Sunday, July 02, 2006

Game 79: The AL East > The NL East

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 4, Florida Marlins 3

I think we can officially call the NL East a done deal. Sixteen games in this streak with one loss, a temporary setback in the face of one of the more effective pitchers in the game. Not necessarily indicative of results at the end of the year, let alone in the playoffs, but it’s gotten Boston on a hot streak after that tough series against Minnesota and it’s gotten them at least four games (and possibly five, depending on how the Mets do tonight) up on the rest of the division, so I’m not going to complain. What’s even more encouraging is that the Sox haven’t proven themselves to be one trick ponies during this incredible run: they’ve won games with pitching, they’ve won games with slugging, they’ve won with sparkling defense and well played bouts of small-ball, they’ve won with dominating performances where they’ve completely overwhelmed the opposition and walk-off thrillers where the ending was in doubt until the final pitch crossed the plate. Let’s be frank: they’ve been pretty frickin’ awesome to watch over the past few weeks.

Today Boston won with a mix of well-timed slugging and a bit of small ball to pull on top after Julian Tavarez again brought out his less-than-dominating side to pitch in the seventh. Solo shots by Youkilis, Varitek and Ortiz in the first, second and third innings set the stage for a decent performance by Lester, who scattered seven hits and two runs to leave with the victory in hand after the fifth. Unfortunately, five innings wasn’t enough; six innings or seven innings or anything that didn’t involve Julian Tavarez coming into the game would have been better. Back of the bullpen isn’t enough; having him or Rudy Seanez come into the game has become that you know I talked about back at the end of May. Even when either pitcher has a good day (like Tavarez did two days ago), you come into every pitch expecting the worse.

Anyway, Tavarez went an inning without problems before giving up the requisite game-tying home run in the seventh. In the eighth, it was time to strike back: Alex Cora reached after a fielding error at second base (another result of the streak: even when the Sox make errors, they don’t give up unearned runs), then moved to third on a single by Kapler. Youkilis hit a lined shot caught by a leaping Hanley Ramirez at third before Loretta knocked in the winning run with a sacrifice fly to left. Timlin and Delcarmen provided the hold in the seventh and eighth and Paps got his 25th save on a four out effort to complete the series win.

Next up, an old friend, as Boston goes from Miami to St. Peterburg for a three game set against Scott Kazimir and the Devil Rays. Josh Beckett gets the start against Kazimir tomorrow night at 7:15. Let the winning run continue! GO SOX!!!