Yes, the Red Sox are still below .500.
Yes, they still have some rather serious issues to resolve before we as fans can relax and enjoy the season with confidence.
And yes, needing eleven innings to beat the A.L. Central’s last-place team is somewhat alarming.
Over the past couple of weeks, Boston has dropped series to the Orioles and Mariners, and lost badly to these Twins on Friday before capturing the final three games of the series. So in many ways, it’s been a rocky stretch as the the club claws back toward the even mark. But Monday’s win was, perhaps, a window to the future. A brief look at what we might expect from the Sox as current contracts end and adjustments are made for 2012 and beyond.
Namely, Carl Crawford getting a big hit. Shortstop-of-the-future Jose Iglesias tearing around the bases so fast that his feet barely touched the ground. And a winning run being scored by an unexpected duo.
The Sox are hardly firing on all cylinders, but there have been some positive signs of late. After his brutal start, Crawford seems to be returning to form. There have been nine days and nine games played in the month of May, and Crawford has hit in all of them. In fact, he is 13 for 36 this month (.361) with three doubles, a triple, and five runs scored.
Coveted for his mix of speed, hitting ability, and defense, Crawford is finally showing why the team was so excited to bring him on board. This was just one hit, his only hit, in one game. A game which finished with only three combined runs. But in the moment, in the bottom of eleventh when a walkoff hit was everyone’s fondest wish, Crawford delivered.
The man he drove in was the youngest shortstop to take the field for the Red Sox in nearly half a century. Only 21 years old, Jose Iglesias scored his first major league run in truly dramatic fashion on Monday. Starting shortstop Jed Lowrie drew a one-out walk and Terry Francona lifted him for Iglesias. It was a good move given the situation, although removing Lowrie’s bat from the lineup couldn’t have been an easy call for Tito.
As Crawford worked the count, Iglesias looked a little unsure at first. His inexperience was apparent and his lead off of the bag was a bit shorter than it might have been. And so when, on a full count, Crawford mashed a ball to the Monster, everyone watching knew that Iglesias would need to turn on the jets.
He did. Sort of.
Remember that this was the first time that Iglesias had been on the Fenway basepaths in a game. It was easy to understand why he hesitated at second base, waiting to see if the ball would be caught by Minnesota’s left-fielder Ben Revere. Over time, Iglesias will develop a knack for knowing when the wall is in play. And in the end, his pause made no difference.
With Crawford yelling “Go, go,” Iglesias took off like his pants were on fire. Revere fielded the ball as it ricocheted off of the Green Monster, flinging it toward home. But Iglesias was in safely under the tag.
His first run a game-winner.
Iglesias isn’t known as a burner. He doesn’t really steal bases. And as Francona quipped after the win, “he probably didn’t get [his lead] out as far as he could have, but he was probably running about as fast as he’ll ever run.” But watching him slide into home conjured thoughts of future Sox teams and what they might accomplish. Crawford and Iglesias are likely to be long-term fixtures, and fans can only hope that this was the first of many game-winning runs for which they will be responsible.
His current stint in the big leagues will end when Marco Scutaro returns from an oblique injury, but rest assured that Iglesias will be back to stay before you know it.
Amid the extra-inning drama, Jacoby Ellsbury also finished with a lone hit. But the single extended his hitting streak to 18 games. Here’s another key player in Boston’s future, suddenly hitting like the leadoff man that the Sox need him to be.
Josh Beckett was outstanding once again; six hits (all singles) and one walk over seven shutout innings.
Dustin Pedroia was on base twice and hit a double. Adrian Gonzalez had a pair of hits. And the Sox are on a three-game winning streak with a chance to get to .500 on Tuesday.
Is this finally the turning point we’ve been waiting for?