Saturday, April 28, 2012

Lester and Co. shutout ChiSox, earn sixth straight win

(Associated Press)

In Jon Lester's last eight starts dating back to 2011, he was 0-5 with a 7.01 ERA. Tonight, he went 7 innings of five-hit ball without letting a run cross the plate as the Red Sox beat the White Sox 1-0.  His command was better than it has been in those last eight starts as he struck out seven, walked just one, and threw 78 out of 122 pitches for strikes.

The Sox are now 6-0 on this road trip and 9-5 since losing 5 of 6 to start the season. An even more impressive stat is the bullpens ERA during the road trip. Coming into tonight, the bullpen had a 0.66 ERA, and after two scoreless innings tonight, that number will decrease even more. Franklin Morales and Vicente Padilla combined for a scoreless eighth inning before Aceves took care of the ninth.

As for the Sox offense struggles tonight, they ran into a hot pitcher in Jake Peavy and strung together just four hits and one run on an RBI single by Adrian Gonzalez in the fourth inning.

This offense has scored 44 runs in the past five games, so you had to wonder when their bats would be cooled down a bit. Jake Peavy sure did that tonight, but Jon Lester was on his game and performed like the ace the Red Sox need him to be.

Something worth noting, Alfredo Aceves has been criticized this season for overthrowing which has hurt his command. He hit 98 MPH tonight and was sitting at 95-97. He pitched a 1-2-3 inning. It seems as though he is getting more comfortable as a closer with each save opportunity and is starting to embrace the challenge, rather than being fearful of failure as we saw earlier in the year.

The Sox will turn to Josh Beckett tomorrow afternoon and go for the four-game sweep, win their seventh straight, and get above the .500 mark for the first time this season. First pitch is set for 2:10pm.

Sox offense stays hot, Bard impresses

(ESPN Boston)
In what was a cold, bitter night, the Boston Red Sox strung together 10 runs on 13 hits and have now won five straight games with a 10-3 win over the White Sox tonight. 

Five players in the Sox lineup had two-hit nights, most notedly Darnell McDonald who broke the game open with a bases-loaded clearing double in the sixth and a solo home run in the ninth to finish with four RBIs on the evening. 

Cody Ross also continued to swing the bat well as he tacked on two more hits and drove in two runs. In Ross' past six games, he has driven in 11 runs on 7 hits. I said it during spring training that Ross was a huge pick-up for the Sox and I will stick by it until he gives me a reason to stop believing in him.

And I can't forget to mention the sizzling hot start that David Ortiz is having thus far. Ortiz is hitting .425 and knocked his fifth home run of the season out of the park tonight in the second inning. Pretty incredible to think that two years ago the Sox were thinking about releasing this guy after the horrific start he had, and now he is second in the Bigs and first in the AL in average.

As for Daniel Bard, he is making a strong case for himself as to why he belongs in the rotation and not the bullpen. Bard went 7 strong innings giving up three runs, two of them earned, walked one and struck out six. Bard is 2-2 on the year with a 3.76 ERA.

The Red Sox pitching staff is dead last in the MLB with a 5.86 team ERA and Ben Cherington and company are going to have some tough decisions to make within the coming days. With Bard doing well as a starter, and Aaron Cook's opt out date nearing, someone has to get demoted. I don't care how good their offense is, the Sox won't survive the season with the way they have been pitching. 

As much as it hurts to say, my vote goes to Clay Bucholz for a demotion. Bucholz is 2-1 with an 8.87 ERA. In four starts (22.1 innings), he has given up six home runs, has a .340 opp BA, and a 1.93 WHIP. Bucholz has by far been the least productive starter for the Sox, and I think it would do him well to option him to Pawtucket for a few starts and give Cook a chance in the rotation. 

Jon Lester looks to pick up his first win of the year tomorrow night as he takes on Jake Peavy who is 3-0 on the year with a 1.88 ERA. First pitch is set for 7pm. 

