Going H.A.M. or…

Breaking: All Red Sox Momentum Ends Cold Turkey

“I can’t say that I’m looking at a whole lot of positives from that outing…” – Josh Beckett with the understatement of the day after Friday night’s loss to the Blue Jays

After a momentum-changing walk-off home run Thursday night to cap off a 4-game series with the White Sox that saw Boston take the series 3-1, things came to a sudden halt very early on Friday night. Once again a Red Sox starter struggled in the first inning, as Josh Beckett quickly gave up two runs. However, with one out and Blue Jays center fielder Colby Rasmus on third after a triple, Beckett and the Sox were out of luck as the Home Plate Umpire missed a call at the plate. Instead of having 2 outs with no runs on the board, the Sox were now down one with only one out. Beckett went on to give up 3 more runs over the next 1.2 innings pitched, which was more than enough for the  Blue Jays, who won the game 6-1. For all his struggles, Beckett as usual settled down after the early going, giving up only one unearned run in his remaining 4 innings.

The bigger story was Jays starter, southpaw Aaron Laffey who despite giving up 9 Boston hits, held the team scoreless over 7 strong innings at Fenway. It was the second time in the last month Laffey has baffled the Sox in the last month, tossing 6 scoreless innings against the club back on June 26th. The Red Sox went 0-7 with runners in scoring position, leaving 8 runners on base.

Winners of 5 of their first 7 games since the All Star Break, The Red Sox appeared to be going H.A.M. Instead, they might just be eating it.

Stay tuned tonight to the interesting match up on the mound between Aaron Cook, one of the Red Sox’s surprisingly most reliable starters to date, and Carlos Villanueva – a reliever-turned-starter for the Jays who has thrown 12 scoreless innings in his last two starts.

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Meet The New Guys, Same As The Old Guys

The stars are aligning for the Sox with returns from CF Jacoby Ellsbury (top left), LF Carl Crawford (top center), 2B Dustin Pedroia (top right), 3B Will Middlebrooks (bottom left) and SP Clay Buchholz (bottom right)

As the July 31 Trade Deadline approaches and teams are scrambling to make deals to improve their chances of making the playoffs, the Red Sox are sitting on cloud nine. Most teams are sick over the thought that just one or two little pieces – a corner outfielder here, a starting pitcher there – could drastically, positively influence their (or their rival’s) pennant races and playoff hopes. The Sox, however, have been blessed with immunity to the problems around baseball. If any contender landed a superstar center fielder, a perennial All Star left fielder, an MVP-caliber second baseman, an up-and-coming third base slugger, and a pitcher who when healthy has number 1 starter stuff, they would be the “winners” at the deadline. Now imagine if, somehow, a team acquired all of these pieces. Well, somehow has become reality because that’s exactly what the Red Sox have gotten since the All Star break, with the return of five of their studs from the disabled list or injury.

Ellsbury ((11-31) .355 avg, 5 runs, 3 doubles, 7 games) and Crawford ((6-14), .429avg, .500 OBP, 6 runs, 3 sb, 4 games) in particular have been dynamic at the top of the lineup since their return, while the reliability of Middlebrooks (HR, 2B, 5 RBI in 7 games) and Pedroia (hit, run in 9th last night in first game back) in the middle of the lineup has provided a balance and stability to the Red Sox offensive attack. Combine that with strong performances from Clay Buchholz (14 SO, 0.77 WHIP in 2 starts) since the break, and the Red Sox now have a pitcher to help shoulder the load the offense is currently bearing.

Of course, Adrian Gonzalez has been rumored to be dealing with some secret injuries all season that have plagued his power numbers and batting average, but over the last 3 weeks he has been one of the best hitters in baseball:

“Gonzalez went 2-for-4 and has now hit safely in 23 of his last 24 games. Over that stretch, the first baseman is hitting .408 (40-for-98) with five doubles, three home runs, 19 RBI and 14 runs. Gonzalez has had two hits in the five games he’s played since the All-Star break…”

After last night’s terrific walk-off win for the Red Sox, manager Bobby Valentine said in his press conference: “That’s the most fun the guys had in a long time…It’s a great feeling.”

Sit back, relax and bring on the Blue Jays.

Good Thing We Bought the 64-Pack

Remember coloring? Every kid loved coloring back in their day, and looked forward to it every chance they got. But if you were like me and bought the simple 24 pack of Crayola crayons your first year of school, you remember how disappointing coloring became: some colors would break, others would wear down and even more would magically disappear. Not only did you have to go bow down to the suddenly cool kid with the 64-pack of crayons with the sharpener in the back, but by the end of the year you yourself were practically crayon-less. The simple joy that is coloring was taken away from you.

You know what I did after that… ? No. I was never actually the cool kid with the awesome crayons. I always had to bow down to those who seemingly had the better crayons; look up to those cool kids in first place on the theoretical awesome scale.  The good news? I am not the 2012 Boston Red Sox. No, this team learned it’s lesson last year, ponied up and bought the 64-pack.

So they went 1-5 to start the season. They got swept by what will arguably be the best team in the American League this season in the Tigers, and roughed up in Toronto (where they historically struggle) by an upstart young Blue Jays squad. Are you really worried? Jon Lester looks like a top 3 pitcher in baseball. 36-year-old David Ortiz is hitting the ball all over the park. Ryan Sweeney is the surprise of the year thus far and has proved incredibly clutch in the early going. This Red Sox team isn’t firing on all cylinders yet, but they will.  And as the season progresses, they’ll have those extra 40 crayons waiting.

This team has depth. Morales has pitched great in the early goings. Mark Melancon is a guy who in his first full Major league season last year had a sub-3 ERA and 20 saves in the closer’s role in Houston. Alfredo Aceves can start if we need him.  Carl Crawford will eventually be back, which leaves us some combination of Cody Ross, Sweeney and Darnell McDonald coming off the bench. The additions of Nick Punto and Ross, both players with championship pedigrees, adds veteran leadership to a clubhouse in serious need of a secret little x-factor old-timers like to call moxy. And to top it off, we have Daisuke Matsuzaka with his new robo-arm and a very good, young closer named Andrew Bailey coming to bail us out (pun slightly intended) right around the All Star Break, just when we’ll be looking to sharpen our dulling crayons on the back of the box.

We’re Red Sox fans, people! We’ve been here before. Hell, last year we started 0-6! The Hometown Heroes are going to be just fine. Tune in Friday as they take The Greatest Place on Earth by storm, and while you’re at it remember this:

The Red Sox are 1-5. Had they gone 1-5 last year, they were a playoff team.

Those extra crayons make all the difference. See you Friday at 2:05.