The Red Sox Performance Earlier This Week Was Truly Remarkable
As game time approached on Sunday, we learned from the NESN broadcast that Angels RHP Jered Weaver had been scratched from his start in Tampa, FL, due to a bout of intestinal flu. Red Sox Nation was told that he would start the first game of the Sox-Angels series at Fenway Park on Monday night. Frankly, I fretted after learning that little tidbit.
The Red Sox had just returned home from the longest road trip of the season. It was a road trip that was largely successful, but it had ended with the club dropping two-of-three games in Baltimore. The Sox then began their longest homestand of the season (an eleven game stretch) by dropping the first two games of a three-game set against the Seattle Mariners, and the scheduled starter for Seattle on Sunday was none other than â€œKing Felixâ€ Hernandez â€“ arguably the best pitcher in the American League.
The announcement regarding Weaver meant that the Red Sox would face Hernandez, Weaver and Dan Haren in consecutive games this week. For a team that was four games under .500 as play got underway on Sunday, it was a DAUNTING task. Not only is King Felix as good as there is in the AL, he has had exceptional success against the Red Sox and in Fenway Park during his still-brief big league career. And as the week started, Weaver (6-0, 0.99) and Haren (4-1, 1.23) were 1-2 in the American League in Earned Run Average.
There was a very real possibility the Sox would fall back to seven games under .500 by this morning.
But the resilient Red Sox celebrated May Day with a superb 3-2 win, thanks to a fantastic pitching performance from Tim Wakefield and a walk-off hit from the struggling Carl Crawford. On Monday night, the Sox lineup (especially Jason Varitek and Dustin Pedroia) wore down Weaver and forced him to the showers by the bottom of the seventh inning in a 3-2 gameâ€¦ and once they got into the Angels bullpen they abused the Halos relief corps en route to a 9-5 victory that was far closer than the final score would suggest. And then there was last nightâ€™s masterful performance by Jon Lester, who outlasted Haren in a 7-3 Red Sox triumph.
Of this weekâ€™s task, manager Terry Francona said: â€œWe faced some really good pitching. You go into those games knowing youâ€™re probably not going to knock them around, but we found ways to beat themâ€¦ They are some of the best pitchers in baseball and theyâ€™re hot. That was a tough chore.â€™â€™
It was a VERY tough chore. The Red Sox did not batter any of the three opposing startersâ€¦ maybe the best way of describing the last three days is to say they â€œoutlastedâ€ them. During the last two games they got into the Angels bullpen and battered them. But that was only possible because they received solid efforts from their own staff. While Hernandez, Weaver and Haren tossed 20 IP, allowing 9 ER and 23 baserunners (a 4.05 ERA and 1.15 WHIP), the Sox trio of Wakefield, Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester did them one better â€“ they threw 19.1 IP and surrendered just 4 ER and 21 baserunners (a 1.86 ERA and 1.09 WHIP). It wasnâ€™t a LOT better, but it didnâ€™t have to be.
The week started with the Red Sox looking down a gauntlet of superior pitching; but at mid-week the team has not only survived, it has prospered â€“ largely on the strength of its own pitching. The Olde Towne Team is now just one game under .500.
Honestly, at 12:55 PM on Sunday afternoon, I was not very hopeful I would be able to say thatâ€¦
But THAT is why they play the games!