Two of the hottest hitters in major league baseball right now belong to the Boston Red Sox. First is early AL MVP candidate and current (as of May 26, 2011) MLB hits (70) and RBI (44) leader Adrian Gonzalez, who has a knack for the timely clutch RBI smack that puts the Sox ahead, or helps increase small leads into big ones.
But no Sox player has been on fire more than the other prized offseason acquisition, LF Carl Crawford, who has gone 8-for-9 in his last two games against the Cleveland Indians and Detroit Tigers, respectively, and seen his average go up from .209 on Sunday to .244 through yesterday as part of Boston’s 14-1 thumping over the Tigers (its second 14-run game in a row, having blasted out a 14-2 win in Cleveland the day before).
He’s spraying the ball to all fields, hitting homers (including two this week), driving in runs in bunches (six this week so far), stealing bases and tracking down fly balls with his well-known speed. In other words, he’s doing it all, just like everyone expected he would do coming into the season. The only thing he isn’t doing is drawing walks. But hey, no one’s complaining now.
The Red Sox offense in all is now right where it should be, tops or near the top in most important statistical categories in the American League and in all of baseball (BB, AVG, HR, TB, H, etc.). The pitching, however, is another story. Still with a team ERA over 4.00, it has lost John Lackey and Daisuke Matsuzaka to the disabled list with arm injuries, and Jon Lester has been shaky in the month of May (as opposed to April, when he is notorious for slow starts).
I never thought I would say this again but Josh Beckett has re-claimed his ace status and has been one of the best pitchers in all of MLB this year, with a whopping 1.69 ERA. Why? His curve balls have been lively and he has been able to successfully locate and mixed up all of his pitches for most of the year.
Other bright spots are spot starters Alfredo Aceves and knuckleballer Tim Wakefield, the latter of who impressively shut down the Chicago Cubs offense last weekend in their historic and first regular season trip to Fenway Park. In the pen, Jonathan Papelbon has had few shaky outings so far this year as closer, and he’s had two guys step up to set him up in the seventh and eighth innings that weren’t expected to be the setup stars at season’s beginning: Matt Albers and Milton, MA native (lefty reliever) Rich Hill.
Those guys have effectively taken the places of (lefty) Hideki Okajima, Bobby Jenks and Dan Wheeler in the pen. Daniel Bard has had a few bad appearances this year in tight games, but has mostly been a reliable bridge to Papelbon as well, so his contributions should not be overlooked either.
We shall see how long that, and Boston’s run to the top of the AL East division (where it is currently tied with the New York Yankees for first place) and the Wild Card standings last in the coming days and weeks.
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