20-13: Sox hand Rays a real sweep

The Boston Red Sox swept the Rays in three Fenway games this weekend. In contrast to the three games in Tampa last weekend (in which Boston could have easily taken two games), the Red Sox took these games by a combined margin of 26-10. There’s been a lot of talk about how good the Rays are now. No doubt, they’ve improved by leaps and bounds, but they are not quite equals with the class of the league just yet.

After a brutal 5-game stretch in which the offense scored only 8 runs total, the bats came alive in this series at Fenway, with Dustin Pedroia (7-14, 2 2B, 4 RS, 5 RBI) and Kevin Youkilis (4-9, 2 2B, HR, 5 RBI, 4 BB) leading the way. The Red Sox had at least 11 hits in each of the three games (ouch!). It clearly made a big difference for Jacoby Ellsbury (4-11, 2B, 4 BB, 5 RS, 3 SB) to be back atop the lineup. It was also nice to see David Ortiz also go 4-9 with two doubles, though his aching knee forced him to sit out game 3. The pitching staff put down the Rays handily in all three games, with the three Sox starters going 19 1/3 IP with an overall 2.79 ERA and each being credited with wins.

With the sweep, the Sox are again in sole possession of first place in the AL East and are tied with the Angels for the best record in the AL. This is a great position to be in, with other teams trying to overcome bad starts and personnel issues.

Game 1: Boston 7, Tampa 3

After a two and a half hour rain delay (the game ended at almost 1AM, and I’ve never seen the Fenway boxes so empty), Clay Buchholz (2-2) went just 5 1/3 innings, but that was due to some walk troubles and elevated pitch counts in the 2nd and 3rd innings. Brandon Moss threw out Evan Longoria at the plate in the second to prevent Tampa from scoring. His stuff was good, and he didn’t allow a run until the fifth, when another walk cost him on a double by Carl Crawford and a wild pitch. As many have noted, it was nice to see him work well under pressure, retiring hitters when he needed to get big outs. As with Dice-K last year, it’s an important part of the learning process for a big-league pitcher.

It was nice to see the offense get kick-started, and they treated Edwin Jackson (2-3) the way he outght to be treated. You get the sense that Boston felt like they owed Tampa Bay something for the sweep in Florida. The Sox put together a 2-out, 5-run rally in the 4th inning on a Moss homer, Jason Varitek single, Julio Lugo walk and three more consecutive singles by Ellsbury, Pedroia and Ortiz. Pedroia had three hits and 3 RBI, and Mike Lowell had his first two-hit game (and first XBH) since returning from the DL. Ellsbury got on base 3 of 6 times, and stole his ninth base of the year. Lugo had two hits and a walk, but he made another throwing error which cost the Sox runs in the 7th.

Moss had to get an emergency appendectomy after this game, and will miss some time. I haven’t heard when he’s expected to rejoin the team, but it usually takes 4-6 weeks for a 100% recovery.

Game 2: Boston 12, Tampa 4

Josh Beckett (3-2) had plenty of support for this game, and while the results weren’t as good as usual, he went a strong 8 innings for the win. It wasn’t his best stuff, but it was good to see the walks back down, which is what you expect out of Beckett. Manny Ramirez made a very good throw to nail Carlos Pena at the plate in the 4th, and probably prevented a big inning. Is this going to be a regular thing with these Rays, getting thrown out at home? That’s not very good baserunning, showing these Rays are still a little raw.

Boston knocked around starter James Shields (3-2) tonight, and the Rays’ bullpen didn’t fare much better. Tampa’s staff has been excellent before this series, and I think what we’re seeing here is a little statistical regression. Though improved, they just aren’t as good as the numbers they were putting up.

Game 3: Boston 7, Tampa 3

Sox starter Jon Lester (2-2) made his second consecutive quality outing, going six innings and allowing just one run on 4 hits and 3 walks. Rays lefty Scott Kazmir (0-1), in his first start back from the DL because of a throwing elbow issue, showed a good deal of rust. Manny Delcarmen looked underwhelming in this series, and you gotta wonder if his head is alright after some confidence issues lately. Hideki Okajima pitched another 1 1/3 scoreless innings, but allowed another inherited runner to score. That makes 6 of 8 inherited runners scoring on him this season; last year he only allowed 4 of 28 inherited runners to score all year. Does he need some more time to warm up or something? Or perhaps he’s being too predictable this year with the first hitter he faces?

Youkilis went 3-4 with two doubles and a HR in this one, driving in 4 runs. It was fun to see the Sox baserunners giving Tampa a little payback, as they swiped 5 bases off of Shawn Riggans and Dioner Navarro without getting caught once. The Rays have been running often on the Sox, and have stolen 5 bases in the two series and been caught once. It’s been a while since we had a team that could even do this kind of aggressive baserunning; it’s a nice change.

Next up, the surging Detroit Tigers, in Motown.


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