Monday, May 21, 2012

Red Sox Leave Philadelphia All Smiles

Last year when the Sox played in Philadelphia, it might have been a more revealing series than we thought back then, or that seems apparent from the way the season progressed. The Sox lost 2 of 3 in Philly last year, after just having lost 2 of 3 in Pittsburgh. Then they whined. They complained about how much of a disadvantage playing in an NL park was, how much it hurt to lose the DH, et cetera.

It was a whiny sense of entitlement that was eventually forgotten because the Sox went on a 37-18 (.673) stretch of baseball after leaving Philadelphia. Then September started. Then the losing. Then the excuses again. Then September ended, and so did the season. Then came more excuses. Adrian Gonzalez blamed God. David Ortiz blamed the official scorer. The fans blamed Popeye's Chicken. The organization blamed Francona.

So maybe this time, the Red Sox' trip to Philadelphia would show some more desirable character traits. David Ortiz held a players only meeting a few weeks ago, after Josh Beckett was lit up by Cleveland. The Sox are 8-2 since that meeting. They went down to Philly and beat a hot Phillies team, fair and square. Maybe we are seeing a new kind of character from this team.

Beckett's last two outings have been impressive. 7.2 innings yesterday, allowing 1 run, walking 2, scattering 7 hits, striking out 5. He was brilliant for the first 7 innings, then tailed off in the 8th. He's allowed 1 run in his last 14.2 innings.

Mike Aviles has been a very pleasant surprise in 2012. I think it's safe to say that the organization was right about him and Bobby Valentine was wrong. He's hitting .275, he hit his 6th homerun Friday night, his 7th on Saturday, and his 8th yesterday. He's 3rd on the Sox with 27 RBI. This is very good offensive production from short-stop.

David Ortiz wasn't a liability in the field. He fielded his position quite respectably yesterday.

I honestly don't know how much the Red Sox' character has changed from last year to this. Winning tends to hide character flaws, losing tends to over-expose them. For instance, if the Sox were winning games and Beckett were pitching well, his golfing trip wouldn't have been that big of a deal.

There are still some things that irk me about this team. In the 8th, Jimmy Rollins advanced from 1st to 2nd on a "throwing error" charged to Daniel Nava on a sac-fly. The throw should have been cut off before it reached home, as Pete Orr (no relation to Bobby, although he is from Ontario and wears the #4, which I respect tremendously) was clearly going to be safe. Beckett could have cut the throw off, holding Rollins at first. Or Beckett could have been backing up the plate. He did neither. He just stood a few feet in front of the plate. And it might have turned into a big play.

What bugs me is that win or lose, this team seems to think that they're good enough that they don't have to get the little things right. They're overly confident. Cocky. When they lose, it's because of something external, like not having a DH. And in their minds, they don't have to play their asses off to win. They're entitled to win.

They have been winning lately. But take it with a grain of salt, Sox fans. The Sox have turned a corner. They've done it before. The problem is, once you turn that corner, you have to stay straight. It's like quitting smoking. It's commendable, but if you don't remain quit, then it's not that impressive.

The Sox are in Baltimore tonight. With a good series, they can claw themselves out of the cellar. With a bad one, they can dig their hole even deeper. They have the shovels. Will they dig themselves out or dig themselves deeper? Buchholz faces Tommy Hunter. Hunter seems like a guy they should hit.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

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