23-14: Sox take 3 of 4 in Detroit

The Red Sox kept the momentum going from the sweep of Tampa, and really took it to Detroit this series. We are beginning to put some distance between us and the rest of the Division. Whoa, deja vu. The Tigers have an elite offense when healthy, but it sure doesn’t look healthy to me. Gary Sheffield and Miguel Cabrera are nursing injuries; that and an underperforming pitching staff has ensured their poor start.

Game 1: Boston 6, Detroit 3

Daisuke Matsuzaka (5-0) set a career high in a dubious category in this one – 8 walks. Still, he got some good defense backing him, and he bore down when he had to, and ended up giving up just one run on two hits plus the free passes. It seemed that he just couldn’t locate his fastball in this one, and Matsuzaka has attributed that to his lingering flu. I would like to see Dice-K pitch a little more to contact in order to increase his pitch efficiency and go deeper in games. We need innings out of our #2.

Fresh from Pawtucket, Craig Hansen made his second appearance of the year for the Sox, and pitched a 1-2-3 6th inning, only to get into trouble in the 7th. He was clearly struggling, despite getting the big double play ball from Magglio Ordonez, and I would have yanked him at least before he faced Gary Sheffield. Hideki Okajima came in and promptly gave up a 2-RBI single, this time to Marcus Thames. What is going on here? I think opponents must be keying in on some pattern Okajima’s been following to his first hitter.

Jim Leyland’s “drastic lineup changes” didn’t help much, and sabermetricians will tell you as much. It was interesting to see Ivan Rodriguez batting 9th for the first time since 1992, but he has experienced a major power outage in recent years.

The Sox hit three solo home runs in this one. Kevin Youkilis hit his second HR in as many games, and it was good to see Mike Lowell hit one out that wasn’t a Monster fly. David Ortiz went 2-4 with an RBI single and hit his 6th HR on the year; how’s that for playing though pain?

Game 2: Boston 5, Detroit 0

A dominating start and some relief for the bullpen came from an unexpected source: Tim Wakefield (3-1). He pitched 8 innings of two-hit ball, struck out 6, and most impressively, walked nobody. With the knuckleball dancing its controlled chaos, Wakefield was able to throw a lot of fastballs for strikes, and he used more slow benders to fool guys. That’s when you know he is in top form. At one point, Wake retired 17 men in a row; awesome. This is the kind of start that can really pick a team up. Mike Timlin pitched a scoreless 9th to finish it off, getting a key double-play ball out of Placido Polanco.

Wakefield credited John Farrell and Kevin Cash with a mechanical adjustment that may have helped him in this start. Speaking of crediting Cash, I don’t know what’s more impressive, his 3-4 night or his catching job (no passed balls, no wild pitches). That makes two 3-hit performances in his last three games. He says he’s been studying Dustin Pedroia in BP.

David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez hit back-to-back HRs for the Nth time, with Manny launching the first pitch he saw from rookie Freddy Dolsi (in his Major League debut) out to center for his 497th career HR. Poor kid. He’s still got hope; Cla Meredith turned out okay. Youkilis continues to be red-hot, notching two more doubles in this game. If he, Papi and Manny get on a roll simultaneously, watch out. It was good to see Papi hitting a lefty, and going the other way with the ball; he narrowly missed a double down the left field line when the liner he smacked before the HR went foul.

Game 3: Boston 9, Detroit 10

The Sox came SO close in this one. They fall behind, and they don’t give up. Ever. And they were set to win this one. But whenever they needed a run, the Tigers manged to eke out infield hits and just get on base somehow. What can you do about bleeders that make it through the infield, just out of the reach of defenders? Clay Buchholz had trouble in this one, after three consecutive quality starts. He ran into trouble in the 3rd and 4th innings, not being able to get key strikes and throwing a lot of pitches. His changeup seemed to ride up in the zone, and that was a big reason for the 4-run 3rd.

The 5th inning was pretty frustrating for the Sox. Julian Tavarez came on and did what he does best, get a bushel of ground balls, but they all seemed to evade Boston infielders. Two squibbers and an infield hit later, we’re looking at the makings of a 3-run inning for the Tigers.

Kevin Youkilis homered twice, and Mike Lowell hit the tying 3-run shot in the 7th. Man, this Tigers bullpen needs some help; look for Dave Dombrowski to engineer a trade somewhere. I like that David Ortiz inside-outed a pitch in the 5th for his RBI-single. Being able to go opposite field has always been a key for him against the shift.

