Think the Sox have played like a team
possessed blessed the first six weeks or so of the season? This might be your reason why:
On Sunday, Tito spotted a couple of nuns sitting near the dugout. He threw one of ’em a baseball. She said, "There are two of us up here.” He threw another, expecting maybe a good word or blessing in return. The nun says, "Sign the balls and we might think about it," or words to that effect. So Francona signed the two balls, and the Sox went on to score six runs in the ninth inning later to edge the Orioles, 6-5.
It’s unlikely the nuns were quite so willing to bless Julian Tavarez, who — though he kissed his medallion after leaving with the lead, and ultimately the win, in Game 1 of today’s foubleheader — told Gordon Edes that being an adult-film star was his backup career.
The answer for the Sox’ terrific play — play that has them in position to open a stunning 9.5-game lead in mid-May on the New York Yankees — probably lies in more earthbound reasons. Like terrific pitching.
Entering today, the Sox ranked this way in the major (and minor) team pitching categories:
1st (or tied) in: batting average against (.234), opponents’ slugging (.354), OPS against (.654), fewest blown saves (2), save percentage (87 percent), hits allowed (299), total bases allowed (453), fewest wild pitches (3)
2nd (or tied) in: OBP allowed (.300), home runs allowed (26), WHIP (1.21), K/BB ratio (2.42)
3rd (or tied) in: K/9 (7.10), fewest pitches per plate appearance (3.75)
4th (or tied) in: quality starts (22)
And that was before Julian Tavarez threw a quality start and combined with Hideki Okajima to allow just four hits and eight baserunners. And Papelbon earned a save.
The hitting, however, has also been superb — even if it doesn’t always feel like it. The Sox are:
1st (or tied) in: batting average (.278), on-base percentage (.362), OPS (.800), walks (171)
2nd (or tied) in: runs (209), slugging percentage (.438), stolen base percentage (86 percent)
Needless to say, that adds up to a team that is first in the major leagues in wins. Regression of course is inevitable, but I’m tired of throwing these types of cautions out there. We all know them. Right now, the Sox are the best team in baseball, and deservedly so.
Game 2 of the twin bill begins shortly. Feel free to comment away!