The Boston Red Sox have four all-stars this year in David Ortiz, Adrian Gonzalez, Jacoby Ellsbury and Josh Beckett. (UPDATE from ESPN: Kevin Youkilis has just been added to the A.L. all-star squad as a replacement for Alex Rodriguez). However, not counting Daisuke Matsuzaka (who is out for the year after having Tommy John surgery), the Sox also have injuries to four key players in Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Carl Crawford and Jed Lowrie. Add the fact Josh Beckett left Fenway Park early Friday night after five innings against the Orioles due to precautionary reasons after suffering a hyper-extended left knee injury and you’ve got more worries. Somehow, this team keeps on winning and has the American League’s best record.
The saviors of this team lately are unsung heroes like tall lefty Andrew Miller and veteran reliever Dan Wheeler. Miller had been a high first round draft pick several years ago by the Detroit Tigers but never had any success at the big league level with that team or the team he was traded to Boston from in the offseason, the (lousy) Florida Marlins. Now, he has a working changeup and curveball to go with a decent fastball, and all of a sudden he has three wins in spot starts for the Sox. It’s a terrific success story in the making.
Daniel Bard has been lights out nearly all year long as the main Sox setup man (and should’ve made the all-star team) but let’s not forget too that Alfredo Aceves has out-Tim Wakefield-ed Tim Wakefield as the effective swing pitcher on the Sox, as he has been a godsend as both a spot starter and a reliever (who has no problem pitching multiple innings when asked by Terry Francona).
Oh, and that offense? It’s still the best in baseball, and is led by American League Player of the month of June Adrian Gonzalez, who leads the American League in multiple offensive categories and plays wherever he is asked to play, including right field during Boston’s most recent trip to the National League cities for Interleague play. It was only for two games (and should’ve been at least for one more so David Ortiz could get more at-bats, but Francona was understandably cautious in giving Gonzalez starts in right field so David Ortiz could get starts at first base on NL fields in Philly and Houston).
Speaking of Big Papi, not only did he continue his red hot bat in homering for the second night in a row tonight at Fenway vs. Baltimore, but he was red-faced when O’s reliever Kevin Gregg threw two inside pitches near him in the bottom of the eighth inning. Then, after flying out, Gregg, using his glove, instructed Ortiz to run to first and that’s when Ortiz rightfully ran towards him on the pitching mound and swung his large fists at him (missing him with a left hook, but whatever).
Ortiz has only been hit by a pitch once this year, but Gregg was apparently tired of seeing Red Sox batters tee off on his lousy squad (in scoring 10 runs last night and 10 more tonight) and decided to be an asshole by throwing three consecutive high and inside pitches that nearly hit (and angered) Ortiz, then chirping at him immediately after he flew out. Thankfully, the home plate umpire threw him out right away (before the fight started), and that nobody got hurt. Ortiz got thrown out too after the fight but everyone at Fenway loved what he did in standing up to Gregg.
With the Yankees struggling to deal with their underperforming talent (i.e. Derek Jeter chasing 3,000 hits but batting under .260 at the top of the Yankees lineup) the BoSox somehow keep on keeping on. Hopefully, it can limp into the All-Star break with no more injuries and is able to keep its AL East lead in tact (as it should, since this is the hapless Baltimore Orioles it is playing this weekend). I don’t think that is asking too much!