They weren't supposed to do it last night. All the explanations and excuses were lined up in advance. Verlander was on the mound for Detroit. The Sox' #5 starter Bard was facing him. It seemed a foregone conclusion that the Sox would lose. But they didn't.
If you're going to wait until May 29th to go over .500, you'd better make it special. Or at least interesting. And the Sox did that. They got to Verlander, one of the top pitchers in the game. Bard had a very Bardlike game, but Valentine was able to retrieve him before any major damage was done. The bullpen did a solid job finishing the game. And Aceves didn't allow a homerun.
The Sox got 10 hits off Verlander, including 3 doubles. They also got 4 hits with runners in scoring position. Verlander's ERA increased 0.40 thanks to the 5 runs he allowed in 6 innings last night. It increased 18.6% from 2.15 to 2.55. If that happened to Beckett's ERA, it'd go up 0.77 points.
Daniel Nava's 3 run double in the 4th was the biggest hit of the season. There were 2 outs, the bases loaded, a full count, and the game would turn on the next pitch. Verlander would either escape the jam and the Tigers would eventually score on Bard and have a good chance to win. Or, Nava would get a hit, give Bard a cushion, and put the Sox in the driver's seat.
After that, the Sox didn't mess up and lose control of the game. The bullpen did its job. Ortiz had an RBI double in the 5th and a solo homerun in the 7th to pad the lead. Detroit's not a very good offensive team (9th in the AL in runs scored), and the Sox took advantage of that.
Ortiz has returned to his role as the heart of the Red Sox lineup. He leads the team in the following categories: runs, doubles, homeruns, total bases, walks, batting average, OBP, SLG, OPS.
Now that this hurdle has been overcome, the next step is to keep up some of these good habits we've seen lately. We've seen very few bad starts from the pitchers, the bullpen has stabilized, the offense is getting clutch hits in game-turning situations. That's a winning formula. It starts with the starting pitching, and the rest falls into place.
The Orioles, Rays, and Yankees all lost last night. The Sox are only 3.5 games out in the division, and 1.5 out of the 2nd Wild Card. The opportunity is there.
Jon Lester pitches for the Sox tonight. Drew Smyly is on the mound for Detroit. Smyly was good in April. He's been bad in May. He has a 6.75 ERA in his last 3 starts.