John Smoltz got his first win with the Red Sox last night against the Kansas City Royals, and did so by only giving up one run over 5 innings. He left in the fifth inning with an 8 run lead.
Though Smoltz was given generous calls on the outside corner at times, he did have his sick slider and split finger fastball working. As Eckersley loves to say, he was throwing cheese-- the kind of gouda that garnered him 7 Ks over 5 innings.
He may have the best slider I have ever seen. Smoltz's slider drops and disappears out of a hitter's zone like a well finessed drop shot in tennis. And he can place it inside or outside if need be. It's an amazing out pitch, but he throws in whenever he feels like it.
But the story today, and one that has brewing since Smoltz's start in Baltimore, is that the bullpen is starting to fade, struggle and give up runs.
Someone in that pen is, in my estimation, looking at a potential demotion to Triple-A if they don't get back to form--and it very well could be Justin Masterson. Perhaps the All Star break will negate all this speculation.
With Clay Bucholz sitting there waiting to face major league pitching again, he seems like a possible candidate to become a long reliever. Again, this is my best guess, but if I were a GM (HA!) he would be someone on my demotion list (though when Lowell comes back, there will obviously be moves taking place like Bates going back to Portland).
Masterson is not fooling hitters lately, and his supposed-to-be sinking pitches are up. He was charged for 5 runs in the Baltimore debacle and 5 runs last night with a 8 run lead (with 4 hits, one which was a HR). To be a tad more fair, Delcarmen and Okajima were brought in to clean up Masterson's mess, and couldn't do it.
Luckily, Daniel Bard was able to stop the bleeding and the offense continued to pounce on weak Kansas City relief pitching to get the win. But it was a totally whacked game.
Masterson's ERA is now at 4.98 with a whip of 1.43. Nahmally, I wouldn't sweat these numbers for a middle reliever, but since he's become more of long reliever and has appeared in 65 innings, those numbers are not good. If you think I'm being too hard on the kid, look at it this way: Masterson has been a factor in two blown games recently (KC Thursday night--2 runs, blows save; Baltimore on June 30--5 runs; and almost gave up the whole enchilada last night).
Consider this: Last year he pitched 88 innings and gave up 68 hits, 31 earned runs (ERA 3.16), 40 walks, with a BAA of only 2.16. Solid numbers.
This year, in 65 innings has already given up 36 earned runs, 23 walks and now has a BAA of .288.
Sorry, Son, but you ain't Masterin' much lately. I know scapegoating one guy isn't a great thing, but I won't lie: I don't trust the kid. Something about Tampa Bay and the playoffs last year might still be at play.
The guy who came in to keep the Royals quiet in the ninth? Saito. And he went one-two-three. Whew.
One of the best parts of the night had nothing to do with baseball at all. It was a side by side image of Dennis Eckersley next to Barry Gibb of the Bee Gees on the NESN broadcast, with Eck calling himself 'Disco Denni' and talking about how Reggie Jackson got him and Mike Torres in to Studio 54 back in the day.