|Notes and Observations Week 15: Patriots Blow Out Dolphins 41-13; Clinch AFC East||Connelly’s Top Ten: Patriots Defense, Special Teams Carry Home Team||Fantasy Football Start ‘Em, Sit ‘Em: Week 15||Right Idea? Red Sox Bring in Rick Porcello, Wade Miley, Justin Masterson|
The Boston Red Sox traveled to the Rogers Centre Monday night to take on the Toronto Blue Jays. On the mound for the Red Sox was Josh Beckett, hoping to bounce back from his last outing, where he allowed seven earned runs in seven innings pitched. He was facing Dana Eveland, who came into the game with an ERA of 1.93. Neither pitcher would factor in the decision, as the game was a back-and-forth slugfest marked by lots of hard hitting and not much in the way of pitching until the end of the game.
The Red Sox built a 5-0 lead in the third inning, only to see Beckett give it away in the bottom of the inning. They then went back and forth with the Blue Jays through the middle innings, going up by a run or two, only to see Toronto come back and tie the score once again (although they only took the lead for a half-inning). They finally built a 13-9 lead in the sixth inning off a series of singles and a two-RBI double from Dustin Pedroia. Coming down the stretch, Boston’s pitching was a little stronger than Toronto’s, and the Red Sox wound up winning the game, 13-12, banging out 18 hits in the process. Scott Schoeneweis picked up the win, while Jonathan Papelbon picked up his sixth save of the season. The loss went to Shawn Camp.
When a team puts up 18 hits, you’re going to find a number of players with good offensive numbers. The only players on the Red Sox to not get hits on Monday both hit out of the eighth spot in the lineup. Five Boston players had three-hit games: Marco Scutaro, Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, Jason Varitek, and Adrian Beltre. Scutaro, making his return to Toronto after playing the previous two years as a Blue Jay, scored four runs. Varitek, meanwhile, drove in four runs.
The Sox hitting was not the problem tonight. They churned out long at-bats, drew walks when possible (four in all), and built their leads with solid hitting. While they never hit better than a double (Toronto, on the other hand, hit two home runs), the Red Sox were great at stringing series of singles and doubles together to drive in runs and score in bunches of one run and two. This offense could best be described as halfway between small-ball and power offense. While it’s not conventional, you can’t argue with 13 runs off 18 hits.
The pitching tonight was pathetic through the first two thirds of the game, then finally settled down. While the Blue Jays scored 10 of their 12 total runs in the first six innings, Red Sox pitchers kept the scoring to 2 in the final third of the game. Manny Delcarmen, though he did not get the win, really gets credit for slowing down Toronto’s offense. He set down all six batters he faced, recording one of the two 1-2-3 innings Boston had during this game (the other coming from Papelbon in the ninth for the save). Since mid-April, he has emerged as a dominant middle-reliever. The Sox will need him to complement Daniel Bard and Papelbon, especially given the struggles of Hideki Okajima, who presently sports an ERA over 7.00.
A month into the season, we are starting to get answers to the questions surrounding this Red Sox team. The question of offense has been answered. The Red Sox are proving that they can hit the ball with the best of teams, score runs, and bare down during key-at bats (the Red Sox went 11-20 with runners in scoring position against Toronto). However, the pitching is nowhere near the caliber of a playoff contender, nor is it what we were expecting from this team coming into the season. Josh Beckett has looked awful in his last two outings. Having Varitek as his personal catcher has not helped in any way. While Beckett’s even-numbered years in Boston are always worse than his odd-numbered years, he has looked so bad this season that we have to wonder about injury.
The Boston bullpen, meanwhile, is mediocre at best, pathetic at worst. Papelbon and Bard are the lone bright spots, although Manny Delcarmen is quickly joining them. The Red Sox must figure out their pitching situation soon if they want to remain in contention for the playoffs or the AL East division (and yes, it is now late enough in the season to worry about that). Monday night’s victory was an ugly win. There’s been a lot of those lately.