It seems so long ago now that an out-of-position umpire cost the Red Sox a game (that this lifelong fan attended) on the first day of the month—a missed out call on a tag by Dustin Pedroia that led to two crucial White Sox runs. Sure, that June 1 game against the White Sox was a joy to be at with my dad, and calling David Ortiz’s homer right before he hit it was cool, but the loss on that hot and sunny day at Fenway Park and getting swept by Ozzie Guillen’s bunch in the three-game series got us in Red Sox Nation a bit worried.
Local boy and as of late, key lefty reliever Rich Hill left that game after one batter with a season-ending arm injury, and though fans won’t quite miss Daisuke Matsuzaka (who is out for the season as well and just underwent Tommy John surgery), the extremely hittable veteran John Lackey is back off the disabled list, and Sox pitching in general, even with Jon Lester leading the A.L. with nine wins, hasn’t been all that fantastic lately.
Thank goodness the offense is and has been on fire since that White Sox series! With sweeps of the Oakland A’s, the Yankees and then the Blue Jays this past weekend, Boston is now riding a season-high nine-game winning streak as it heads into Carl Crawford’s old stomping grounds, Tampa Bay, tonight to look to continue its dominance over the A.L. East and hold on to its two-and-a-half-game lead over the Yankees. It should be an emotional return for the former franchise Rays outfielder, but he’ll be in a line-up tonight that is exactly the same as the one that scored 14 runs against Jose Bautista and the Jays on Sunday. Boston demolished the Jays 16-4 on Saturday and now lead eight major offensive categories in all of MLB going into Tuesday’s action: R, H, RBI, 2B, TB, OBP, SLG, and AVG.
This outpouring of runs was expected and is a welcomed sight to see, especially from Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia, who both started out slow and are now starting to heat up and drive in lots of runs. There seems to be no lingering problem with Pedroia’s knee either, which was reportedly hurting him so bad at one point over a week ago that he and the Sox looked into operating on it and giving him a month off. That doesn’t seem to be in the plans now. And neither does it appear that the Sox front office needs to shop for a good hitting catcher, as Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Jason Varitek have each had multiple-hit games in recent weeks and raised their respective batting averages and on-base percentages to respectable levels (for catchers, anyway) at a .327 OBP clip for ‘Tek and a .252 AVG for Salty.
Stars of the Sox: David Ortiz, Jacoby Ellsbury & Adrian Gonzalez
Did anyone in his or her right mind expect “Big Papi” to be one of the best hitters in baseball in this stage in his career? Hell no! But we’ll take it as he not so quietly hits three-run bomb after three-run bomb as he did in Toronto over the weekend, raising his power numbers to 17 homers and 43 RBIs, and his AVG to .325, which is fourth in the A.L.
In his last 12 games, he has hit six of his 17 homers and knocked in an astounding 19 runners, and is hitting both righties and lefties, which was not expected of him.
Ortiz easily could’ve won back-to-back A.L. Player of the Week awards with these numbers, but speedy outfielder and red hot lead-off man Jacoby Ellsbury became a hitting machine last week and his contributions to Boston’s winning ways couldn’t go unnoticed. With Carl Crawford and Ortiz before him, Ellsbury became the third consecutive Red Sox player to be named A.L. Player of the Week for this past week of games, after hitting .467 in his last six games and scoring 10 runs, to go along with his current 10-game hitting streak that gets put on the line tonight.
And last but not least is Sox first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, the leader in the A.L. in batting average and major league leader in RBI with 60 in total. If there’s anyone hotter than Ortiz right now, it’s him, as the slugger has matched former Sox slugger Manny Ramirez’s mark of getting RBI in nine straight games. It’s really simple. When he drives in runs, the Sox win games.
Gonzalez and Boston will see if they can make it 10 in a row tonight and hold on to first place for the foreseeable future.
Photo credit: Albert Yau/Flickr