On May 21, 2012, this version of the Boston Red Sox finally caught up with the rest of the AL East. The Sox brought their winning percentage back to .500 following an 8-6 drubbing of the first-place Baltimore Orioles. Currently, the Sox are tied with the Yankees for fourth place in the division. It’s not where anyone thought or hoped they’d be, but all signs point to the tide turning.
“It’s definitely not a goal,” Bobby Valentine told reporters. “But it’s better than being under .500.”
Another point: what’s going on with the Yankees? They’re 3-7 over their last ten, have lost their last three, and seem to be sliding downhill just as quickly as the Red Sox – who have won eight of their last ten, and their last three – are pushing uphill. Is it bad starting pitching? Is it an inability to hit with runners on? Is it something else? Nobody expected the Yankees to be riding the basement with a quarter of the season gone.
The Sox scored eight runs last night, even without Cody Ross. Word is, Ross will be out six to eight weeks with a fracture in his foot. Every starter had a hit – including outfielder Che-Hsuan Lin, who notched his first career hit. David Ortiz launched a home run in the sixth that still hasn’t hit the ground to overcome another shaky Clay Buchholz start.
The real story of this game, though, and of the past week’s renaissance, is the Red Sox bullpen. The same bullpen that lost its closer the day before the regular season started, had to send its next-most-touted arm to Pawtucket, and couldn’t seem to keep runners from scoring, has recently become a massive strength for Boston. Andrew Miller stranded two runners in the sixth inning and followed up with a 1-2-3 seventh inning. Rich Hill stumbled and allowed a run in the eighth, but Vicente Padilla stranded two crucial baserunners to end the Baltimore scoring threat. And, Alfredo Aceves found his tenth save of the year in the ninth inning.
The bullpen has a 1.59 ERA since April 23, and finally, those results are starting to show up in the standings. Also? Boston’s disabled list is a great team. That the Sox are winning games without several of their biggest names is a good sign for when those big names actually take the field again.
Here’ a link to the box score, courtesy of the Red Sox. Tonight, the Sox toe up against the Orioles again at Camden Yards. Felix Doubront (4-1, 4.09 ERA) takes the hill against Brian Matusz (3-4, 5.36 ERA).