Monday, April 30, 2012

Sox Recover on the Road

Following a three game sweep of the Twins in which Boston scored 24 runs, the Sox strolled into the Windy City and promptly took three in a row from the White Sox, climbing back up to .500 with that six game winning streak (which came on the heels of a five game losing streak) before dropping the series finale when Gavin Floyd outdueled Josh Beckett.  Yesterday afternoon Floyd limited the Sox to just one run for the second consecutive game (a resurgent Jake Peavy hurled nine innings of one-run ball on Saturday, only to get slapped with the loss as Jon Lester and co. blanked the South Siders) and handed Boston their first and only loss of the road trip.

But before Boston's bats went stilent they had been booming, winning each of the first two games by a score of 10-3 and pounding out 25 total hits.  David Ortiz and Ryan Sweeney continued to swing hot sticks, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Cody Ross seemed to get it going and even Marlon Byrd, who was batting all of .070 when the Cubs unloaded him, finally showed some signs of life at the plate.  Even without Carl Crawford and Jacoby Ellsbury, this lineup still has plenty of firepower.  Mike Aviles has been a revelation at shortstop, too, and is making everyone forget Marco Scutaro.

Aceves reacts after sealing the win on
Saturday, Boston's sixth in a row
The rotation and bullpen are still issues, but there were some good signs in the Chicago series.  The pitching staff surrendered just ten runs to a lineup that features Paul Konerko, Adam Dunn, Alexei Ramirez, and Alex RiosFelix Doubront notched his first win of the season and seems to be holding his own in his first season as an everyday starting pitcher.  Daniel Bard, who hadn't made a start since walking seven Tampa Bay Rays on President's Day, looked much sharper this time around (only one walk against six strikeouts, two earned runs in seven innings).  Lester bested Peavy in a classic pitcher's duel and enjoyed his best start of the season, or at least his best since he went toe-to-toe with Justin Verlander on Opening Day.  And Beckett, aside from the two-run gopher ball he served up to Dunn, was nearly flawless yesterday and has now turned in four consecutive quality starts.  Their key contribution was that all of them made it to the seventh inning or later, preventing the thin bullpen from getting exposed late in games, though to their credit the 'pen seemed to regroup a bit in Chicago and Alfredo Aceves has reeled off three straight saves.  Clay Buchholz is still scuffling, but he's been done in by a couple of big innings and hasn't been quite as bad as his inflated numbers indicate.  His xFIP is more than three and a half runs below his actual ERA, which indicates some bad luck, as does his BABiP, HR/FB rate and LOB percentage.  I'm not too worried about him and think he'll turn it around. 

Because of their slow start the Olde Towne Team is still sitting at the bottom of their division, but this road trip was a step in the right direction and it shouldn't be too much longer before the Red Sox are right back in the thick of things. They should be able to stay hot against the Oakland A's and Baltimore Orioles during this week's homestand.

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