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Red Sox Start Fast, Run Out of Gas This Week

The Red Sox returned home this week and brought their uneven play with them.  They had an offensive explosion against the weak pitching staff of the Rangers, but a rainout washed away the Blue Jays opener and took the Red Sox bats with it.  They will head out on the road this week against an Oriole team they should beat before visiting the Blue Jays in a return match. 

Unless the Red Sox can find some consitency, this week could look a lot like last.  The week left the Red Sox down 4.5 to Tampa Bay in the division (they lost another half-game this week), but still up a mere half-game on the Twins and White Sox and five on the Yankees for the Wild Card.

Red Sox vs. Rangers

The Red Sox started the week with an extended series of batting practice, not a big surprise considering how bad the Texas staff is.  They also bolstered the starting rotation by acquiring veteran Paul Byrd from the Indians for a player to be named or cash.  This does not figure to be a huge cost, so it probably will turn out to be a no-lose move. 

The opener was the game of the series, and quite possibly the most entertaining game of the Sox’ season as the Red Sox scratched out a 19-17 victory.  They opened with ten first inning runs, but lost the lead in the sixth, only regaining it in the bottom of the eighth.  Even Jonathan Papelbon had a tough outing (for him), allowing an unearned run, but locking up the win and earning the save. 

Knuckleballer Charlie Zink made his major league debut in this and allowed two runs through four before the Rangers bats got them into the game in the fifth.  He ended up going 4-1/3, allowing eight runs on 11 hits and a walk, with one strikeout. 

The bullpen provided no relief as the Rangers took the lead, hitting Javier Lopez, David Aardsma, and Manny Delcarmen hard.  Hideki Okajima got five outs to set up Pap and earn the victory.  Five Red Sox starters had multiple hits, led by Dustin Pedroia‘s 5-6 day, scoring five times and batting in two.  David Ortiz added two home runs, both remarkably in the first inning. 

Jon Lester held the Rangers scoreless into the eighth in the second game before bowing out after 7-1/3, allowing three runs and striking out six.  The Red Sox had an 8-0 lead at that point, paced by Kevin Youkilis‘ three hits (all doubles) and three runs as they held on for the 8-4 win. 

The Sox completed the sweep with a dominating 10-0 win in the finale.  The Red Sox provided Daisuke Matsuzaka with ample run support early with nine second inning runs.  Big Papi hit his third three-run home run of the series and Pedroia (10-16 in the series) and Jed Lowrie added three hits apiece. Dice-K went seven, striking out five, but was a little wild as he walked five and allowed six hits.  Delcarmen and Mike Timlin took the eighth and ninth respectively to complete the shutout. 

The Red Sox offense should sweep teams with thin pitching staffs like Texas.  With the ability to run up pitch counts, get on base, and drive runners home, the opposition must be able to throw strikes to avoid a lot of innings from their bullpen.  In this series, the Red Sox jumped on the Rangers starters early and got plenty of at bats against the relievers.  The Rangers starters went 2-2/3 inn (90 pitches), 4 (90), and 1-2/3 (50) in the three games, leaving far too much work to the bullpen against this club.

Red Sox vs. Blue Jays

Everything was looking sunny for the Red Sox as they opened the series with division rival Toronto except the weather.  The opener, Byrd’s debut for the Sox, was postponed (to be made up as part of a September double header) due to rain.  As it turns out, the Red Sox needed to see more rain since they were dominated by Roy Halladay in the Saturday game and the Jays hammered Josh Beckett in the Sunday finale. 

Halladay went the distance in the opener, allowing seven hits and striking out four.  Pedroia spoiled the shutout bid with his ninth inning home run.  Byrd’s Sox debut was a pretty decent outing, allowing four runs in 7-1/3 innings, despite being on the other end of Halladay’s gem and taking the loss. 

The Blue Jays scored in seven innings in the finale, including six first inning runs off Beckett, who allowed eight in 2-1/3 innings.  Alex Rios had five hits and four other Jays added three each in the 22-hit attack.  Pedroia homered again and Youk hit one as well while Lowrie went 3-3 with a walk. 

Roy Halladay’s performance was a perfect demonstration on how to beat the Red Sox: a dominating starter throwing strikes and going deep into a ballgame.  Teams are not going to consistently batter Beckett like they did on Sunday, but when anyone allows 15 runs, it will be tough to win.

Red Sox at Orioles

The Red Sox get a quick break from the Blue Jays as they head to Baltimore, a team who they have had mixed results against this season, going 7-5 (3-3 on the road).  The Orioles, coming off 16 runs of their own on Sunday, throw Jeremy Guthrie at Jon Lester in the opener. Dice-K and Daniel Cabrera tangle in the second and Clay Buchholz meets rookie Chris Waters (making his fourth career start) in the finale. 

The Lester-Guthrie matchup shapes up as the best as Guthrie is Baltimore’s ace this season at 10-8 (their only pitcher with double digit wins) with a very respectable 3.18 ERA and 1.15 WHIP.  Waters is a bit of a question mark, but since earning his only career win with an eight inning debut, he has failed to get out of the fifth in either of this other starts, though he threw at least 90 pitches in each outing. 

With an Orioles pitching staff in the bottom 10 in most major pitching categories (including dead last in strikeouts), the Red Sox offense should get back on track.  The Sox should have no issue taking two and a sweep is definitely possible.

Red Sox at Blue Jays

The rematch of last week’s series against the Jays will mark the midpoint in a two-week stretch of division play.  The Blue Jays have really played well against the Red Sox this season, going 6-2 so far, including the early season sweep in Toronto.  In a pair of rematches, Paul Byrd and Roy Halladay face off in the opener and Josh Beckett and Shaun Marcum duel in the second.  Jon Lester and A. J. Burnett would appear to be on track to meet in the finale. 

Halladay always gives his team an opportunity to win and routinely gives the bullpen a day off.  Only once this season has Beckett been tagged for five or more runs in two consecutive starts, so he should be in better form this time around. 

Burnett, staying pretty healthy this season, is the team’s leader in wins with 15, besting Halladay by one, and strikes out just over one batter per inning (9.07 K/9). He is hittable, however, with a 1.44 WHIP and a 4.67 ERA. 

This is a tough draw for the Red Sox, getting Halladay for the second time in a week, but they really need to take two of these games to make up some ground on the Rays.

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