It was perhaps the best performance of the season for Josh Beckett. With an 8-inning start that included only 1 run on 3 hits and no walks, the seemingly recovered ace powered his way through the Indians lineup with great command, striking out 8 batters and needing only 103 pitches to complete his night.
Cleveland’s only damage came on a solo home run by reserve catcher Lou Marson in the third. Shin-Soo Choo and Matt LaPorta managed singles, but the rest of the order was completely stymied.
It was Lowell’s first plate appearance since June 22nd, and his first start since June 13th. But he made it memorable, and made it count for Boston. The Sox tacked on another run in the fourth when Bill Hall went deep over the Green Monster.
That was the sum total of offense. Beckett rolled through his 8 innings and handed the ball off to Jonathan Papelbon. Paps wrapped things up by earning his 25thsave of the year. The most exciting moment, aside from Lowell’s blast, was in the eighth when Josh Beckett andClevelandreliever Jensen Lewis scuffled briefly, causing the benches to clear. Beckett was responding to a pitch that Lewis threw behind Adrian Beltre, and though there were no brawls, home plate umpire Tim Welke did run Beckett, Lewis, and Cleveland third base coach Steve Smith.
The only real downside was Youkilis’ absence as the club’s cavalcade of injuries continued. This one was as rare as it gets; Youk somehow tore a muscle in his thumb– something that he had never heard of before and something that doctors called “unusual”. The good news is that there appeared to be no damage to the tendon. That would have been a more severe injury. A torn muscle could possibly heal on its own, but if the tear is severe, it may require surgery.
If that’s the case, Youkilis would be done for the season, and in all likelihood, the Sox would be out of the playoff race. Taking a realistic view, it’s hard to imagine this club being able to make up a 6 game gap without Youkilis and with Dustin Pedroia still healing from a fractured foot.
This latest injury is merely one more on a list that stretches longer than the Charles. Boston has now used 48 different player on the season. Only 4 players on the current full roster have yet to see action, and one of those– Jarrod Saltalamacchia– just joined the team last week. The Sox have had to use more players than any team in baseball, and despite the almost unbelievable number of injuries still have one of the best teams in the game.
If the club played in any other division, all of the suffering might have merely been an inconvenience. In baseball’s toughest division, it could prove a death sentence. However, there is still hope.
Jacoby Ellsbury is expected to return in the next couple of days and should be a welcome addition to the top of the order. Andthough he’s not as reliable as he used to be, Mike Lowell is still around and can still swing a bat. The loss of Youkilis might be felt even more keenly had they, for example, swapped Lowell out for a bullpen arm.
Still, the uphill battle just got steeper and the already razor-thin margin for error just disappeared entirely.
Boston must continue to win, beginning with Wednesday’s game against the Tribe. Jon Lester will take on former Sox Justin Masterson.