They took 2 of 3 games from the visiting Angels, but it’s hard to get excited about the Red Sox winning this series. We’re nearing the end of August and the same problems that have plagued the team all season have yet to be resolved.
Case in point– Josh Beckett actually raised his monstrously ugly ERA to 6.67 last night by allowing 6 runs in 6.1 innings. He surrendered 2 walks and 7 hits, one of which was a 3-run jack by Hideki Matsui, while striking out 6. It was a maddening performance; 5 scoreless innings followed by a hideous meltdown.
This is not the Josh Beckett we’ve come to know over the year. Not at all. This guy is hittable. This guy makes bad mistakes with his pitches, and seems to do so at the worst possible moments. And guess what fellow Sox fans? It’s this guy whom Boston just inked to a hefty extension. Can any us have confidence that he’ll bounce back next season? While it’s important to try and remain optimistic, his whole 2010 has given us the sickening sensation that we’re watching a pitcher who either doesn’t care or can’t find his stuff.
That’s what the club just paid for. And if that’s what we’re all stuck with for the foreseeable future, I’ll be bald in no time. Because starts like the one on Thursday have me tearing my hair out in chunks.
After holding the Angels scoreless through 5 and hanging onto a 1-0 lead borne from David Ortiz’s 27th homer of the year, Beckett lost it in the sixth. He managed to get Bobby Abreu to ground out, but then yielded back-to-back doubles to Macier Izturis and Alberto Callaspo. Tie game. Then Torii Hunter reached on an infield single to third baseman Adrian Beltre. And with 2 men on, Matsui launched a 4-5-foot bomb to center.
Just like that, it was 4-1 L.A.
Beckett came back out for the seventh; I’ve been critical of Terry Francona’s decision-making when it comes to managing pitchers, but I didn’t have a problem with Beckett’s return. Most of his night had been excellent, and I was willing to believe that the sixth was 1 bad inning of the sort that has been so detrimental to Boston’s season. But that was not the case, because after striking out Jeff Mathis to open the frame, Beckett failed to handled a Peter Bourjos bunt and walked Abreu to put 2 more runners on.
Tito pulled him for Manny Delcarmen, but that proved to be a terrible mistake. Delcarmen walked Izturis, Hunter, and Matsui around an RBI-groundout by Callaspo. 3 walks, 4 batters faced, and a 6-1 lead for the Angels.
Scott Atchison eventually stopped the bleeding, but not before he gave up an infield single to Howie Kendrick that pushed the lead to 7-1.
A Marco Scutaro single and a sac fly by Beltre eventually made it 7-2, but the Sox never threatened. Adding injury to insult, Dustin Pedroia sat out with soreness in his foot.
But as I can’t bear to discuss the possibility of further injuries, let me instead raise a minor but salient point. In my 30 years of watching baseball I can’t remember ever seeing so many infield hits. Is it how this team positions itself? Is it poor reflexes? It seems that hardly a game goes by where some opponent isn’t taking first on a pathetic dribbler or a mishandled bunt. This is depressing as hell, considering the club’s pointed effort to build a defensive power in the off-season.
At the risk of being blunt, it’s a joke.
It’s one thing to see the Howie Kendricks of the world beating out a ball rolled up the third base line, but the Sox are allowing these to anyone and everyone. Just last week it was Vlad Guerrero.
These piddling hits may not be one of Boston’s more pressing concerns, but from the fan’s point of view they’re entirely representative of the team’s larger struggles. Is it as simple as a lack of fundamentals?
It’s only fair to point out that the Sox did win on Wednesday, 7-5. They did so no thanks to John Lackey, who had yet another lackluster start in a season chock full of them. His ERA isn’t as twisted as Beckett’s but 4.62 is nothing to be proud of.
At least Lackey remains a horse who goes deep into games; his 7 innings spared the bullpen some wear and tear, but the 10 hits he allowed kept the D on its toes. Lackey walked none and struck out 5 in the win.
Boston opened the scoring in the first with walks to Dustin Pedroia and Ortiz and a single by Beltre. L.A. struck back in the third with a solo shot by Mike Napoli, then took the lead in the fourth when Matsui doubled and scored on a Kendrick single to right.
Turnabout being fair play, Bill Hall homered in the bottom of inning to re-tie the game at 2-2.
In the fifth, the Angels did some real damage. Singles by Abreu and Reggie Willits set the table for a 3-run homer by Callaspo that made it 5-2 L.A., though they held that advantage only briefly. With the Sox up again, Victor Martinez doubled off of Scott Kazmir and Beltre drilled a 2-run tape-measure blast to center that trimmed the lead to 5-4.
And in the seventh, Boston took advantage of reliever Kevin Jepsen to ice the game. Martinez reached on an infield single to third…so I suppose those do occasionally go in our favor as well. Big Papi doubled, Mike Lowell walked. Jepsen hurt himself with a wild pitch, then intentionally walked J.D. Drew to set up the double play. Unfortunately he plunked Daniel Nava, which forced in the go-ahead run: 6-5 Boston.
A Scutaro double and an RBI single by Martinez added some insurance in the eighth. Daniel Bard toosed a scoreless inning after Lackey’s departure and Jonathan Papelbon worked the ninth for his 30th save.
So in all, it could be consider a successful series. But to think that way, one must ignore the fact that the Angels are weak this year and that the Sox won despite their inability to get out of their own way. This continues to look like a team at odds with itself, not a playoff contender.
On a side note, Jacoby Ellsbury is likely done for the year after hurting his ribs for the third time this year.
The Blue Jays come to town on Friday. Brett Cecil faces Jon Lester in the series opener. Boston will enter the weekend set 6.5 games behind New York and 5.5 behind Tampa. We’re getting close to the point of no return, folks.