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Boston Red Sox IV: Kick ‘Em While They’re Down

Posted By Cliff Corcoran On August 6, 2010 @ 6:00 pm In Cliff Corcoran,Series Preview | Comments Disabled

The Yankees and Red Sox last met for a two-game set in the Bronx in mid-May. At the time, the big story surrounding the Red Sox was their poor start. In splitting those two games, the Sox held tight at .500. Almost immediately after, they finally found their groove. Including that last win against the Yankees, the Red Sox went 30-12 coming out of that series. That’s a blistering .714 pace that brought them within a half-game of the first place Bombers on July 3. Since then, however . . . meh, not so much. The Sox have gone 13-15 since that high-water mark, and seem to be rotating through the disabled list more often than they’re rotating through their lineup.

You might have heard that the Red Sox have been dealing with some injuries this season. Prior to returning Wednesday night, Jacoby Ellsbury had played just nine games all year due to various problems related to broken ribs suffered in an April collision with Adrian Beltre. He’s back, but he might have been the worst hitter in their opening day lineup and was moved to left field this spring because the Red Sox had major concerns about his defense in center. However, Mike Cameron, his intended replacement in center, is back on the DL for the second time this season with an abdominal strain, making Ellsbury the team’s center fielder and leadoff hitter, which may or may not be any better than having Ellsbury back on the DL. That also leaves J.D. Drew, who routinely misses games with a strained this and a sore that, as the only Boston outfielder having a “healthy” season.

Among those who have joined Ellsbury on the DL this season were Dustin Pedroia and Jason Varitek (both still out with broken feet), Victor Martinez (recently returned), Kevin Youkilis (more than countering Martinez’s return by hitting the DL the day before Cameron with a thumb injury that will require season-ending surgery), Daisuke Matsuzaka (of course), Josh Beckett and Clay Buchholz (both recently returned), and Manny Delcarmen (returned, but to low-leverage innings). Did I miss anyone? Boof Bonser doesn’t count, and I’m not sure Mike Lowell does either, though he’s suddenly become a very important player in the wake of Youkilis’s injury.

The good news for Boston fans is that, assuming Jon Lester’s Wednesday night leg cramp isn’t anything, the rotation is back at full strength. Buchholz and Beckett, who start tonight and Sunday, respectively, each enter this series coming off a pair of quality starts. Less encouraging has been the fact that Lester, who pitches Monday, has been off his game for four straight outings, and John Lackey, who faces CC Sabathia on Saturday, has been little more than a league-average-innings eater in his first season with the team. The Sox’s bullpen has been as problematic as the Yankees’, and the pitching staff as a whole, which has surely been undermined by the drop in the quality of team defense resulting from the many injuries to the starting lineup, something unlikely to be helped by Ellsbury’s return, has been below average in keeping runs off the board.

Whatever winning the Red Sox have been doing this season has been due to a few stretches of sharp starting pitching and their lineup, which has been buoyed by David Ortiz’s rejuvination and by a fantastic season by Adrian Beltre, but Youkilis has been the team’s best hitter, and Pedroia was in the top four, and without those two bats, this is a very different ballclub.

The best-case scenario for the Red Sox this weekend is to sweep a four game set in the Bronx and pull within two games of the Yankees for the Wild Card. I don’t see that happening, though the Yankees would be advised to win at least one of the first two as the pitching matchups become more favorable for Boston as the series progresses. The Sox will have 50 games left after this series, enough to overcome any deficit, but if the Yankees simply split, they will have robbed the Sox of a prime opportunity to make up ground and will take control of their rival’s fate by having a six-game lead over the Sox with just six head-to-head games left to play. All of that may take the edge of this series, but it’s worth noting that beating the Rays does the Yankees little good as both teams are likely to make the postseason. It’s burying the second place team in the Wild Card chase that will secure the Yankees’ playoff berth, and that second-place team is the Boston Red Sox.

Boston Red Sox

2010 Record: 61-47 (.565)
2010 Pythagorean Record: 60-48 (.556)

Manager: Terry Francona
General Manager: Theo Epstein

Home Ballpark: Fenway Park

Bill James Park Indexes (2007-2009):
LH Avg-108, LH HR-85
RH Avg-107, RH HR-95

Who has replaced whom:

  • Ryan Kalish (minors) has replaced Kevin Youkilis (DL)
  • Jed Lowrie (DL) has replaced Dustin Pedroia (DL)
  • Jacoby Ellsbury (DL) has replaced Jeremy Hermida
  • Eric Patterson has replaced Jonathan Van Every (minors)
  • Kevin Cash has replaced Jason Varitek (DL)
  • Scott Atchison and Dustin Richardson (both minors) have replaced Ramon S. Ramirez and Scott Schoeneweis

25-man Roster:

1B – Mike Lowell (R)
2B – Jed Lowrie (S)
SS – Marco Scutaro (R)
3B – Adrian Beltre (R)
C – Victor Martinez (S)
RF – J.D. Drew (L)
CF – Jacoby Ellsbury (L)
LF – Ryan Kalish (L)
DH – David Ortiz (L)

Bench:

R – Bill Hall (UT)
R – Darnell McDonald (CF)
L – Eric Patterson (OF)
R – Kevin Cash (C)

Rotation:

R – Josh Beckett
L – Jon Lester
R – Daisuke Matsuzaka
R – Clay Buchholz
R – John Lackey

Bullpen:

R – Jon Papelbon
R – Daniel Bard
L – Hideki Okajima
R – Manny Delcarmen
L- Dustin Richardson
R – Scott Atchison
R – Tim Wakefield

15-day DL:

1B – Kevin Youkilis (right thumb)
2B – Dustin Pedroia (broken left foot)
CF – Mike Cameron (abdominal strain)
C – Jason Varitek (broken right foot)

60-day DL:

RHP – Junichi Tazawa (Tommy John surgery)

Typical Lineup:

L – Jacoby Ellsbury (CF)
R – Marco Scutaro (SS)
S – Victor Martinez (C)
L – David Ortiz (DH)
R – Adrian Beltre (3B)
L – J.D. Drew (RF)
R – Mike Lowell (1B)
L – Ryan Kalish (LF)
S – Jed Lowrie (S)


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