ordered Dustin Pedroia get one in the ribs three innings earlier). Several players and coaches yelled at Valentine, and the Sox coaching staff fired back. For a change the players were pulling coaches apart instead of the other way around. The key is the players stuck up for their manager, something that would not have happened a month ago. Brawls can occasionally unite a team and the Red Sox looked like a unit during that incident. This might mean the dissension of the spring is behind them.
The Low Point
It had to be Sunday afternoon, when the makeshift closer, Alfredo Aceves, let one get away to Tampa. It might have been justice from the baseball gods since the Sox had walked off the night before, but it was a bad loss nonetheless. It exposed the Boston bullpen as the weak link of the team again and killed any real momentum the Sox could have gained by taking four of six this week against two teams they are chasing in the standings. There have been several of those kinds of game this year, where you think, “boy it would have been nice to have won that one.” While each loss isn’t that big a deal, when you add them up they could be a difference in making or missing the playoffs.
|Jarrod Saltamacchia had a great week. (AP photo)|
Josh Beckett: Another dominant start Saturday has made everyone forget golfgate ever happened. He deserved better than a no-decision, having a couple of seeing-eye singles get through in the seventh inning. It’s better than an undeserved loss, however, which is what would have happened without the next name on this list.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia: The catcher continued his red-hot May with a walk-off home run that ended up preventing the Red Sox from getting swept by the Rays. He continues to become an integral and respected member of the Red Sox, something that didn’t always seem likely to ever happen.
Daniel Nava: The outfielder continues to be on fire and one of the best stories in all of baseball. Fans might end up being quite annoyed when he’s back in Pawtucket when the regulars all come back, but his contributions while the team was trying to keep its head above water will be remembered forever if this team does anything in October.
David Ortiz: His average has dropped 45 points in the last 10 games, something not terribly uncommon in May, but still not a good sign. While no one could stay as hot as he was early, his recent slide combined with his recent rant about feeling disrespected puts him on this list.
Clay Buchholz: Red Sox Nation is wondering when Dice-K is coming back. Enough said.
Jon Lester: Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but if Lester doesn’t go back to being at least a No. 2 starter in this rotation, the Red Sox are in big trouble. Josh Beckett, while he hates the role, is turning into a leader again. It’s time for Lester to do the same. A terrible start against a good team is unacceptable when you’re trying to get into a playoff chase.
A big home series against another good team, the Detroit Tigers, starts Monday night. The Red Sox have played even through the first part of this killer stretch of schedule, but eventually they’re going to have to gain some ground. Justin Verlander vs. Daniel Bard Tuesday is particularly challenging, but you never know who will win a single game of baseball. From there it’s off to Toronto, a big chance to gain some ground on the leaders in the East.