Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Varitek and Lester Put Sox Back in the Win Column

It was not that long ago that when the Sox went on a big swing through the west coast, everyone crossed their fingers and prayed to win half the games. It is a big trip, on the road, 3 hour time zone difference, and some tough competition. Since 2004, Sox fans have gotten a little too used to winning more often than not, and have put their fear of the West Coast Trip behind them. Maybe that fear was put away a little too soon, as the Angels managed to swipe 3 straight games from the Sox and knocked them back to second place.

Luckily, this West Coast Trip is only going through two visiting cities, and the second one is home to the AL team with the worst record, the Seattle Mariners. So, a 3 game sweep of the Mariners would be just what the doctor ordered to allow the Sox to return to friendly Fenway Park with an even 3-3 road trip record. This is no guarantee, but is well within reach.

Jon LesterLast night, Jon Lester continued a superb season, again pitching late into the game (7 1/3 innings) and holding the Mariners scoreless. Lester was dominating the entire night, and at one point looked like he might be headed for a complete game shutout. But, in the 8th inning he appeared to be tiring, and got himself into a jam. Bases loaded, 1 out, and a 4-0 lead. One meatball pitch could tie the game. Terry Francona opted to send Jonathan Papelbon in to get out of the jam. It only took Paps 2 pitches to do so as he induced Raul Ibanez to hit into a game saving, and inning ending double play. Thankfully, Francona opted to send in Papelbon and not Hideki Okajima, who was a sure thing last season, but this year has been struggling when coming into an inning with runners on base.

Manny RamirezWhile Manny Ramirez did what we could to get rallies going, his three singles were all harmless as he was sandwiched between JD Drew and Mike Lowell who went a combined 0-9 last night. But fear not, when help was needed, out of the dugout with cape flapping in the wind came Captain Varitek! Jason Varitek got a hold of a sweet pitch with one runner on in the 5th inning for a 2 run home run. Tek could have had a huge night, but that was all the damage he could muster (and thanks to Lester, all the damage they needed). Varitek came up in the 6th inning with bases loaded and 2 outs, but struck out swinging on a foul tip. Then, in the 9th inning he again found himself in a bases loaded, 2 out situation. This time he connected, only to fly harmlessly out.

Jed LowrieThe Sox also loaded the bases in the 8 inning (Varitek drew a walk to load them). The Sox really had the Mariners against the ropes in the late innings, and this time it was Jed Lowrie at the plate. Lowrie came through with a nice single to plate the Sox' final 2 runs en route to a 4-0 victory.

The next two games will feature Dice-K Matsuzaka and Clay Buchholz. Dice-K will be looking for his 11th win, and should have a good shot at it. Clay, on the other hand, has yet to find himself a good game since returning to the Sox from Pawtucket. Personally, I'm happy he gets the third game of the Mariners series, rather than opening the Yankees series. Let's hope Clay pulls it together and is able to give Boston a quality start. The Sox do have Bartolo Colon back on the mend. Colon has been out since hurting his back while swinging at a pitch during interleague play. He should be ready to rejoin the club in August, so the clock is ticking for Clay.

When the Yankees come to town on Friday, the Sox will be unveiling the new and recently recovered David Ortiz. Big Papi is still swinging well, going 2-3 with the Portland Seadogs yesterday. He claims he is pain free and nearly 100% ready. When he launches a home run in his first at bat Friday night against Joba Chamberlain, the Fenway crowd will go crazy. Thankfully, I will be in that very crowd!

(Photos Courtesy of ESPN)

1 comment:

Fenway West said...

There would be nothing better than seeing Papi take Joba deep.