Is something the matter with Manny Ramirez? On a 3-1 count in the 7th inning, Zach Miner blew him away with a 94 mph heater up and over the plate. You rarely see Manny swing through something like that. He ended up walking in that at-bat, but his increased strikeouts this season has me wondering…

Jacoby Ellsbury stole another two bases tonight, but despite going on a changeup, Ivan Rodriguez made it pretty close at second base. You might see Ellsbury be more cautious with Pudge in the future.

Why does Javier Lopez make me nervous with every pitch? With his fastball in the high 80s, he is very hittable. He doesn’t have an out pitch, therefore is at the mercy of good hitters like Placido Polanco who stay alive and wait for him to make a mistake.

Top of the 8th, with two outs and runners on 1st and 2nd, Pedroia gets a pinch-hit RBI-single, making him 5-7 lifetime as a pinch hitter. Pedey could take this up as a profession; his last pinch-hit produced a game tying double against the Cleveland Indians in a come-from-behind win on April 20.

Ask Gary Sheffield if he’s still impressed with Hideki Okajima. With two on and one out in the 8th, he got him way off balance on a splitter outside, then on a fastball high and in. Then Okajima struck him out on another splitter; with the runners going, Magglio Ordonez was out easily at third.

The bottom of the 9th was ridiculous. The Tigers get a leadoff infield hit and then reach on Lugo’s bobble. Lugo has admitted that he was thinking lead runner on a slow roller, and that caused the error. Ironic that it happened on a ball hit by Edgar Renteria. Placido Polanco hits a broken bat bloop just over shortstop for the walkoff win. Ridiculous. Said Polanco after the game:

It tells you a lot about our team… we had some really tough at-bats against Papelbon to make something happen.

Yeah, it tells me that the only way you guys can win right now is by the thinnest of margins and sheer luck. Jonathan Papelbon gets his first blown save of the year and the loss, even though they didn’t hit anything hard against him. That’s crap, and that’s why Paps was so upset after the game. Sure, they had a lot of hits tonight, but this was a lame comeback. Detroit needs to watch the Sox and learn how to do it right.

Game 4: Boston 5, Detroit 1

The Sox offense jumped on Justin Verlander (1-6) early, singling and bunting him to death and scoring three times in the 2nd. See how you like that, Detroit! And if you spot Josh Beckett (4-2) three runs early on, that’s usually all he needs. Beckett didn’t walk a batter, threw an amazing 73 of 102 pitches for strikes, and the stamina looks to be there. With 8 Ks tonight (Curtis Granderson 4 times!), he went over 1,000 strikeouts in his short but illustrious career. While he wasn’t bringing the velocity he had early on, Beckett was showing very good command of his pitches; he’s definitely joined a new echelon of pitchers since last season.

Kevin Youkilis, batting cleanup, added a 2-run homer to left in the 5th for his seventh blast of the year, and his 5th one in May alone. Didn’t somebody mention something about him maybe showing more power this season? Oh, yeah, that was me.

It was kind of frustrating to see Varitek get stranded at second and then at third in the 8th. His speed means that you gotta send the ball deep for him to tag up. If that’s Ellsbury, Crisp or Lugo there, they probably score. But that’s nit-picking.

It was interesting to see Craig Hansen pitch the 8th. There’s a lot to like, including his seemingly effortless fastball, which was coming in at 93-94 mph. His slider was just dropping off the table tonight, and it had some pretty good two-plane action to it; just ask Magglio Ordonez, who looked pretty bad swinging at one low and away. Is it just me, or does Hansen do everything with his upper body only? I’d like to see him push off more with his legs for some extra oomph as well as to avoid potential long-term arm issues.

Congratulations to Manny Delcarmen for finally looking in the mirror and shaving that monstrosity off his chin. MDC, you look a lot better, and you pitch better too. Oh, and kudos to Dustin Pedroia for yet another incredible diving grab in the 9th. These are becoming routine for him, it seems.

Manny watch: He’s at 497 career HR, and he got today off. Just more juice for tomorrow, right?

Jacoby watch: He’s at 22 consecutive SB and counting. Just 5 more to tie Tim Raines‘ record.

It’s on to Minnesota for a four-game series against the Twins.


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