Justin Masterson who was traded to Cleveland at the MLB Trade Deadline in 2009 knows how to pitch at Fenway Park. He was the winning pitcher for Boston in Game 5 of the 2008 AL Championship Series when the Red Sox staged the biggest postseason rally since 1929, coming back from a 7-0 deficit to beat the Tampa Bay Rays.
With Cleveland this year, he is 2-0 with a 0.64 ERA against Boston and 2-10 with a 6.06 ERA against everyone else. Masterson threw a two-hit shutout against the Red Sox on June 9, a game in which not a single Boston base runner reached second base. He wasn't quite that good on Wednesday, but he held the Red Sox scoreless long enough for his teammates to take a 4-0 lead and that was all the Indians needed.
The Red Sox lost last night's game, but even with that loss, I'm not certain that the rest of the world realizes that the A.L East is not just a two-team race. The Boston Red Sox are getting healthier, they're getting better and after the bench-clearing dispute against the Cleveland Indians Wednesday night, they're getting fired up.
In the third inning, Josh Beckett hit Shin-Soo Choo in the leg (I don't think Beckett's pitch on Shin-Soo Choo was not intentional). Later in the seventh, Indians reliever Justin Germano threw a pitch behind David Ortiz. In the eighth, reliever Jensen Lewis threw behind Adrian Beltre. That wasn't a very bright decision. Beltre immediately started to approach the mound, yelled at Jensen and then both benches cleared.
Beltre was angry. Josh Beckett on the other hand, well he was furious... livid... fuming... enraged... mad... infuriated... incensed... (you get the idea). The irate Beckett escalated the situation, trying to battle through his teammates to get to the Cleveland players. After he was restrained, manager Terry Francona and Indians third-base coach Steve Smith engaged in a shouting match and then they needed to be restrained. Lewis, Smith and Beckett were ejected from the game.
For a team fighting for a playoff spot in the toughest division in Major League Baseball, this is exactly what Boston needed. The Red Sox have a sense of urgency and they're only 6.5 games back with 1/3 of the season still left to play.
Although they're in third place in the division, the Red Sox are ranked in the top five (in the Majors) in batting average, home runs, hits and RBI. The offense has clearly been productive, despite injuries to Jacoby Ellsbury, Dusin Pedroia, Jason Varitek, Mike Lowell, Kevin Youkilis, Mike Cameron, J.D Drew and Victor Martinez throughout the season. They will be even better when more guys come back from their injuries (Except for Youkilis who is out for the season).
The pitching has been the problem. John Lackey hasn't been stellar and Daisuke Matsuzaka is inconsistent. Clay Buchholz, Manny Delcarmen and Matsuzaka have all spent time on the DL as well. But anything can happen. The starting rotation can easily turn it on late in the season and make a push for the division title or wild card.
Beckett was also on the DL for two months with a strained lower back. Tuesday night was just his third start since then and he has been dominant. Against Cleveland, he pitched eight innings, only gave up one earned run and struck out eight. Oh, and he was ready to fight just about anyone. He has two wins and is clearly ready to battle it out for the division.
So is Francona. Isn't that exactly what players want to see from their manager? Isn't that what the fans want to see from the manager at this time of the season? That was a brilliant performance by Boston skipper and a good way to instill an important message into his players.
That message being: Boston is still alive. That message brings me back to the sense of urgency. They know it's going to be a battle. They know they are going to need some luck too (just like every other team). That's why Beckett and Francona flipped out - Boston is in contention and they can't let teams get away with throwing at them at this point in the season.
The Red Sox aren't going to let the Rays and Yankees take over the A.L East without a fight. Yes, pun intended.
Red Sox Notes
The Red Sox activated OF Jacoby Ellsbury from the disabled list before the game. He played CF and batted leadoff. It was just his 10th game of the season. ... Boston 2B Dustin Pedroia, who has been on the DL since June 26 with a broken left foot, will test it before Friday's game against the New York Yankees. ... Red Sox 1B/3B Kevin Youkilis is going to Cleveland to have his right thumb examined by another hand specialist. At this point, it's still not known if the ruptured adductor muscle in his right thumb is going to prevent him from playing any more this season.
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