35-25: Sox take 3 of 4 at Baltimore

It appears that the Baltimore Orioles’ early season run of being not terrible might be over. Still, the Sox (or more precisely, Hideki Okajima) gave up the last game of the series; poised to win with just an inning and a half to go, that was a let down. I’m just looking forward to the Sox getting back to Fenway and their winning ways at home.

Game 1: Boston 5, Baltimore 2

Josh Beckett pitched well, lasting six innings and allowing two runs while fanning 10 Orioles, but ended up with another no-decision, as the Sox offense fell silent after posting two runs in the first against Daniel Cabrera. Beckett lacked his usual efficiency over six innings, throwing just 70 of 118 pitches for strikes. He hasn’t been able to command quite as well as last season, and hasn’t been able to blow people away as often; the Ks are still there, but hitters are fouling him off a bit more and staying alive up there. He gave up a dinger ro Aubrey Huff in the 4th that tied it up. Beckett’s HR rate is back up to 2006 levels, which is not a good sign.

On it went, tied 2-2 until the top of the 13th inning. The Orioles made an astounding 3 errors and a wild pitch in one frame, allowing Manny Ramirez to reach, and Mike Lowell to single him home for the winning run. The Sox padded the lead by using their baserunning to rattle the O’s; the slow-footed Lowell and Kevin Youkilis both swiped bags, and Julio Lugo took second on a defensive indifference. In fact, the Sox tied a team record by stealing six bases in the game off of Ramon Hernandez. That guy should not be a starting catcher any more. Jacoby Ellsbury just abused Hernandez, going 3-7 with a double and stealing 3 bases, moving him to 23 on the season.

Great game for the bullpen, who turned in 6 scoreless innings. Craig Hansen, especially, looked sharp over 1 2/3 innings, striking out two. He only needed 22 pitches to get the job done. Mike Timlin (3-3) didn’t look sharp, but he tossed a scoreless frame and got the win. Jonathan Papelbon closed it out for his 15th save on the season.

One question, Tito: What was up with the suicide squeeze in the 2nd inning?

Game 2: Boston 6, Baltimore 3

Manny Ramirez finally hit number 500, a long one . You could almost see this one coming, as he smacked a loud fly ball to left in his first at-bat. Manny was locked in this game.

Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz hit back-to-back homers in the 3rd. Ortiz’s was a really long ball to centerfield. That’s a very good sign. In the 9th, however, Ortiz had to come out in the middle of an at-bat after fouling a ball off to left; his wrist was in pain. Sean Casey took over with a full count, and flied out. That could be bad news.

Jacoby Ellsbury just continues to wreak havoc on the diamond. He stole another three bases tonight, stretched a double into a triple, and drew a bad pickoff throw just by glancing at second base. Oh, and I should probably mention the way he scored on that sacrifice fly by Papi in the 7th. Not many players can make it home on one of those, and Ells beat a good throw to the dish.

Just a so-so performance by Jon Lester; the guy just needs to throw more strikes, I don’t know how else to say it. David Aardsma (2-1) tossed two good innings in relief, and Hideki Okajima and Jonathan Papelbon finished it off cleanly.

J.D. Drew is out with vertigo? Didn’t Coco Crisp have that earlier this year? What’s in the water over there?

Game 3: Boston 9, Baltimore 4

Bartolo Colon (3-0) continues to be a boon for the Red Sox, turning in his third solid start in as many attempts. Colon actually went out to start the 7th, but ran out of gas, hitting a man and walking one; one of those men would score off of Javier Lopez.

The Sox jumped all over Baltimore starter Brian Burres (4-5), scoring 7 runs and knocking him out of the game after just four innings. The offense mustered 16 hits in this one. Manny Ramirez followed up his milestone with number 501, and added a single and a double to go 3-5 with 3 RBI for the game.

Really nice to see Craig Hansen and Manny Delcarmen pitch clean, scoreless innings. They both need to build up confidence with several of these in a row.

Dustin Pedroia continues to showcase his defensive abilities. After doing it again in the 6th, he is about ready to patent that fully extended dive to his right, getting up and throwing the runner out move. I think we should call it “the Pedroia”. Then in the 7th, Pedroia barehanded a toss from Julio Lugo at second, pivoted, and converted a double play on Nick Markakis, who has above-average speed. He made another nice diving play on speedy Brian Roberts in the 9th. Pedey has been knocked in the past for his size, lack of athleticism and range, but he is proving to be quite the defensive asset for the Sox.

Game 4: Boston 3, Baltimore 6

Tim Wakefield turned in his second straight quality outing, and left the game with the Sox ahead 3-2 in the 8th, but Hideki Okajima suffered a meltdown which ended in a 4-run 8th inning for Baltimore. The O’s comeback was capped by very hard line shot by rookie Adam Jones which narrowly missed being a home run; it ended up being a 3-run double. A disappointing way to wind up the series, no doubt, but they did take 3 of the 4 games, so we can’t really complain.

Okajima exhibited the worst command of his Red Sox career; he seemed to have trouble finding the plate with his changeup and curve, giving up three consecutive singles before Kevin Millar‘s long sac fly tied the game at 3-3. Luke Scott weakly grounded out, and Kevin Youkilis made a heads up play to nail Melvin Mora going home. Okajima then walked Ramon Hernandez on four pitches, and threw the fateful belt-high fastball right down the middle to Jones. With Craig Hansen and Javier Lopez ready to go, where was Francona during all of this? I understand that Okajima has a track record and everything, but he clearly didn’t have it this game. He should have been gone after the play on Scott.

But perhaps the biggest blow of the night was the news that David Ortiz would be going on the disabled list with a partially torn tendon sheath in his left wrist. Mixed reports have him in a wrist cast for at minimum two weeks to a month. There is a remote chance that he could require season-ending surgery, and even if he came back, it is likely he would not be as effective.

Manny Ramirez homered for the 3rd straight game, and that at least is very good news with Big Papi on the shelf. We need him now more than ever.

Baltimore closer George Sherrill is picking up a ton of trade value, and the rebuilding Orioles might get an offer they can’t refuse from a contender come July. He’s a great reliever, though his across-the-body delivery makes me wonder about his longevity a little bit.


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