Red Sox Record for the Week of June 22: 4-2
By the time the month of June ends, the Boston Red Sox will have two things: a healthy, veteran-heavy starting rotation and a first place finish atop the AL East, arguably the leagueâ€™s most competitive division.
The long-awaited debut of John Smoltz, the first ever non-Atlanta Braves start of his 21-year career occurred last Thursday night in Washington, D.C. It was a mostly positive outing, as Smoltz pitched well in four of his five innings, striking out five and retiring his last eight batters. But the damage came quick and early, as he surrendered four runs in the first inning, giving up five total, along with seven hits, a walk, and HBP. The Nats eventually won this game 9-3 and Smoltz earned his first decision outside a Braves uniform, a loss.
Smoltz chalked up the rough first inning to raw nerves (which was both understandable and evident by his wiping of the forehead between at-bats), but he also threw only 12 fastballs in the 35-pitch first inning. When things went south early, he obviously didnâ€™t trust his hard stuff, which topped out at 93 mph. As the game went on though, Smoltz found his groove and located all his pitches â€“ his fastball, slider and curveball in particular â€“ much better, and gave up only one run between innings two through five. He finished up that fifth inning and outing by striking out the side.
So while his game line doesnâ€™t look impressive from a distance, Smoltzâ€™s first outing was clearly one in which the numbers donâ€™t tell the full story. In the larger context, it was a fine first step, considering that he hasnâ€™t pitched a big league game since June 2008. It was also much better than his first outing as a closer in 2002 and initial return to the Braves rotation in 2005, when he couldnâ€™t get out of the first and second innings, respectively. Smoltzâ€™s next start is Tuesday in Baltimore.
The BoSox bats have quieted down of late, but the starting pitching, led by Jon Lester, Brad Penny, Tim Wakefield and Josh Beckett, has been mostly outstanding. Beckett, who is 5-1 with a 1.24 ERA since May 23, has separated himself from the pack with his recent outings and is pretty close to solidifying his spot on the AL All-Star roster as a result.