Well that was fun. I’m sad it had to end so soon. Watching your team get the stuffing kicked out of them repeatedly by their biggest rival at home in a huge series on national television to end the season’s first half is about as rewarding as it gets. The Red Sox never run out of ways to impress me.
If the huge gap (now 9.5 games) between the two teams in the American League East didn’t outline just how big a difference there actually is between the Sox and Yankees, then the performances by both squads on the field this weekend certainly did the trick.
While the Sox trotted out a Triple-A infield (Mauro Gomez, Pedro Ciriaco, Nick Punto, Wade Boggs) for the majority of the series, the Yanks flexed their muscles and proved why it’s always better to have good players rather then the bad ones that the Red Sox currently employ.
Guys like Mark Teixeira, Robinson Cano, Andruw Jones, Derek Jeter and Curtis Granderson did what they usually do – rake – while the entire Red Sox team did what it has been doing all season long - find ways to lose.
In four games, with their top four pitches on the mound, the Red Sox surrendered 28 runs. They gave up seven runs per game, and it felt like it was even worse than that. I don’t even remember the Sox recording an out at any point during any of the four games – including the game they won.
Jon Lester, Felix Doubront, Franklin Morales and Josh Beckett combined to give up 14 runs…in the first inning. I’m confident that I could take the mound tomorrow and hold the Yankees to fewer than four first-inning runs, and I have a screwed up shoulder and probably couldn’t throw more than 60. Yet Beckett, our lovable ace, was nearly pulled before he recorded an out in the first game of the series. The game started at 7, and by 7:23 the Sox were down 5-0. That’s how you keep your team in the game, tough guy.
I’ve seen better performances in those low budget 5 Hour Energy commercials. It was like Beckett was intentionally grooving 88-mph thigh-high fastballs to the best hitters in the world just to see how far they could hit the ball. And then, when the Sox actually showed a little heart and came all the way back to take a 7-6 lead into the seventh inning, Andrew Miller and Vicente Padilla got racked with the game on the line, giving up four runs and crushing what would have been an enormous win for the Sox.
That set the tone. It wasn’t as bad as that 5-game series in August of 2006 when the Yankees swept the Sox and literally ended their season, but this wasn’t all that far off. The only thing keeping it from being a historically bad series was the win on Saturday night, and that only happened because Ciriaco and Gomez had the best days that either will likely ever have in their entire careers.
Franklin Morales finally came back to Earth and made everyone say, “Oh, that’s why Franklin Morales has never been a starter and was just a mediocre reliever. Him getting shelled actually makes much more sense than him joining the rotation and inexplicably shutting teams out.” Doubront got a win, but he didn’t pitch very well, reminding us yet again that it is currently impossible for the Red Sox to fin an upper-echelon pitcher anywhere in the farm system. And then there was the immortal Jon Lester, who gave just a masterful performance. The Red Sox Opening Day starter went only 4.1 innings, throwing 101 pitches. He gave up nine hits and five runs – don’t worry, only four were earned – and he walked two guys. Just brilliant stuff. I think he only screamed into his glove four or five times too, which isn’t as bad as it usually is.
On the other side, the Yankees overcame a bad performance from Hiroki Kuroda to win on Friday, they got a nice start out of Freddy Garcia, didn’t get much out of Phil Hughes, then got another strong showing from Ivan Nova. That’s two decent starts out of four. Against the Sox, that’s plenty good enough.
Offensively, the Red Sox lineup looked like the spring training roster for the Indians in the movie Major League. All that was missing was Bobby Valentine calling Ben Cherington before the game after looking at his 25-man roster and saying, “This guy here is dead.” Adrian Gonzalez also continued his sterling campaign by extending his slap-single streak to 18 games in the first three games of the series, then saw it end in the fourth game when he didn’t get a good pitch he could wrist into left field during his first at-bat on Sunday night.
To make matters worse (or better?), Gonzalez left the game with an illness, and Nick Punto took over his spot in the lineup. Amazingly, Joe Girardi had his outfielders play much deeper with Punto batting than when Gonzalez was at the plate. Girardi was quoted after the game as saying, “Punto may be hitting under .200, but at least he has some pop.”
Okay, I made that up, but I really was not any less confident with Punto at the plate than I was with Gonzalez up. It’s been that bad for Adrian, who should be as excited as anybody that the book is now closed on his horrific first half.
Other guys who should be excited that the first half is over with? Mike Aviles, Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, Carl Crawford, Ryan Sweeney, Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Alfredo Aceves, Bobby Valentine, Ben Cherington, Dennis Drinkwater, Jerry Remy and Jenny Dell. Or, simply put, the majority of the team and organization.
And the best part about the whole thing was that sitting front and center on Sunday night was none other than Terry Francona, the manager who the organization pushed out of town after a collapse last September. Calling the came for ESPN, Francona – probably shirtless – relished proving that it wasn’t his fault that the team sucks. He sounded so genuinely happy with what he’s doing, while all the cutaways to Bobby Valentine showed Valentine looking like he was trying to pass a kidney stone the size of Nick Swisher’s dip.
Yep, life is good right now in Sox land. No one even cares that they’re only 2.5 games out of a Wild Card spot. The team is 43-43, has lost 8 of its last 11 and goes into the break just shy of 10 games behind the Yankees, who are 52-33. At least they’ll get a rest over the next few days – nobody except Ortiz has to go to the All-Star game. No one else deserved it.
It has been a truly special first half, and it was awfully nice of the New York Yankees to put the icing on the cake.