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In early May, the Red Sox were 8.5 games behind the Rays in the AL East, and had a sub-.500 record. The team’s hitting was inconsistent, the starting pitching was disappointing, and the bullpen was overused.
Fast forward to July 3, and game No. 81, the exact midpoint of the 162-game regular season. We’re now asking ourselves, where did Daniel Nava and Darnell McDonald come from? Who is holding the Red Sox Voodoo Doll (and subsequently injuring all of the good players)? How the hell is this team a half game out of first and on pace for 98 wins?
A big reason for the team’s surprising first half success has been Jon Lester, who took the mound Saturday night against the hapless Orioles. The big lefty has dominated the O’s over his career, and Saturday’s game was no different. He pitched seven dominant innings, allowing just one run on five hits and one walk with seven strikeouts to earn his 10th win of the season.
The Red Sox bats put the game away early, putting up a four-spot on O’s starter Jeremy Guthrie in the first inning. The Sox scored the runs on three doubles, with Kevin Youkilis knocking in Eric Patterson, J.D. Drew knocking in Youk and David Ortiz, and Daniel Nava knocking in Drew.
After Corey Patterson knocked in Matt Weiters to pull the O’s within three runs, Youk put the game out of reach with a two-run shot in the fifth inning, and the Sox buried Baltimore with three more in the eighth inning.
Baltimore saved face in the ninth inning, scoring two runs on Jake Fox’s home run off unknown reliever Robert Manuel. The umpires initially called the hit a double, and then spent about six hours deciding whether Fox’s meaningless hit actually made it over the Green Monster. After the long delay, Manuel quickly got the final out, and the Sox won 9-3.
Here’s for the now-unheralded slugger David Ortiz. It’s at the point where everyone seems to be waiting for Ortiz to cool off, but every time he seems to slow down just a bit, Big Papi heats up just as quickly. Ortiz finished the night 3-4 with two doubles, two runs scored, and an RBI. During the official first half of the season, Ortiz hit .263 with 17 HRs and 54 RBI, putting him on pace for 34 home runs and 108 RBI.
I understand utilizing the replay to get the call right in any game, but they really made the ninth inning unnecessarily long. The game, as the 9-1 score would indicate, was effectively over. There was no reason to take 10-15 minutes to decide if Fox hit a home run.
To make matters worse, home plate umpire Mike Everitt threw out Baltimore manager Juan Samuel while he sat in the dugout during the eighth inning, which prompted Samuel to rush out and argue with him for another five minutes.
I’m definitely being picky here, I’ll admit it.
W: Jon Lester (10-3)
L: Jeremy Guthrie (3-10)