Plug Manny Ramirez and Kevin Youkilis back into the Boston lineup, and it’s like flipping the "On" switch. The Red Sox have scored 18 runs in the last 2 days, with Manny filling the #2 spot in the order like a perfect #2, with 4 singles and 2 walks in just 7 plate appearances. He has accounted for 5 runs scoring either by himself or by his pinch runners.
Magic Number: 2
This applies not only to winning the division, but also to clinching a better record than the Angels, who were demolished by Texas today, 16-2. So if the Red Sox win just 2 of their final 4 games, they’ll have home field advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
Mike Lowell’s 5 RBI’s pushed him well ahead of Butch Hobson for the Red Sox record for RBI’s in a season by a 3rd baseman. Congratulations, Mike!
Papi started slow, making an out in the first, then walked his next time up, then singled, then doubled, then doubled again.
Pedroia got his bat going again, with 2 doubles and a homer. The top 2 spots in the order – the "tablesetters" – were 7 for 9 with 2 walks for 9 times on in 11 plate appearances. That includes 4 times on by Pedroia, 4 by Manny and 1 by Moss.
Lester had a lot of strikeouts. He had 9 in just 4 1/3 innings. Only 4 outs came through guys hitting the ball. That means that with 7 hits given up by Lester, when they put the ball in play, they were usually for hits. A lot of his strikeouts were "looking", not swinging. He’s fooling people into not swinging, but when they swing, they make good contact. Lester needs to improve that. He needs more swings and misses, or swings and popups, or swings and weak grounders.
Gagne looked better. The first 3 guys against him made solid contact, with 2 of them getting singles, but the 4th and 5th guys struck out swinging on curveballs, and this time Gagne didn’t mess around and nibble too much. He got the strikeouts on 4 pitches and 3 pitches, respectively. That’s a VERY good sign!
Another adjustment: he was getting ahead of hitters with curveballs yesterday (Tuesday), then trying to strike them out with fastballs and changeups, but they fouled off the fastballs and laid off the changeups. Tonight he smartly reversed the order of his pitches: he got ahead with fastballs getting fouled off, then put them away with curveballs.
Cleveland won the first game of their doubleheader, with 8 runs in the 3rd inning on a solo homer followed by 8 more hits and a walk (5 singles, 2 doubles and a triple). Combine that with their starters, and Cleveland is a dangerous team to face in a short series. Cleveland is really the only team that Red Sox fans need to pay much attention to now.
The Red Sox could conceivably clinch the division on Thursday, but they can’t clinch home field advantage in the first round until Friday, because the Angels are off on Thursday.
No forecast right now. I’ve got to get a few things done. I’ll analyze the opener of the series against the Twins tomorrow.