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The Monkey On The Red Sox Back Is Slowly Releasing His Grip

Posted By "Baseball Brenda" Sepanek On Apr 18 2011 @ 3:02 am In Boston Red Sox | 5 Comments

Wow, a lot has happened in the past week in Boston. One of the biggest developments of the Red Sox season thus far, has been the search for their first win. The Red Sox started off their season shocking Red Sox nation by going 0-6, getting swept by both the Texas Rangers and the very hot Cleveland Indians.

Opening Day Weekend:

They came back to Boston hoping for their first win on Opening Day against the New York Yankees. Not only did they win, but they took the series winning two out of three giving Red Sox fans a sign of hope. I guess they were saving their first big win for the home opener. Friday was the first sign of their bats coming alive. They went 12-36 and had three extra base hits. Jonathan Papelbon got a late start to the 2011 season making his first appearance 7 games into the season and launching his first save. Friday’s game enabled them to use their 1-2-3 punch of Bobby Jenks, Daniel Bard and Papelbon, something they hadn’t been able to do.

Dustin Pedroia homered in his third consecutive home opener. Trivia Question: Who is the only other Red Sox to do the same? Answer: Find out in my next blog. Dustin put on a clinic against the Yankees going 9-13, with an average of .692, with 3 doubles, 1 home run, 5 RBIs and 4 runs. It appears as if his foot has healed up nicely as he continues to dazzle us with his outstanding defense.

They finished out the series with Josh Beckett throwing shutout ball getting his first win of the season beating the Yankees 4-0. He is the first Red Sox pitcher to go 8 scoreless innings and record 10+ strikeouts since 2002. His 10 Ks was a career high against the Yankees. That night he looked like the old Beckett we all desperately want back.

Big Improvement:

In the first 6 game of the season: .181 Avg, 5.8 Hits/game, 2.7 Runs/game, 8 Strikeouts/game, .159 Avg w/ RISP (runners in scoring position).

Friday against the Yankees: .333 Avg, 12 Hits, 9 Runs, 5 Strikeouts, .600 Avg w/ RISP

Problems Continue:

Just as things were starting to look up, Dice-K took the mound Monday against the Tampa Bay Rays in what I called, The Battle of the Losers. Tampa Bay entered the series 1-8 and came out winners. Dice-K gave up 7 runs in two innings and the Sox never stood a chance losing 16-5. This was the 7th time he hasn’t lasted until the 5th inning. It was Dice-K’s 100th career start and the way things are going he’ll be lucky if he sees start # 115 in a Red Sox uniform come the trade deadline. Check this incredible stat out: Out of the 143 pitches he has thrown thus far, only 4 have been swung at and missed!!! I think the topic of Dice-K deserves his own blog, so stay tuned for that one.

Tampa Bay won both games and the Red Sox have mother nature to thank for dodging another bullet when the final game of the series was postponed due to rain. At this point the Sox were 2-9 on the season (worst record in baseball, 30th), was batting .230 (24th in MLB) and their 6.77 ERA was the highest in the league (30th). It could only go up from there right?

Power of the Snuggie:

Hoping some extra rest would do the trick against the Toronto Blue Jays the Sox lost their first game of the series making their UGLY record 2-10. But on Saturday a VERY cold front moved in and Jim Rice broke out his Red Sox Snuggie. Then everything seemed to change. Josh Beckett took the mound and threw another gem giving them their third win of the season. Beckett improved his record to 2-1,  went 7.0 innings, giving up 3 hits, 1 earned run, 2 walks, and struck out 9. In his last two games he has 19 strikeouts showing us he is locked in and maybe dropping him in the pitching rotation gave him the gut check he needed. There seems to be life back in his fastball, he was getting ahead of the hitters, velocity was mid 90s. He is tired of answering questions about last year. I think his last two performances are proving that he still can be the Josh Beckett he once was.

