Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Unlikely Sluggers Blast Sox Past Orioles

The Sox are 22-22 and just took 2 of 3 from the Orioles. Why am I so happy at this? Because I like the way the Sox won these games. And I prefer consistently winning 2 of 3 as opposed to stretches of 5 straight wins then 5 straight losses.

I'm not as optimistic about Daniel Bard. He's looking more and more like Daisuke Matsuzaka. He's not throwing enough strikes (49 strikes, 41 balls today), he's walking batters (4 more today, he's now walked more batters than he's struck out), his pitch count is getting high early, and he never seems to have the same pitches working for him from start to start.

It's not been a major problem. So far. He's not getting crushed. He's not wild. He got two very timely double-plays today that helped him avoid disaster. And with runners in scoring position, he held the O's at bay.

It doesn't seem like a long-term successful way to pitch, though. This is his fourth start that he's failed to go 6 innings. He's tied with Justin Masterson for the 6th most walks in all of baseball.

Bard only allowed 2 earned runs. The homerun he surrendered today was only the 3rd he's given up all season. That's why the walks haven't been deadly for him. And there's no alternative starting pitcher to take his spot. So for now, Bard is will remain the rotation. He hasn't been a significant problem. Yet.

The offense was provided by some surprise sluggers. Nava, Shoppach, and Podsednik each hit homeruns. Adrian Gonzalez better watch his back because Nava and Shoppach are only 1 homerun behind him. They each have 2. Nava has 2 homers in his last 26 at-bats, and this is after going 171 ABs without a homerun. Podsednik hadn't hit a homerun since September 2010.

All season long, the Sox have been getting contributions from unexpected sources. Doubront has been the most reliable starter in the rotation. Cody Ross, Ryan Sweeney, Will Middlebrooks, Daniel Nava, Mike Aviles. Hell, Kelly Shoppach is hitting .281. These are the Bill Mueller, Mark Bellhorn kind of guys that added to the star power of the 2004 Red Sox. The glue that held the big pieces together.

Now we just need the star pitchers to consistently pitch like stars, the high-priced free agent slugger to earn his pay, and the bullpen to figure itself out.

Sox have an off-day, then host the Rays for 3 over the weekend. It's a great opportunity to claw back into the AL East race. The Sox have done well against Tampa Bay this season. Lester faces Alex Cobb, a 24 year old who was born in Boston and has made 10 Major League starts, 7 of which were Quality Starts. That makes me feel uneasy.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

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