After the Red Sox' 5-1 win to take 3 out of 4 from the Detroit Tigers last night, Detroit manager, Jim Leyland had this to say about Kevin Youkilis; "You have to execute pitches to get people out, and we just gave him cookie after cookie for three days. He just beat our brains out." The Tigers fed Youkilis cookies, and Youkilis feasted. In the four game series, Kevin hit four home runs, to go with seven RBI's, two doubles, and five runs scored while batting at a .350 clip. Last night's home run came in the 5th inning with two out, Jacoby Ellsbury on first base, and gave the Sox a 5-1 lead. With an effective Josh Beckett on the mound was all the Sox would need.
Josh Beckett was in control the entire game as he went 7 innings holding the Tigers to just one run on 6 hits to go with 8 strikeouts and zero walks. The 7th strikeout of the night, courtesy of Brandon Inge, was the 1000th of Beckett's career (only 4713 more to go to catch Nolan Ryan)! Tigers' rookie, Matthew Joyce, got his first up-close look at Beckett last night. His observation was one that fans in Boston are well aware of. "The ball just exploded out of his hand. That's why he's one of the best pitchers in the game". Indeed he is, as Beckett was determined to lead his team to a series win over the Tigers, while improving his record to 4-2.
Justin Verlander was not up to the challenge of facing the World Champs. The Red Sox got to him in the second inning. Singles by Mike Lowell and JD drew, followed by a wild pitch, put runners on second and third for Jason Varitek. The Captain singled to left field, scoring two runs, with the throw from left glancing off of JD Drew's left forearm, which appeared to hurt, but luckily caused no damage. Varitek ended up sneaking down to second on the throw, and one batter later, Coco Crisp bunted him over to third. He scored off of a Jacoby Ellsbury sacrifice fly giving Beckett a 3-0 lead, which was more than enough for the future Cy Young award winner.
Josh came out of the game after 7 innings, having thrown 102 pitches. Terry Francona turned the ball over to Craig Hansen, giving the rookie another chance to show off his stuff. In his previous outing, Hansen looked great in his first inning, but got in trouble as he tried to complete a second inning. Tito may have taken note of that and gave him only one inning last night, in which Hansen retired the Tigers 1-2-3, only using 12 pitches to induce two ground outs and a pop out.
Francona must have been feeling lucky last night. Rather than cash his chips in with either Papelbon or Okajima in the ninth, he opted to let it ride, putting all of his money on number 17 on the roulette wheel and giving it a spin, calling in Manny Delcarmen to wrap the game up. Last night was Francona's lucky night. The wheel spun, the ball bounced around, looked for a home, and came to rest gently on number 17. Manny got 2 quick outs, striking out Miguel Cabrera, and getting Matthew Joyce to ground out to Pedroia on the first pitch. He almost got into trouble as Marcus Thames singled to left, but four pitches later Brandon Inge flied out to end the game.
Taking 3 of four on the road against Detroit is a terrific way to start this road trip. Now on to Minnesota for four games against the AL Central leading Twins. This will be the first meeting between the two teams this year, and tonight it kicks off with Jon Lester matched up against arguably the funniest name in baseball today, Boof Bonser, who just edges out Coco Crisp for the distinction. Did you know he legally changed his name from John to Boof in 2001? Apparently, Boof had been a childhood nickname that he loved enough to make it legal. (Hmm, Rooster as my legal name?) Lester has looked sharper in his last two outings, while Bonser (2-4) is still trying to get into a rhythm. The pitching match up should lean in the Sox' favor, but don't expect the Twins to roll over, having won 7 of their last 10 games.
(Baseball Photos courtesy of Yahoo Sports)