We knew the Sox weren't going to be able to maintain their frenetic pace. What we didn't know was that the Tampa Bay D-Rays were going to be the buzz saw that brought a hot streak of 14 wins in 15 games to a screeching halt.
Rather then go to immediately to the negative (the Boston Globe is sure to do that for me), I'm going to take this opportunity to point out a few of the D-Rays positives instead. I have to say, this is a team that looks to be just two starting pitchers, a closer, and a middle relief pitcher from being at least in the hunt. They're hitting about .275 as a team and have more HRs than the Sox. They also have a bonified ace in Kazmir (just ask the Sox hitters) and a solid fourth or fifth starter in Fossum.
I know it's easy to say that a team is two starting pitchers, a closer, and a good middle relief pitcher away from being in the hunt -- it's sort of like saying the San Francisco 49ers are a QB, running back, two wide receivers, and a couple of good defensive backs away from being a Super Bowl team. However, it does seem like Tampa Bay is closer then they've been in a while.
For one, they have a manager in Joe Maddon who doesn't act like an angry 10 year old every time something doesn't go his way. Tampa also doesn't seem to be falling into the rut of going after guys that are 3-5 years past their prime e.g. "Fred McGriff." Instead the D-Rays are happy to let the young guys like Crawford, Gomes, and Baldelli go out and compete (hard to believe that after 4-5 years in the bigs, these guys are still 24, 25, and 24 respectively.)
On a side note, is there any chance for Jason Johnson's next start, the Sox can have him pitch two simulated innings in the bullpen and then come out and start the game in what would be his 3rd inning? Two games in a row he's killed the Sox by giving up 5 runs early only to have the bullpen hold serve for the rest of the game. I know, I said I wasn't going to be negative but let's chalk this up to "constructive criticism."
Looking forward to starting another major winning streak tonight in the last game of the set with the D-Rays and then continuing that streat tomorrow night against the ChiSox. Great pitching match-ups in each of the three weekend games (Lester vs. Buehrle, Beckett vs. Garcia, and Schilling vs. Contreras). Let's hope those games look as good in reality as they do on paper.