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The Red Sox had a great start to the week, taking two of three on the road from one of the Senior Circuit’s better ballclubs in the Phillies. Cole Hamels showed why he is regarded among the best pitchers in the game with a dominating first game performance. He allowed back-to-back home runs to Dustin Pedroia and J. D. Drew in the fifth, but those were the only two runs the Red Sox would get in the 8-2 loss.
Not to be outdone, Jimmy Rollins homered and Ryan Howard added two of his own, all off Bartolo Colon. Colon apparently was trying too hard to provide himself some offense and had to leave the game in the fifth with an injured back, apparently hurt during one of his Ruthian swings. The injury has landed him on the disabled list.
In the middle game, Jon Lester outdueled Jamie Moyer, combining with Hideki Okajima and Jonathan Papelbon on 3-0 win. The Red Sox got all they would need on a second inning two-run Coco Crisp home run, but Julio Lugo later drove in Crisp for the third run. Lester was very efficient, throwing only 99 to finish seven strong innings with five strikeouts. Okajima struck out two more in his inning, setting up Papelbon for a perfect inning, striking out all three Phillies he faced.
In the final game, Drew had another home run among his career-high tying four hits, giving Philly fans another reason to hate him (he was drafted by Philadelphia and could not come to terms and was returned to the draft, landing with the Cardinals). Drew continues to carry the Red Sox, stepping up to fill the void left by David Ortiz, hitting .394 with ten (of his 14) home runs in June.
Justin Masterson allowed two runs on four hits, but lasted only five innings before turning the game over to the bullpen. He did pick up the win thanks to some early run support as the Sox jumped on Philadelphia starter Kyle Kendrick with four runs in the first. Among relievers, Javier Lopez threw a perfect inning, Craig Hansen failed to record an out and allowed two runs, and Manny Delcarmen pitched two scoreless. Papelbon came on for the ninth again, recording another perfect inning and another strikeout. The Red Sox passed a good test here, winning a road series against a top NL team.
Unfortunately, the home series against the Cardinals was not as good as it could have been, as the Sox dropped two of three to the St. Louis squad missing stud Albert Pujols. The first game featured a matchup of veteran pitchers Tim Wakefield and Kyle Lohse, who is rejuvenated this season with a 3.63 ERA, better than any of his prior major league seasons by over half a run.
This game was especially frustrating for the Red Sox as they played catchup all game and never led. Wakefield took a tough luck loss, though he went seven innings, allowing four runs (only three earned due to Lugo’s errors). Lugo tried to atone for his bad defensive performance with his home run, but it was not enough as the Sox fell 5-4. They did make it interesting, putting three on in the ninth and plating one, before ultimately falling.
The second game saw the return of Daisuke Matsuzaka, who was greeted pretty rudely by the Cardinals’ hitters. He allowed a home run to the second hitter of the game en route for a four-run first. He then left the bases loaded in the second, only to see Chris Smith give up the grand slam to Troy Glaus, for his only run allowed in four otherwise good innings. Matsuzaka gave up seven runs in an inning of work to take his first loss of the season. The Red Sox never recovered from that 1-2 punch, scratching two runs out in the bottom of the second and one more in the sixth on another Drew longball, and lost 9-3.
The Sox earned an extra innings victory in the series finale, which started late due to an odd rain delay, which saw a passing shower and a lot of sun amidst reports of additional rain which never showed. After the late start, Joel Pineiro (seven innings, two runs) and Jon Lester (seven and one-third, two runs) went deep into the game and held the opposition in check. The Red Sox took a 3-2 lead into the ninth, but Papelbon allowed a walk and a double to tie the game and blow the save.
In the 13th, Kevin Youkilis hit his second home run of the game, with Mike Lowell aboard, to give the Red Sox a walk off win. Mike Parisi, just called up again on June 21st, surrended the game winner and took the loss (I couldn’t resist, he’s my namesake).
I thought this was a disappointing series for the Sox as they should have been able to get two games against the Cards with Pujols being out. Despite dropping two of three, the Red Sox maintain a game and a half lead over Tampa Bay with the surging Yankees five back.
The Red Sox will finish the homestand against another top NL team, the NL West-leading Arizona Diamondbacks. The Diamondbacks were the hottest team out of the gate, but have lost 21 of their last 32, including a sweep in Minnesota this weekend. The D-Backs are built around their starting rotation: Brandon Webb, Micah Owings, Dan Haren, Doug Davis, and Randy Johnson.
The Red Sox will send Josh Beckett in the first game against Haren, Masterson faces Davis to battle in game two, and the finale will see two 40 years olds: Wakefield and Johnson. The Sox will miss the ace, Webb, and should have the edge in the series. Haren has been pheonomenal this season, his first with Arizona who acquired him from Oakland in the offseason, sporting a 3.26 ERA and miniscule 1.00 WHIP! He also has 84 strikeouts in 96.2 innings, but is 0-3 with a 4.60 ERA at Fenway since 2005.
Davis is another D-Back pitcher with a high K-rate, but his 3.65 ERA is masking his how hittable he is (1.60 WHIP). Johnson, like Haren and Davis, will record some strikeouts, but his 5.09 ERA indicates that the Red Sox should score some runs against him. He still cuts an intimidating figure, but is no longer the dominant pitcher he once was. The D-Backs pitchers are not used to facing lineups without an automatic out in them, like the Red Sox, so hopefully the Sox can take advantage of that and take this series.
The Sox will then visit Houston. Outside of Lance Berkman, who is having an MVP-like season (.358 BA, 20 HR, 60 RBI, and even 12 SB) and leads the Astros in most offensive categories, and Carlos Lee, who is providing some pop, they are lacking offensive consistency. Hunter Pence is following a breakout year last season with a bit of a sophomore slump and Michael Bourn, part of the Brad Lidge deal, has a ton of steals (28), but has a tough time getting on base (.235 BA, .287 OBP).
The Astros pitching staff has not been that great either this season, combining for a 4.52 staff ERA, near the bottom of the majors. They will send Wandy Rodriguez against Matsuzaka, who is looking to rebound from his tough start against St. Louis, in the opener. Lester draws Brandon Backe and Josh Beckett would be in line to face Brian Moehler in the final game.
The Red Sox are better in every phase of the game than the Astros, though they do not have the experience with the quirks of Minute Maid Park. This series begins a brutal road trip which continues to Tampa and ends in New York, so hopefully the Sox can secure some early wins to build momentum. Barring any weather postponements, this will conclude the Red Sox interleague schedule.