Boston’s long slog back to .500 continues. The Red Sox split a four-game set with the Indians last weekend and then earned a three-game sweep in a ridiculously well-pitched three-game series against the Twins that saw a total of seven runs scored between the two teams.
The finale on Wednesday was the type of win every good team needs once in a while. John Lackey went nine scoreless, but the Sox entered the bottom of the 10th inning down a run after Koji Uehara uncharacteristically surrendered a homer (Chris Parmalee, no less). Enter David Ortiz and Mike Napoli, who went back-to-back to end the ballgame and clinch the sweep.
Boston began a West Coast road swing last night in Oakland against the Athletics, who came into the series boasting a differential of nearly 100 runs better than any other team in the American League. They added to that with a 4-2 win behind Scott Kazmir, who kept the Sox in check for seven innings aside from allowing a two-run homer to Dustin Pedroia.
The Red Sox Starting Rotation Could Get Crowded
On WEEI.com earlier this week, Alex Speier noted the importance of the club’s rotational depth, which has been a chief reason that the team’s hopes of making a run at a playoff spot this fall are still alive. In the absence of Clay Buchholz and Felix Doubront, Rubby de la Rosa and Brandon Workman have made the most of their opportunities.
Though both Workman and De La Rosa are relatively young in age (both are 25) and baseball years, both offered the Sox players with some big league track records of success. Yet even while those track records suggested that they might not be overwhelmed, the fact that they have yet to encounter a major hiccup is noteworthy.
In five starts by Workman and four by De La Rosa, both have thrown five or more innings every time they’ve taken the mound; Workman has yet to allow more than three runs, while De La Rosa has given up four in two starts and none in two starts, including Monday’s one-hit, three-walk, three-strikeout effort in which he elicited 12 outs via ground ball.
De la Rosa’s fastball velocity in his four starts has been particularly impressive. He’s the only pitcher on the team who is capable of going out and throwing 94-95-mph consistently for six-plus innings. And yet, he’s blooming at a time when Clay Buchholz is just about ready to rejoin the rotation.
Meanwhile, Workman’s six-game suspension offers Felix Doubront an opportunity to start tonight against Oakland. Coming back from a bruised shoulder, Doubront will pitch for the first time since May 20. He has thus far underwhelmed with a K/BB rate of 31/19 in 45 innings this season. The guess here is that if Doubront shows some life on his fastball, he may be moved to the bullpen as potentially a better lefty option than Chris Capuano, who has been used sparingly over the last two weeks.
When a utility infielder who looks like Matt Damon circa Good Will Hunting makes his first start in center field and does things like this, he’s going to win a lot of fans in Boston.
The Grady Sizemore Experiment Comes to an End
Boston designated the struggling outfielder for assignment on Tuesday and called up Garin Cecchini for what could be more than just a one-day stint (as the team did earlier this month). Ben Cherington left the door open for Sizemore to potentially return to the system on a minor league contract after the 10-day waiver period. Sizemore is reportedly still healthy, so its likely some team looking for outfield depth will take a flyer on him.
Looking back at Sizemore’s Boston tenure, Shane Victorino’s prolonged absence forced the team to cross its fingers and entrust the veteran outfielder to be a key contributor in the offense. From Baseball Reference’s Lineup summary page for the team: Sizemore was the No. 5 hitter in the most common batting order used by John Farrell this season. Granted, Farrell has only used that order four times in 73 games, but Sizemore led off 10 times, slotted in at No. 5 for 15 of his starts and as the No. 6 hitter in another eight games. Sizemore simply did not hit for enough power to justify being an everyday starter in a corner outfield position, let alone a middle-of-the-order presence.