|Lester fired seven shutout innings as Boston rolled to its seventh straight win|
A week ago, the Tampa Bay Rays completed a three-game sweep of the Sox at the Trop, extending Boston's losing streak to 10 and provoking them into a benches-clearing brawl. The Red Sox, wallowing in last place and nine games below .500, were clearly at their wit's end.
They haven't lost since. Boston took two from the Braves in Atlanta, overcoming early deficits in both games to string together their first winning streak in over two weeks. They they came back to Boston and took two more from the Braves, no small feat considering the Braves are the best team in the NL East at the moment, and that it took Boston nearly two months to win more than two games in a row.
Then Tampa Bay came to town, and with both teams itching for a fight, John Farrell's club returned the favor by sweeping three from the Rays, limiting them to just three runs in the series. After hanging tough with David Price on Friday night and ultimately walking off in extra inning on A.J. Pierzynski's triple, the Sox dominated Tampa on Saturday (7-1) and again on Sunday (4-0). They got great starts from Rubby De La Rosa and Jon Lester and beat the Rays at their own game: pitching, defense, and manufacturing runs.
Now the Rays are in last place, 10 and a half games out of first. Boston's fourth, six back of Toronto, which means their winning streak only picked up two games in the standings. Still, their in a better spot than they were a week ago, when it looked like their season might be over before Memorial Day.
Thank you, Mr. Yunel Escobar. Perhaps a fight was just what this listless, complacent-looking team needed to light a charge under them, a la Jason Varitek shoving Alex Rodriguez ten years ago.
The Sox embark on a nine-game road trip tomorrow night in Cleveland, where they stand a good chance of improving their winning streak. Like the Red Sox, the last-place Indians have been colossal disappointments this year. After that it's on to Detroit to play the always-tough Tigers, and then Baltimore. Boston should be able to win the Cleveland series with relative ease (but a sweep will be nearly impossible without Lester) and you gotta like their chances against the Orioles' mediocre pitching staff (hopefully Nelson Cruz cools off), so if they can just take one from the Tigers they'll be in pretty good shape.
Who knows? Maybe they'll sweep Cleveland, extend their winning streak to double digits, and come back to town with a winning record. Or maybe they'll drop seven out of nine. The way this season's going, anything is possible.