In his debut start of 2010, Detroit’s Armando Galarraga delivered exactly what the Tigers had hoped for. With 5.2 innings of 1-run baseball, the 28 year old righty kept Detroit from delving too deeply into its bullpen– that was critical after Tigers’ relievers had to throw 5.2 innings of their own in Saturday’s extra-innings win.
Galarraga limited the Sox to only 3 hits and 3 walks while striking out 5. His counterpart, John Lackey, wasn’t nearly as successful. Though he ultimately lasted 7 innings, the second through fourth cost him the 5 earned runs that won Detroit the 3-game series. Lackey allowed 9 hits and 4 walks. He struck out 4.
The trouble for Lackey began in the second, when Miguel Cabrera and Alex Avila walked around the frame’s first 2 outs and a Don Kelly single. And infield hit by Daniel Worth and the inning’s third walk, to Johnny Damon, pushed across the game’s first 2 runs.
In the top of the third, Boston struck back with 1 run scored on a pair of doubles by Jonathan Van Every and Jeremy Hermida. But Detroit pushed the lead back to 2 runs in the bottom of the inning. Magglio Ordonez and Brenna Boesch singled, and Ordonez scored from third on a fielder’s choice by Brandon Inge.
Shortstop Ramon Santiago then struck the biggest blow with a 2-out, 2-run homer in the fourth. That put the score at 5-1 which became the final thanks to relief by Jeremy Bonderman, Fu-Te Ni, Ryan Perry, and Jose Valverde. Scott Schoeneweis pitched a scoreless eighth for Boston.
After winning Friday’s game to open the series, Boston dropped the next 2 and now heads to Yankee Stadium at the .500 mark. The 19-19 Red Sox desperately need a good showing in the Bronx; On Monday Daisuke Matsuzaka faces Phil Hughes, and Tuesday’s game will pit Josh Beckett against C.C. Sabathia, assuming Beckett’s back is healed.
2010′s wacky schedule continues with a pair of games against the Twins at Fenway, the lead-in to the first bit of interleague play. Boston will travel to Philadelphia next weekend for 3 with the Phillies, and will continue on to Tampa for 3 with the Rays.
This stretch of 10 games could be life or death for Boston’s playoff hopes. Even though it’s only May, the Red Sox can ill afford to fall too far behind the leaders in the East– with half of the 10 games coming against the Yanks and Rays, Boston is faced with 3 options. The team can seize the opportunity to close the gap ahead of it and claw within a few games of first place. It could also continue to play .500 baseball, alternating wins and losses. That would keep Tampa’s healthy buffer intact. Or the Sox could suffer series losses that would likely put them in a double-digit hole.
Regardless of how much of the season remains, it’s unreasonable to expect both Tampa and New York to suddenly begin playing poorly. Those 2 teams are strong, balanced, and likely headed toward 90 or more wins apiece.
The Red Sox still have the talent to shake off their early-season struggles and get back in the race. But at 7.5 games back, there is little room for more error. Though it’s far from panic time, Boston needs to get serious. Now.