24-19: Sox drop short series in Baltimore

Terry Francona wasn’t around, but Brad Mills did a fine job managing the Sox for this short series in Baltimore, apart from the 7th inning of game 2. I think the first game was bad more because of the injuries, rather than the loss itself, because the game was within reach. Game 2 just left a bad taste in my mouth. In both games, the long ball really hurt us, blowing leads and putting Baltimore ahead to stay. It is now a four game losing streak. The Sox really need to get back on track (and healthy) after this day off.

Game 1: Boston 4, Baltimore 5

It’s not often that you see Josh Beckett (4-3) blow a three-run lead. When the Sox exploded out of the gate in the top of the 1st, I pretty much thought the game was over. Jeremy Guthrie (2-3) looked quite hittable, despite some pretty decent stuff, and Kevin Millar was letting grounders go between his legs. But the Sox offense stalled, and the Orioles chipped away with three singles in the 2nd (one an infield hit by Adam Jones). Then in the 3rd, after an RBI-single by Millar, Luke Scott planted a mistake pitch into the right field stands to make it 5-3.

The Sox had some golden opportunities to score in the 7th and 8th innings. In the 7th, David Ortiz walked to load the bases with no one out, and Manny Ramirez took Jim Johnson 10 pitches deep, waiting for the one that would be number 499. But he ended up bouncing into a double play, the kind that doesn’t even score a run. Mike Lowell flied out to end the threat. In the 8th, two one-out walks and an Alex Cora single made it 5-4. Closer George Sherrill came on and got Sean Casey and Dustin Pedroia to end the inning. He then made short work of the heart of the order in the 9th.

Despite being on the recovery train, Jacoby Ellsbury had to come into the game in the 3rd, because you-know-who was injured on a tough play in the outfield. It seems like a sprain and not a break. Just when J.D. Drew‘s bat was coming around, he suffers another injury. He was in the midst of a 7-game hitting streak and is hitting .371/.463/.486 in the month of May. What exactly did he do to make God so mad at him?

Coco Crisp also had to leave the game in the 6th with an “upset stomach“, exposing the lack of outfield depth at the Major League level. Kevin Youkilis had to play in right and Ellsbury shifted to center. Uh, get ready to say hello to Brandon Moss again.

Game 2: Boston 3, Baltimore 6

Jon Lester got off to a great start against an aggressive Oriole lineup, and he had the best command of his fastball I think I’ve seen thus far. He was able to keep it down at the knees and use his cutter as an out pitch. He definitely didn’t have the curveball working today, but it didn’t really matter. He seemed to slow down the tempo in the 3rd when he got into trouble, and that did seem to hurt his control. He owes Manny Ramirez for that inning-ending full-tilt fly out, high-five and double play at first to end the 4th inning. That’s entertainment for you.

What I’m seeing out of Daniel Cabrera is that he’s finally given up on throwing the fastball as hard as he can, and that’s given him better control; FanGraphs has his average heater at 93.0 mph, down from 94.3 mph last year. He’s throwing 85.9% fastballs this year, and just pounding the plate inside and out, and that’s given him some pretty good success. I don’t foresee that strategy working for too long, as hitters will adjust, like the Red Sox did today (10 hits). He’ll have to throw that slider sometime, and that pitch, as well as avoiding walks, will dictate any further success. Cabrera seems to me more like an ideal reliever than a starter; with that hard sinking fastball, I think he could be a dominant closer to call out of the pen, but I guess Baltimore doesn’t have that luxury…

He’s a funny pitcher to watch, such a big guy with that slouching windup. His lumbering pickoff move won’t catch anybody at first base, so he should just give that up. He got a ton of ground outs, including three early double plays, but he just doesn’t have enough tricks up his sleeve to last much longer than 6 innings, I think.

Jacoby Ellsbury reached his first three times up, twice on infield hits, and immediately stole second. Dustin Pedroia then tried to bunt; the Sox were playing mind games with Cabrera, who blew up in a start last year when Coco Crisp bunted his way on, ran around the bases, then scored on a balk. Jason Varitek and Mike Lowell both hit fastballs for home runs, staking the Sox to a 3-0 lead.

Lester lost some feel on the fastball in the 6th, and I’m thinking, why isn’t John Farrell out there earlier, BEFORE two runs score? Lester was elevating his fastball with some mechanical issue; it looked like maybe he was shortening his stride too much and stepping towards the first base side a little bit on the slide step.

Brad Mills might have overmanaged the bullpen a little bit in the 7th; I think letting Hansen face Jay Payton would have been fine. What’s the worst he could have done, right? As it is, Hideki Okajima blows another inherited runner situation, and the game. Lester pitched well enough and deserved the win, but this is a blow. This time it was a hanging splitter, but it wasn’t in a terrible location. What in the world is wrong with the little lefty? Could he be tipping that pitch?

Frustration. The Sox outhit the O’s 12 to 8, but lose another one.


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