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What a week! We had a sweep at the hands of the Angels before they added Mark Teixeira (I know he played in the finale, but the Angels won five of the six games in the past couple weeks without him). The Manny Ramirez saga played itself out with Jason Bay coming to Boston and immediately contributing to a sweep over the A’s.
The trade parallels the Nomar Garciaparra deal in 2004: the Red Sox controversially dealt an aging star and prospects to get a pretty unknown National Leaguer (though Bay does have a higher profile than Orlando Cabrera did) and improve the team chemistry. The problem with trading Manny was getting fair value in return and the only comparable available player was the previously traded Teixeira. However, the Sox seemed to do about as well as they could with Bay, who is signed through next year.
Over the past few seasons, Bay compares favorably to Manny in most numbers except average and on base percentage, due to his .247 BA last season. Since 2006, he has outscored Manny 255-231, outhit him 409-400, and outhomered the mercurial one 79-76. They also have identical RBI (260) and walk (223) totals, but bear in mind Manny missed a number of games toward the end of 2006 due to his knees and swirling rumors that he quit on the team. The stats cannot provide the complete picture in that Bay brings a fresh attitude, wants to win, and will play hard to impress his new teammates and contribute.
Also gone is Craig Hansen, who has earned the ‘bust’ label in Boston and Brandon Moss, who the Red Sox have no room for. Hansen will get a change of scenery and perhaps some save opportunities; maybe he needs both of those to resurrect his young career as he does have the tools. According to scouts, Moss is said to be a fourth outfielder, but I think he could be a productive everyday player and in Pittsburgh, he should get that opportunity. It is a good trade for him in that he was not going to see any playing time in Boston anytime soon since he was behind Manny, J. D. Drew, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Coco Crisp. KC has the trade covered in full detail if you want to sound off or see what the rest of the readers think.
The new headache for Terry Francona would appear to be what to do with the almost ready Julio Lugo now that Jed Lowrie is playing well in his stead. This has an eerie resemblance to last season’s displacement of the veteran Crisp with the rookie Ellsbury. Does Francona go to that well again, ride Lowrie out, or re-insert Lugo?
The week began with the Manny soap opera in full swing: pouting about the contract, not hustling, and joking around about his future in Boston (offering to be traded for Brett Favre). His antics could not have come at a worse time for the Red Sox as they were playing the American League best and possible World Series favorite Angels.
In the opener, Daisuke Matsuzaka got through five innings smoothly, allowing only a single run. However, he opened the flood gates in the sixth, failing to record an out and allowing five of the six in the inning, including home runs to the now ex-Angel Casey Kotchman and Torii Hunter.
If a hard thrower like Dice-K is not blowing it by the hitter, a hard thrown ball tends to travel a good distance when struck and this seems to be what happened. He only struck out three, but allowed the six runs and seven hits.
The Red Sox knocked Jered Weaver out in the sixth as he approached 100 pitches, but the bullpen would not allow the Sox back in the game. Manny did, however, touch up Francisco Rodriguez for a home run in the ninth.
The second game began with news that the Angels acquired Teixiera, in a move I think solves their biggest weakness in a big bat to pair with Vladimir Guerrero. That was not even the story for most of the night as John Lackey, the Angels ace, no hit the Red Sox for 8-1/3 innings. Dustin Pedroia broke up the bid and Kevin Youkilis homered to bring the Sox within four and gave the fans some hope, but it was not to be as David Ortiz could not come up big and Lackey completed the game by inducing a Mike Lowell groundball, getting Manny, who had walked, out at second.
This is the game that sealed Manny’s fate as he was nowhere to be seen in the play on that last out and also failed to hustle out a grounder in a previous at bat, earning boos from the Fenway Faithful and losing his teammates in the process.
Clay Buchholz allowed all six runs in 6-1/3 innings to take the loss, his sixth of the season and fourth in a row. The bullpen was a bright spot however, as Hansen went two-thirds in his swansong and Hideki Okajima and Jonathan Papelbon went an inning each, none allowing a run. The team looked completely worn down by the continuing saga and the losing.
Joe Saunders looked good for the Angels, scattering five hits through six, allowing only two runs on a Crisp home run, the only runs the Red Sox would get. Manny provided nothing in his final game for the team, going 0-3 and Josh Beckett was hit hard, allowing seven earned (eight total) on 11 hits in 5-1/3. Manny Delcarmen and Javier Lopez did the job out of the pen, combining for two scoreless innings and Justin Masterson mopped up the last 1-2/3, allowing a meaningless home run to Torii Hunter. Gary Matthews, Jr. and Big Tex were the only Angels starters without a hit.
The Red Sox have been completely outplayed in the past two series with the Angels, but perhaps with the Manny clouds lifted, the Red Sox could fare better in any possible postseason showdown. The Angels can put it on autopilot at this point with their double-digit game lead in the West and set up their playoff rotation and keep everyone healthy for October.
After the Angels series, the Red Sox had an off day to collect themselves while management worked the phones all day feverishly trying to unload Manny, which they did without a moment to spare. The team certainly seemed relieved as they appeared to have that looseness back and the fans certainly gave their approval, welcoming Jason Bay with a standing ovation before his first at bat.
Bay has never played in a meaningul game and is thrust immediately into a playoff chase. His lack of experience in this atmosphere will undoubtedly be made up for with the veteran leaders on the team who know how to and have won a championship and will be marked by his effort. In his first game alone, he played some great defense and went 1-3 with two walks, scoring both of the Red Sox runs.
Those two runs are all that were needed as Tim Wakefield (6.1IP, 0ER, 4H, 4K, 3BB) outdueled the A.L.’s ERA leader, Justin Duchsherer (6.0IP, 1ER, 5H, 2K, 3BB). Each bullpen was also sensational. For the Red Sox, Okajima allowed a solo home run to Jack Cust for the A’s only run of the game in his only inning. Delcarmen, Papelbon, Lopez, and Mike Timlin combined for 4-2/3 innings of scoreless relief, with Timlin getting the win.
