Veteran pitcher John Lackey pitched seven strong innings in Oakland late last night for the Red Sox, allowing 2 earned runs to the A’s and striking out 5. He finished his outing with the game tied 2-2.
Dustin Pedroia provided the clutch, two-run single that gave the Red Sox a 4-2 lead in the eighth, and closer Koji Uehara struck out the side in the ninth to seal the win. Both players have been consistent at their respective positions all season long, with the former also playing stellar defense at second base. The latter has succeeded as both a setup man and now as a closer. Pedroia is also fifth in the American League in batting average (.318) and been selected to represent the Sox for the American League in next week’s All-Star Game in New York, while Uehara was chosen as one of five finalists for fans to select for the last AL roster spot in the famed exhibition game – he finished fourth in the voting..
Lackey, meanwhile, has quietly become one of Boston’s most consistent starters in 2013 (and is a candidate for Comeback Player of the Year, having missed all of 2012 due to injury), with an impressive 2.78 ERA, by the far the best of his Red Sox career thus far. Of late, he and Felix Doubront have pitched better than most observers expected, while Jon Lester has struggled mightily. Ryan Dempster has pitched well too but has been inconsistent this year, and (all-star) Clay Buchholz has been out recovering from a neck injury since early June.
Also hot at the plate this year is David Ortiz. He became the all-time leader in hits for a DH earlier this week, surpassing Harold Baines, and has 19 HR and 65 RBI. He too is among the American League leaders in batting average (.323 places him third), is sixth in RBI, 11th in homers, and has been rewarded by fans with a start at the All-Star Game, and is the only player on the team with that honor, as Pedroia was selected as a reserve and Buchholz will continue to be out of action until the second half of the season.
Between phenomenal starting pitching and having one of the best offenses in the majors, the Red Sox have been able to maintain their lead in the AL East for much of the season in a year many thought would be a rebuilding season after the disastrous, last place 2012 finish under former manager Bobby Valentine. With lots of success so far this year, and last night’s acquisition of reliever Matt Thornton from the Chicago White Sox, it is apparent the Sox and their front office/GM Ben Cherington have other ideas – plans for a serious playoff push.
The unofficial second half of the season will begin late next week for the Sox against their archrivals, the New York Yankees at Fenway Park. Boston Red Sox tickets will no doubt be hot for those three games, especially with Derek Jeter – who made his season debut Thursday but left early due to tightness in his right quad – expected to be back playing shortstop full-time for his Yankees, who have stayed in the ultra competitive race to the top of the AL East, despite a rash of injuries. They are currently fourth and 6.5 games back of the Sox, with Tampa Bay in second (4.5 GB), Baltimore in third (5.5 GB), and the disappointing Toronto Blue Jays in fifth/last place (12.5 GB).
Photo credit: Albert Yau/Flickr