By Matt Straub
Opening StatementWhile much of the attention from Boston’s sports fans has been trained on the other side of town in the big building on Causeway St., the Red Sox played six games on Yawkey Way, with the chance to move up the AL East standings. Perhaps it’s best that most of Red Sox Nation didn’t see much of what went on at Fenway this week, however, since so much of it was bad. Actually, in some ways, the action at each venue was similar. In both cases, the Boston team with the big-name though aging veterans lost games to younger, brash stars who could be around for a long time. While the Celtics were losing to the new power in Miami, the Sox were getting a lesson from the upstart Nationals, a team with two players you’ll hear about for the next decade in Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper.
|Clay Buchholz threw a shutout this week. (AP photo)|
The High Point
In a week with one win, that’s not hard to pick. Clay Buchholz was masterful Thursday night, throwing a four-hit shutout against Baltimore and looking like the young stud he was supposed to be in 2008. He gave up just one walk, fanned six and threw 125 pitches without many signs of fatigue at all. It was his third career shutout, all of which have come against the Orioles, who scorched him for five runs in each of his last two starts against them this season. If he can be sharp for the rest of the year, the Red Sox will have the solid top of the rotation they were supposed to possess. The rotation got even deeper this week, but we’ll get to that in a minute. One last note about Thursday: The Red Sox had a balanced offensive attack, with four different players driving in runs.
The Low Point
Since I can’t just pick everything else that happened this week, I’ll go with Tuesday’s loss to Baltimore which saw the Sox waste a great comeback in the ninth, blow the game in the 10th and set a bad tone for another big series with Baltimore. Boston pitchers gave up 15 hits, and also surrendered five runs in the last four innings. The main culprit was Alfredo Aceves, who coughed up two runs in the 10th inning to break the tie in the wrong direction. Jarrod Saltalamacchia had hit a two-run shot to tie the game in the last of the ninth, but the Orioles got the momentum right back. The Sox are now 3-6 against Baltimore this season, a big reason they sit in the basement of an otherwise tight division. Losing a close game is bad enough, but dropping one to a team you don’t like who happens to be ahead of you in the standings is even worse.
|Jarrod Saltalamacchia made the grab on this play. (AP photo)|
Daisuke Matsuzaka: His four runs in five innings in his return to the rotation Saturday were not inspiring, but his other numbers showed potential. He walked only one and fanned eight, exhibiting the control he has lacked for long stretches in the last two years. He still threw a ton of pitches, but he gave his team a chance to win, something we can’t say much of the man he replaced in the rotation, Daniel Bard.
Mark Melancon: His return to the big club comes at a time when the Sox badly need help in the bullpen. Yes, he was horrific in April, but was dominant in Pawtucket and appears confident in his stuff again. If he can pitch like he’s supposed to, the Red Sox will have a better bullpen.
David Ortiz: He had a big day Sunday to keep his average over .300. He routinely comes up big when the Sox need him, and he did everything he could to help the Sox avoid a sweep. He just didn’t get any help.
Dustin Pedroia: He’s still coming back from his thumb injury, but he hasn’t been good since his return. I want to give him a chance to shake the rust of, but the Sox are falling off the pace again and need the pseudo-captain to step up.
Adrian Gonzalez: He went 6-for-25 on the homestand, a big reason the Red Sox went 1-5 this week.
Alfredo Aceves: This isn’t his fault. He’s not supposed to be the closer. He’s out of his element. He should be the “swing” guy who does a bit of everything and helps the Red Sox in various situations, without the pressure of having to be the ninth inning guy. But since he is in that role, he can’t be excluded from blame. Two blown saves in five days have hurt the Red Sox in their quest to stay in the playoff chase. If he can’t be trusted in the role, he has to be taken out of it. I still think/hope that once Daniel Bard gets his stuff straightened out, he’ll end up in the role until Andrew Bailey comes back, especially now that Daisuke is back in the rotation. But I doubt the Red Sox are humble enough to admit their mistake. They’ll keep trying Bard as a starter, no matter how obvious it is that he isn’t one.
Josh Beckett’s return to Miami happens Monday night as the Sox try and stay within striking distance by taking care of the Marlins. Then it’s off to Wrigley for a visit to Theo Epstein and his new team, which is far, far worse than the one he took over in Boston in 2003.
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