The A’s efforts were highlighted by Brad Ziegler‘s two scoreless innings to extend his record to 32 consecutive scoreless to start a career. Former Red Sox (and 2004 alum) Alan Embree took the loss by allowing the deciding run in the 12th.
In the following game, Jon Lester had another great outing, allowing two runs in seven innings. The only score he allowed was a first inning two-run homerun by Emil Brown. The Red Sox came right back with five runs in the bottom half of the frame, highlight by Kevin Youkilis’ two-run home run (he added a second later in the game) and Bay’s first Red Sox home run, a three-run shot. Lowrie went 2-3 with three more RBI in the convincing win. Masterson and Chris Smith, two guys who should see more duty with Hansen gone, each added a scoreless inning.
In the finale, the Sox prevailed in part due to a good outing by Dice-K, yielding only two over six innings on a Daric Barton home run. Okajima, Delcarmen, and Papelbon each took an inning and wrapped up the sweep. The game featured something we have not yet seen this season: a Big Papi STEAL, a straight one at that! He showed how out of practice he is with his slide and subsequent fall.
A’s starter Dallas Braden, recovering from the flu, allowed four runs in 3-1/3 innings and five relievers completed the game, allowing only one more run, but the Sox scored enough for the win. The Red Sox should have no regrets about getting Bay, as he went 2-4 in this game. This was a very good series for the Red Sox as they get back on a positive note, in terms of wins and in the locker room. The Red Sox stand at three back of the Rays and two and a half in front of the Yankees.
The Red Sox begin a seven game road trip with a stop in Kansas City. In their only other meeting this season, the Red Sox swept a four-game set at Fenway in May. The Red Sox could, and should, complete the series sweep this week as well.
Clay Buchholz faces Gil Meche in the opener. This is a good chance for Buchholz to get off the skids as he draws probably the Royals most favorable matchup in the series as Meche is their WHIP leader among starters at 1.31. Lowell may also get this game off to rest his sore hip.
Josh Beckett draws Brian Bannister in the second game and Wakefield gets Luke Hochevar in the finale. Hochevar was a touted dormer first round pick prospect early in the season, but has not yet lived up to the hype, holding a 5.42 ERA and 1.49 WHIP, contributing to his 6-9 record. He is also not much of a strikeout pitcher with only 62 and 111.2 innings.
Their starting staff features only one pitcher, Zack Greinke, with an ERA below four (3.98), indicating a lot of short outings and an overworked relief staff pitching from behind. Their bullpen does feature a couple formidable arms in Joakim Soria, their closer, with a 1.42 ERA, miniscule .69 WHIP, and intimidating 9.41 K/9 and former Red Sox Ron Mahay (2.21, 1.23, 6.63) who was pursued by many, including the Red Sox, at the deadline, but Kansas City must not have recieved and offer they liked and held onto him.
Offensively, the Royals are 12th in the majors in hits and 14th in batting average, but are dead last in walks, indicating impatience at the plate, which is not surprising for a group of mostly young hitters. In most other offensive categories, they are in the lower third, including home runs and runs. Jose Guillen is their leader in most power categories including home runs with 15. David DeJesus (.301) and Mark Grudzielanek (.299) are the only regulars near the .300 mark. However, rookie Mike Aviles is hitting .327 with six home runs through his first 51 games.
After wrapping up the Royals series, it is onto Chicago for a meeting with the slugging White Sox. This is a team who made the most curious deadline move, picking up Ken Griffey, Jr. from the Reds and adding to their already crowded and power-laden outfield/first base/designated hitter rotation. Chicago GM Ken Williams has always liked Griffey and got him for a cheap price, but the Pale Hose already have a slow and aging logjam at those positions with Jim Thome (.259 BA, 21 HR, 62 RBI) DH-ing, Paul Konerko (.215, 10, 36) at first, Jermaine Dye (.308, 26, 68) in right field, Nick Swisher (.229, 15, 51) in center field, and Carlos Quentin (.281, A. L. leading 28, 84) in left. Griffey (.250, 16, 62) appears destined for center (putting Swisher at first and Konerko on the bench) but already suffered a hamstring problem, which was blamed on the heat.
Chicago is 6th in the majors in runs, 3rd in home runs (two behind Philadelphia’s total), 2nd in slugging (behind only Texas), and 10th in OBP. With an outfield anchored by Griffey in center, the Red Sox ability to put balls in play should take advantage of the limited range in their outfield, giving them extra baserunners and the ability to take the extra base.
Lester faces Mark Buerhle in the first game and Dice-K draws Clayton Richard, making his third major league start in the second. Richard has yet to get out of the fifth in either of his previous starts. Due to the day off between series, Buchholz might get skipped to get Beckett an extra start, likely to face Gavin Floyd, and in the finale, Tim Wakefield should face John Danks.
The White Sox staff is another contributing factor to their division lead, as they are 7th in ERA (just behind the Sox), 3rd in quality starts, 11th in batting average against, and 12th in strikeouts. Their save percentage is only 67%, but Bobby Jenks is 22/25 while the rest of the staff is 4/14. With the fireballing Jenks healthy again, the White Sox ninth inning is more of a concern to the Red Sox in this series. With Lester pitching among the league’s best, the Red Sox should get his game, especially if he can get through six (the Sox are undeafeated when he does). They also should be able to tee off on the young Richard before facing the two better pitchers on the staff in Floyd and Danks.
A split against a good Chicago team on the road would be acceptable. Though, with none of the A. L. East competitors losing much lately, they may need three!