Friday, April 27, 2012

Pats improve defense with two 1st round picks, Hightower (left), Jones (right)

"With the 21st pick in the 2012 NFL draft, the New England Patriots select Chandler Jones, defensive end, Syracuse."

Those words were heard through the televisions around New England to the delight of Patriots fans, who have been blessed with Tom Brady, but haunted with one of the worst team defenses in the league for several years in a row.

So who is Chandler Jones?

Standing in at 6'5, 266 pounds, Jones is known for his freakish athletic ability and has been compared to Giants standout Jason Pierre-Paul, who tortured the Patriots and every other offense he went against this past season.

Jones recorded 38 tackles, 7.5 for a loss, and 4.5 sacks in seven games last season, missing five due to a knee injury. His career numbers include 27 tackles for loss and 10 sacks. Some say he is the best pure pass rusher in the draft, which the Patriots have been searching for since they traded away Richard Seymour to Oakland in 2009.

Jones also comes from an athletic family. His brother, Arthur, is a defensive lineman for the Ravens, and his other brother, Jon "Bones" Jones is a champion UFC fighter.

But the Patriots weren't done improving their defense as they traded up from 31 to 25 with the fear of the Ravens taking Dont'a Hightower before them. Hightower is a 6'2, 265 pound versatile, athletic linebacker who can play several different positions. He will fit in perfectly with Bill Belichick's system as he is known for moving guys around all over the place. Example: Julian Edelman played some defensive back for the Pats.

Hightower recorded 85 tackles, 11 for loss, and 4 sacks last season and helped lift the Alabama Crimson Tide to their 13th national championship title in school history.

Sox "humble" Phillip Humber

(Associated Press, Reuters) 

After posting a 4-10 record through their first 14 games, the Boston Red Sox are unbeaten in their last 4 games and are two wins shy of reaching the .500 mark for the first time this season. Sitting at 8-10, the Sox offense has exploded on this road trip thus far after sweeping the Minnesota Twins, and taking game one from the Chicago White Sox last night 10-3.

Felix Doubront has been the Sox most productive starter and picked up his first win of the year last night after going six innings and giving up three runs on five hits. Junichi Tazawa continues to impress in the bullpen after he was recalled to the team a few days ago as he went three innings of two-hit ball and picked up his first save of the year.

In their last five games, the Red Sox are batting a scorching .363 as a team with 10 home runs and 43 total runs scored. They are averaging more than 8 runs per game. Now you may be thinking to yourself, no lead is safe with this teams bullpen. While that was all true during the first 14 games of the season, the pitching staff as a whole has stepped up, but it still isn't where it needs to be.

Some other notes:

-Carl Crawford has been diagnosed with a sprained UCL in his elbow. The team has not released a timetable for his return but say it could be as long as three months. Needless to say, the Crawford signing seems to get worse as each day passes by.

-Bobby Valentine said lefty specialist Rich Hill could return to the team as soon as this weekend against the White Sox. Hill has thrown three innings for AAA Pawtucket giving up 1 ER, 2 hits, 5 Ks, and 1 BB. The Sox need all the help they can get in the bullpen and Hill will be welcomed with open arms. I expect they will move Justin Thomas down once Hill returns to the Big Club.

-Aaron Cook continues to deal in Pawtucket where in four games he is 3-0 with a 1.33 ERA in 27.0 IP. Cook has an opt out date of May 1st and can become a free agent if the Sox decide to let him go. If the Sox do sign him (highly recommended), it would give them the flexibility to move Daniel Bard back to the bullpen, which brings me to my next point.

-Moving Daniel Bard to the bullpen seems unfair, unethical, un-whatever, but it's what the Red Sox need as a team. Though he has done all the Sox could ask for as a starter, he is far more valuable in the bullpen. Alfredo Aceves is not a big league closer. He is an elite middle relief guy, but as we have seen he is overthrowing the ball which in turn makes him miss his spots, and 96 MPH fastballs over the plate get crushed by professional hitters.

UPDATE: The Red Sox recalled LHP Rich Hill from Pawtucket and sent Justin Thomas down.

Thoughts on anything, feel free to leave a comment.