I’ve been out of town for the last couple days, and only saw the highlights of the 3-2 win on SportsDesk, so I won’t try to fake it and post a postmortem on tonight’s game, except to say those Tigers might not be so grrrrreeeaaat after all! Sorry, just had to.
At the end of this series with Detroit, the Sox will have played 54 games, or exacly one-third of the season. Taking a page from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, which did a similar feature about the Rangers Friday, I’ll list a Five Best/Worst things to come from the first third of the year. After Game 54, I’ll post some completely meaningless but fun projections — much easier when all you have to do is multiply by three.
Feel free to post your own best/worst thoughts.
Five Best Things About the 2006 Sox Thus Far
- Jonathan Papelbon. 20 for 20. 0.33 ERA. 26 Ks in 28 IP, including a ridiculous ninth against NY at Fenway in which he blew away the top of the Yankees’ lineup. And he can tie his shoes without hurting himself. Big plus!
- Curt Schilling/Josh Beckett. At the beginning of the season, the talk was all about the health of Schilling and the endurace of Beckett. It’s still early, but thus far, who expected these results (8-2, 3.86) from Curt? How about 7-2, 4.46 from Beckett? Beckett has had a couple lousy starts, but he brings the potential for a no-hitter to the mound with every start. We haven’t had that on the mound since Pedro circa 2001.
- Kevin Youkilis. So the Red Sox replaced Johnny Damon with someone who gets on base more consistently with roughly the same power. Coco Crisp? Nope. How about Youk, who led all leadoff men in baseball with his .420-plus OBP, batted better than .315 in the position and now has 6 HR. Crisp, who has a 10-game hting streak dating to Opening Day, meanwhile, hasn’t missed a beat in returning to his old spots.
- The new hitters. Mike Lowell was a huge question mark. Mark Loretta was coming off a wrist injury. Wily Mo Pena swung too hard at too many bad pitches. Yet they’ve combined to hit .318 with a .362 OBP. Lowell is fighting Albert Pujols for the MLB lead in extra-base hits. Loretta was the AL’s best hitter for the month of May. And Pena came through with big hits before being sidelined with his own wrist injury.
- The young relievers. Given the chance to work consistently, Manny Delcarmen and offseason acquisition Jermaine Van Buren of late have become the long anchors of a mediocrity- and injury-plagued bullpen, holding offenses at bay while giving the Sox time to get back into games.
Five Worst Things About the 2006 Sox Thus Far
- Matt Clement/David Wells. From spring training starting-pitching depth, the Red Sox have gone to a three-man pitching staff. Unless the team plays in the National League, our No. 4 starter seems incapable of beating it. We all know about Wells’ tremendously bad luck. I’ll disagree with SF: Pauley was acceptable in his first start above AA ball, in which he admittedly got himself in trouble but threw the pitches that got him out of that trouble (until the fifth). I wasn’t expecting any more from him. But two starts from him is still one start too many. Clearly we need another, top-line starter after Wakefield.
- Injuries, damn injuries. Wells, then Crisp, then Riske, then Nixon, then Wells again, then Clement (kinda), then Wells again, then Timlin, then Pena. That’s enough, thank you, baseball gods.
- Coco Crisp injury. With one ill-advised steal attempt — and an even iller-advised slide — Coco Crisp was out about half the total time Johnny Damon missed in all four years with the Sox. His absence left a hole in our lineup that left some days with a Bard/Harris/Gonzalez finale to our batting order.
- Terry. Yes, he’s better than Dusty Baker, but I’m pretty sure my mom would be better than Dusty Baker. This has been a frustratingly inconsistent year from Tito. For every great Papelbon-over-Foulke decision, there’s three or four more that cost us runs or scoring opportunities (133, pulling Wakefield and Tavarez three batters late in the same game, waiting a week to start Pena over Harris, not pinch-hitting for Mohr with Trot on the bench, hitting Tek fifth time and again).
- Jason Varitek. I don’t know what’s wrong. But I hope it gets fixed soon.
Overall, the Sox have weathered some storms: Injuries, an AL-East-heavy schedule, offensive power outages, the lack of consistency from the 4 and 5 spots in the rotation. But they’re right where we thought they’d be: In first place, the Yankees nipping at their heels. The Sox are now 2-2 on this road trip. How they do the next six games likely will give us an idea how the rest of the season will turn out.