Friday, June 13, 2014

Boston's Bats Break Out, Batter Cleveland

Boston's bats have been unusually quiet this season, but that was not the case tonight at Fenway Park, where the Olde Towne Team crushed the Cleveland Indians by a score of 10-3.

It was surprising to see the Red Sox score so many runs in one game given the way they've struggled at the plate this year, and especially lately. Earlier in the week they managed only one run in a three-game series in Baltimore against one of the worst pitching staffs in the American League, making mediocre hurlers such as Bud Norris, Chris Tillman and Wei-Yin Chen look like Cy Young candidates. They were shutout for the fifth and sixth times this season, unable to take advantage of soft competition in a hitter's park.

Thus ended a horrible road trip in which the Sox dropped seven out of nine, falling to seven games below .500 and nine out of first place in the process. Even the two wins were lucky, for the first required David Ortiz's ninth inning go-ahead home run off Joba Chamberlain, and the second saw Boston score one measly run. If Ortiz doesn't take Chamberlain deep and Brandon Workman doesn't blank the O's two days later, then the Sox return home with a nine game losing streak and their tails between their legs.

Thankfully, that didn't happen.

The Red Sox played uncharacteristically poor baseball at home during the season's first two months, going 10-17 and being swept three times. Red Sox teams are known for dominating at Fenway, but through Memorial Day enjoyed no home field advantage whatsoever.

That's changed lately however, practically on a dime. After tonight's pasting of the Indians, the Sox have now won seven straight at the Fens. Tonight's win was special, though, for it marked the first time this season that Boston scored 10 runs in a game, finally breaking the double digit barrier 67 games into what has been an immensely frustrating and uneven season.

John Lackey and the Sox fell behind early on a two-run shot by Carlos Santana in the second, only to return the favor with three of their own in the bottom of the frame as A.J. Pierzynski plated two with a double and Jackie Bradley, Jr. tripled him home.

Cleveland quickly responded with back-to-back doubles from Asdrubal Cabrera and Michael Brantley to open the third and seemed to have Lackey on the ropes. But the 35 year-old veteran settled down, bouncing back to whiff Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall before retiring David Murphy on a ground out to Dustin Pedroia.

After that it was smooth sailing for Lackey, who cruised into the seventh inning before Cabrera's two-out double forced John Farrell to go to his bullpen. Andrew Miller came in and Lackey left after 110 pitches, leading 5-3 and in line for his eighth win of the season. Miller kept it that way by retiring Brantley, the potential tying-run, on a grounder to Mike Napoli at first.

Napoli helped Boston tack on some insurance runs after the seventh inning stretch, plating Pedroia after Bryan Shaw intentionally walked Ortiz. Daniel Nava followed suit by spanking a double down the left field line that scored Ortiz and put Boston up 9-3, capping their four-run seventh inning. The Sox added one more in the bottom of the eighth on a Xander Bogaerts solo shot that caromed off the light tower, a breathtaking blast that reminded everyone watching why Bogaerts is regarded as one of the game's top young talents.

Miller took care of Cleveland in the eighth, setting them down 1-2-3, and Burke Badenhop silenced them in the ninth by fanning George Kottaras, Santana, and Ryan Raburn to close out the win. Hopefully Boston keeps swinging hot bats tomorrow versus Cleveland's T.J. House. With Jake Peavy (6.69 ERA in his last six starts) on the mound, they're gonna have to.

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