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This week got off to a very poor start with a two-game sweep in Baltimore, ceding first place to the Rays. Josh Beckett fell to 4-3 with the first game loss, failing this time to stop the losing streak. The Red Sox are similarly now 4-3 in games started by Beckett following a loss, worse than expected from a #1 starter. For the Sox to get back on track, they will need Beckett to keep losing streaks short. A rejuvenated Daniel Cabrera registered another quality start for the Orioles and led them to the game two victory. This start marked his sixth quality start already this season as compared to twelve all of last season and did it by spreading 10 hits over seven innings without issuing a walk.
While the team needed Manny Ramirez to inch closer to his 500th home run, we instead saw him track down a fly ball and, in the lastest installment of “Manny being Manny”, he ran up the left-center field fence and gave a high-five to a lucky fan! George Sherrill, continuing his solid season, closed out both games for the Orioles to boost his season save total to 15. Terry Francona missed the series due to the death of his mother-in-law, leaving the managerial duties to bench coach Brad Mills.
The first interleague game of the season was postponed by rain, setting up the Red Sox first doubleheader of the season on Saturday. Daisuke Matsuzaka pitched brilliantly, beating old hand Jeff Suppan, in the first game, helping to snap the losing streak and moving to 7-0 on the season. He allowed two unearned runs on seven hits and two walks (down from eight in his previous start) while striking out six. David Ortiz provided the bulk of the offense with a second-inning three-run home run.
While Papi added two more home runs to lead the team to a sweep over the Brewers (and a return to the top of the AL East), Beckett had another lackluster outing, though he did record the win. He allowed six runs on six hits and a walk, though he did strike out nine. The biggest number on his line was the “4” in the “home runs allowed” column, which explains how almost all of his allowed baserunners were able to touch home plate.
The Red Sox will begin this week by wrapping up the homestand with a four game series with the surprising Royals. They have been hanging around the .500 mark most of the season and are right in the Central Division race, bolstered mainly by their solid starting pitching led by Brian Bannister, who will face off with Dice-K in the final game of the series. They have gotten sensational closing from Joakim Soria, who has yet to blow a save, has an ERA just above one and has a miniscule 0.40 WHIP. Watch Luke Hochevar, Kansas City’s starter in game one: he was drafted just two years ago and had a cup of coffee with the team last season, before getting the early callup this year. He has nearly one strikeout per inning with a respectable sub-4.00 ERA and should be a fixture in the rotation for some years to come.
On the Red Sox side, Bartolo Colon is scheduled to make his much-anticipated season debut in the series. His addition could be the best move of the year by any general manager if he is able to stay healthy. If the Red Sox can get good pitching in the series, taking three games could be expected as the only consistency in the Royals offense is its inconsistency. Jose Guillen has started slow after being suspended and then having it rescinded in the offseason, all due to his appearance in the Mitchell Report. However, he is on a tear now and seems to be meeting the expectation as the club’s offensive leader.
After wrapping with KC, the Sox will embark on another 10-game road trip, beginning with a return engagement with the A’s (and then heading north to Seattle, before ending in Baltimore again). The Red Sox split with the A’s in Japan to open the season and then took the remaining two in Oakland upon returning to the States. Oakland is scuffling recently, losing six of seven, including some tough games because they could not muster any offense.
Oakland has received good starting pitching from all roles. Starters are highlighted by Rich Harden (who is back from injury) and Joe Blanton. Middle relief is headlined by the recently injured Santiago Casilla, who began his season with over 16 scoreless innings, and Huston Street has been impressive, closing out nine of 11 opportunities. One of his two blown saves was the first game of the season against the Red Sox. The A’s will not win many slugfests this season, so if the Red Sox can score, they can win this series as well. This week shapes up to be a good one for the pitching staff, though there could be a spate of tight games.