Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Byrd Bounced, But Beckett Better

OK, not the world’s best weekend for our Boston Red Sox. While I usually don’t expect to win a series on the road, this is one of the times you think they’d at least split. Especially since their two aces were scheduled to appear.
Just when you thought that the Sox had picked up an aging free agent that actually worked, Paul Byrd blew up on Friday night. To be fair, blew up might be a harsh term. He got nibbled and nibbled to death. It’s the sort of performance the Derek Lowe was famous for. A liner off an infielder’s glove. A blooper just over the infield. A dribbler that just makes it through. Just as you’re telling yourself that things aren’t so bad, they go crazy. Franona can’t exactly pull a guy for giving up a bloop and a dribbler. But, before you know it, they’re down seven runs and on the way to a laugher. I don’t know if that shows anything for next time. Was that just a run of bad luck, or does it mean that Byrd’s hittable? Only time will tell.
Once again Jon Lester showed everyone why he’s one of the bright young stars in this league. He passed the 200-strikeout mark, which is pretty remarkable. Thinking back to the inconsistent Lester of a few years ago, who would have thought he’d be in the games long enough to reach 200 K’s? 200 walks, maybe. This shows exactly the kind of progression that requires patience with young pitchers. After a couple years of being “blah”, it wouldn’t have been way off to wonder if Lester would ever get it. It looks like he’s done exactly that. It’s another reason that Clay Buchholz deserved a little time…even thought he’s older than Lester was at the same stage of his career.
Of course the bigger start of the weekend belonged to Josh Beckett. Not only was it a pretty good pitching match-up, but you had to wonder what, exactly, Beckett would give you. While he drew the loss, I’m pretty encouraged with the way Beckett performed. He continued with the high school English pitching. He gave up a couple walks this time, but didn’t give up a home run. He put together one of those “quality starts.” While you can argue how “quality” seven innings of 3-run ball is, it’s better than he had been doing. Quite honestly, if Beckett goes seven innings, and give up 3 runs, the Sox will win quite a few of his starts. I’d say things are looking up.
A couple nice things happen for the Sox in the coming weeks. First, they start a smooth 8-game homestand. Any long stretch at home is much appreciated. They also start it off with a couple games against the Orioles. While I hesitate to look past them, I’d prefer to face them than a lot of other teams. They also have an amazing two days off in the next week. So, if anyone is looking for a rest, now’s the time. The bad news? That’s the last rest the Sox will get all season. After the O’s, the Sox host Tampa and LA. Those aren’t exactly cupcakes. Also, after playing LA, the Sox head out on a 10-day 10-game road trip. While it starts with Baltimore and KC, any trip that long and packed is never a good thing. And, true to form, the schedulers made it extra tough on the Sox by scheduling the Yankees series as the last three games of the trip. Why does it always seem that the Sox go the Bronx at the end of a long road trip? Oh, right. It’s because they do. In May, they closed out a 9-game/10 day trip with a couple in NY. In August, they closed out another 9-game/10 day trip with four in the Bronx. The 10-game/10 day trip next week is even worse. (Usually the Yankees are just finishing up a nice homestand when the Sox come calling. Often with a day off the day before the series opener. Or does it just feel that way?) Would have been nice to start in NY and close in Baltimore. But, that’s the way it goes.
No matter what, the Sox need these next two.

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