Beckett 1st game: 5.o innings pitched, 5 hits, 3 earned runs, 4 walks, 4 strikeouts.

Beckett Last 2: 15.0 innings pitched, 5 hits, 1 earned run, 3 walks, 19 strikeouts, 0.60 ERA. This was the first time in his career he held both opponents to 3 hits or less while recording at least 9 Ks.

Jon Lester finally got his first win of the season but most of Red Sox Nation feel they owe it to Jim Rice who brought out the Snuggie before today’s game. The Sox are on a monster winning streak (2) with that Snuggie. If Rice has to break that thing out in August I hope he is willing to do so.

Lester pitched another great game today but the big difference was the run support. Last year Lester was #1 on the team averaging 5.7 runs a game. Over his first three starts the Sox were only able to muster up 2 runs. Today, 6 runs. Today, Lester moved to 4th (734) in all time strikeouts by a left hander passing Mel Parnell (732). Next on the list is Lefty Grove (743) and by the end of the season he should be 2nd only to Bruce Hurst.

The bats started to come alive over the weekend. One of the key players has been Jed Lowrie. It is amazing what a difference a year can make. Last year he was recovering from mono and now he is dialed in and on a 6 game hitting streak. He is batting .500 leading all of the majors for batters with 10+ at bats. Over his past 6 games he is hitting .579, with 1 home run, 6 runs scored, 4 RBIs and 1 walk. Tito needs to find a way to keep him in the lineup as long as he stays hot. Right now, the bottom of the order has really stepped up big over the past few games. Jarrod Saltalamacchia has also stepped up as of late and seems to be finding his groove.

Pleasant Surprise:

In my opinion there were two members of the team this year that received a serious gut check.

1. Josh Beckett got dropped in the rotation based off of his terrible 2010 performance. He could either bitch about it or bare down and step it up. He certainly has stepped up big time.

2. Jonathan Papelbon is the other obvious choice. In my opinion over the past two years his ego got the best of him. He thought he was better than he really was and that he could over power batters with only his weakening fastball. His pride got the best of him and was no longer effective. But this year the Red Sox silently upgraded their bullpen and with the addition of Bobby Jenks it was an automatic threat to Papelbon. Signing a veteran closer sent an instant message to Paps that the Sox organization aren’t messing around and he better get his act together. So far, it clearly shows that he worked hard in the off season to bring back the old Papelbon. He says he feels stronger now than he has in a while. He seems to be using all his pitches and his splitter and fastball and coming out of the same slot which makes it hard for the batter to identify pitches before it is released. He has also been working on developing his slider. Having those two additional pitches to supplement his increased velocity of his fastball is going to give him back that fiery side of Papelbon we all know and love.

He has appeared in 5 games, with an ERA of 1.80, has pitched 5.0 innings, given up only 3 hits, 2 walks, 1 earned run and has struck out 8. The opposing average against him is a mere .154. He has 2 saves on 2 chances and has pitched 4 straight scoreless outings. I like what I see so far.

Let’s Bring Them Home Boys:

So far one of the biggest disappointments in my eyes has been the amount of men they have left on base. They have left a total of 108 runners on base. Although the pitching staff hasn’t exactly performed their best, you can’t win games if you don’t drive in runs. In three different games they left double digit runners on base!! And would you believe the gem Josh Beckett threw against the Yankees the Red Sox left 16 runners on base? How do you win a game stranding 16 runners?

Here’s to keeping the winning streak alive. I really saw a different Red Sox team the past two days. Everything seems to be clicking. Tomorrow they will finish up their four game series against Toronto in the famous Marathon Monday Patriots Day game. The game starts at 11:05 so set your alarms, it’s going to be a fun filled day in Boston. I am very excited to be part of the Flag drop tomorrow thanks to my friend “The Don”. I get to be on the field at the base of the monster and help assist with holding the flag during the National Anthem. Opportunity of a lifetime.

Go Sox!!! Go B’s and Go C’s!!!

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