Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Clay Gets His First Win

The annual Patriots Day game in Boston is one of local signs of spring. Trees begin flowering, robins are back from their winter vacations, and the Sox play an 11:30 game during the running of the Boston Marathon. I tip my hat to all those who ran yesterday! It is quite an accomplishment.

Clay Buchholz achieved an accomplishment as well notching his first win of 2008. He looked good, mixing his pitches up effectively and getting ahead of hitters in the count. Clay threw first pitch strikes to 17 of the 24 batters he faced. That is very important, especially to a young pitcher trying to establish himself. The batter is now more on the defensive, while the pitcher can start controlling the at-bat more effectively. He also battled well. In the second inning, after getting the first two batters out, back to back singles and a walk loaded the bases. Yes, we were all worried if the house of cards was about to collapse, but Clay got Ian Kinsler to pop out to end the threat. That's the kind of day Clay had. He went 6 innings allowing no runs on 5 hits, 6 strike outs, and 2 walks while throwing 103 pitches. I was a little surprised that Terry Francona puled him after 6. Clay had only allowed one base runner over his last 3 innings pitched, and that base runner was erased with a double play. But, Clay had trouble with a tired arm late last season, so expect the Sox to nurse him along for a while more.

The Rangers were a confidence builder for the Sox. They do not look like a very solid team, continually helping the Sox out with sloppy play and poor relief pitching. So, don't look at this 4 game sweep of Texas as a sign that the Sox are bound for another World Series. We hit a mediocre team playing fairly poorly, and took advantage. That is what a good team does, and the Sox did it. Julio Lugo got his game going (possibly looking over his shoulder at his possible replacement, Jed Lowrie who looks terrific), and even Big Papi started recording a few hits and a few RBI, starting with his grand slam on Friday night. Lugo went 4 for 4 yesterday, and Papi had two hits, including a double.

The fun play of the game was in the 4th inning. After JD Drew reached first on a walk, Jed Lowrie squared around to bunt. He was trying for a hard grounder up the first base line, but the pitch was away, so he opted to switch directions with the hard bunt. In doing so, he dropped the head of the bat a touch too low and the hard grounder turned into a pop-up. Luckily he was trying to bunt the ball hard, so the pop-up had enough juice on it to loft over the pitcher's head and drop harmlessly behind him for a single. First time I've ever seen that!

Mike Lowell is scheduled to do some hitting in the cage today for the first time since spraining his left thumb. The trainers have been trying to concoct some sort of brace for the thumb to give it support and help him return sooner, and have not had much luck yet. Hopefully we'll see Lowell back soon, but Kevin Youkilis has played some very fine third base in his absence, and Sean Casey has done a great job hitting and playing first. The fine play of the Sox' bench players is why they have won 9 of their last 10 games and find themselves 2 games ahead of Baltimore in first place today.

I'll be attending tonight's game, the second of the year for me. Another visit to Tequila Rain, Cuban sandwiches for dinner, washed down with the sounds of a Red Sox victory. That's right, tonight is a game that I fully expect to result in a Red Sox win. Josh Beckett gets the start against Jared Weaver and the start against the "Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim which is just around the corner from Disneyland, not to be confused with Disney World" - or whatever they are called now.

The Angels have a good team and I doubt they will get swept. But tonight, the Sox' ace is on the mount, and all is right in the world. Jared Weaver is a guy with talent. But, to me he is always a guy who fares great in the middle of the pack. He'd look terrific in games against the Royals, Orioles, Rays (who apparently have had the "Devil" scared out of them), and teams like that. So, on paper he looks hot. Them he faces a tough team in an important situation and implodes. I just have no faith in Weaver getting it done.

The Sox only downfall would be if Beckett does not go deep (past the 6th inning) and the Sox need to rely on the bullpen for too long. Their one weakness so far.

Coco Crisp is still nursing a hamstring, so look for Ellsbury in center, Manny in left, and JD Drew in right. The non-Lowell infield should be in place with Youk at third, Lugo at short, Pedroia at second, and Casey at first. We may not see Varitek catching as he has been battling a tough case of the flu. If he is still down, we'll have Kevin Cash catching, who is looking solid as a backup catcher this season.

(Photos Courtesy of Boston.com)

1 comment:

Peter N said...

As we saw last night (you in PERSON), Ells is a must-have part of the Sox and Coco is merely a defensive replacement and 4th outfielder. After last night (Tues.), I'm convinced!!!!!!!!