See the title to this post? That’s pretty much the takeaway from last night’s game. The Red Sox sported some obvious holes in their lineup (most notably, Adrian Gonzalez ceded first base to Mauro Gomez last night – word is that he still doesn’t feel well) but pulled through for a strong win out of the All-Star break gate. The Sox beat the Tampa Bay Rays 3-1, bringing them (wait for it… wait for it…) one game over .500, and putting them a game ahead of Toronto in the AL East standings.
The marquee line on this game was that Jacoby Ellsbury finally made his long-awaited return off the DL, playing in his first game since partially dislocating his shoulder back on April 13. He flew out to left in his first leadoff at-bat, but finally got on base when he dribbled a seeing-eye ground ball past second base in the seventh inning. It’s good to have Ellsbury back – even if he doesn’t do much for a while, the simple fact that all Boston’s injured players are starting to make their reappearances will inject some life into this team, and into this fanbase.
Oh, on that note – yesterday team owner Larry Lucchino sent a letter to season ticket holders commiserating with them over the team’s lackluster first half and asking for them to keep the faith for the second haul. The local news covered the letter this morning, and interviewed some Sox fans. One of them actually said “it’s always been hard being a Sox fan… they do this to us every year.” Excuse me? It’s true that the Red Sox have had more down seasons than up seasons over the course of the last lifetime, but I think that guy missed the point.
The reason this season is excruciating as compared to other seasons, is because this season (and last season, for that matter), the Sox were supposed to be stacked. Crawford, Gonzalez, Lackey, etc. The Sox print money these days, and it’s an odd mixture of frustration and, I think, embarassment at continued high-priced free-agent failure that drives this melancholy. The Red Sox are turning, if they haven’t already, into the early 2000-era Yankees – high paychecks, clubhouse discord, and an inability to back it up on the field. That embarrasses a lot of Red Sox fans who have constructed a lot of their fan identity on, well, being the martyrs on the white horses, the anti-Yankees. Must be tough to swallow that they’re quickly becoming them.
Anyway. David Ortiz and Pedro Ciriaco, whose been playing out of his mind lately (3 for 3, sacrifice, stolen base last night, and 10 for 16 in his last four games) handled all the scoring for the Sox last night. Papi launched a ball into the right field seats in the first inning to get things started, and then Ciriaco scored Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Ryan Sweeney on a bases-loaded single in the second inning. From there, Franklin Morales held the Rays scoreless through five, allowing only two hits before giving the ball to Scott Atchison. Atchison let the Rays score off a Sean Rodriguez double, but that was all the scoring the six total Red Sox pitchers would allow. My new persona non grata Vicente Padilla picked up his 20th hold (maybe baseball’s too easy for him, and he should pick up a tougher sport that women play, like, oh, roller derby, or my “recreational” Sunday flag football league, which, yikes), and Alfredo Aceves picked up his 20th save.
So, that’s not a bad start to the second half. Here’s a link to the box score, courtesy of the Red Sox. Boston takes the field again in Tampa Bay tonight, when Clay Buchholz (8-2, 5.53 ERA) comes off the disabled list from his scary gastrointestinal bleed to face David Price 11-4, 2.82 ERA).