I do find it amusing that I live in a town where the baseball team owns the best record in the majors, is second in the majors in ERA, 8th in defense, 4th in runs scored and 6 1/2 up on the second place team in the division yet you hear nothing but doom and gloom on the radio. C'mon guys, really? I know it's been tough losing hold of a seemingly insurmountable 14 1/2 game lead (reminiscent of 1978, I know) but it hasn't been like the Sox have been stinking out the joint.
Let's hope that yesterday's twin-killing combined with today's massacre of the hapless ChiSox (35 runs scored in three games) is the start of a resurgence of the Sox bats. We know that Papi has been coming on strong. He's been lights out the last couple of weeks. Lugo and Crisp have finally turned things around. Lowell has continued to be Lowell of 2003 hitting for both power and average. Pedroia is rookie of the year material and Youkilis is finally showing signs of coming out of his two month slump.
So back to the title of this post... The thing I've been most impressed with this season (and a major but often uncited reason for the Sox's success this season) is the production from their 4th and 5th pitchers. During the last few years, the no. 5 in particular was a killer. Last year they marched out a dozen options in the five slot -- Snyder, Tavarez, Hansack, Dinardo, Johnson, Lester, etc. -- with very little success. Lester offered the most stability in that slot but that was short-lived after his diagnosis with cancer.
This year, the Sox have had much better production out of the 4th spot -- Wake has 16 "league leading" wins and has been mostly untouchable -- and that's led to less stress on the bullpen. The 5th slot hasn't been quite as reliable as Wake but it's done pretty darn good. Tavarez (see my earlier post, Julian Rising) has been a better than serviceable fifth starter. Lester has been good, not great. One might argue that 9-10 isn't exactly something to jump up and down about but given the fact that many of those starters by the no. 5 pitcher have been quality (or at least 5+ innings) has been a godsend. It's one of the reasons that the Sox bullpen has been near the tops in the majors this year.
A few other random notes to mention:
- * When I saw the score of the Rangers and O's game the other night, 30-3 with our own, Kason Gabbard (6-1) getting the win, I thought it was a misprint. I thought to myself, that's got to be some sort of a record. Well, in fact it was the most runs scored in an MLB game since 1940. Pretty amazing.
- * Think Doug Mirabelli has polished off his resume yet? Cash has looked pretty darn respectable in catching two of Wakie's games so far. Oh yeah, he may not hit much but he's got the same average as Mirabelli, makes 50% what he does and he's 7 years younger.
- * Amazing how much more polished the Pats looked in their third game last night. Supposedly, this is the one that counts the most in the pre-season as the starters traditionally don't play more than a few downs in the final exhibition. Barring any injuries, the defense is going to be ruthless this year.
Big series between the Sox and the Yankees next week. To be honest, I'd love to see the Sox win every game 1-0 just to tweak the Yankees noses. Probably won't happen. In fact, if I were a betting man, I'd say the games are going to go 4-2, 7-5, and 2-1. My money is on the Sox winning the first and last games.
Anyone miss Wily Mo yet?