Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Sox rally in 16-10 win over Rays

These last two games have been a microcosm for the Red Sox offense all year: Consistently inconsistent. The night before the sox were shut out in a one run nail biter. Tonight, the sox score 16 runs to overcome the 10 runs Red Sox pitching gave up.

Tim Wakefield's knuckleball wasn't dancing as the Rays pounded him in his 3 innings of work. This left a long night and unfriendly scoreboard for the Red Sox bullpen. Kyle Snyder was unable to stop the bleeding as all his inherited runners scored on Pena's homer. Javy Lopez also allowed an inherited runner to score in his 1/3 of an inning of work. This is where things started to turn things around as the Sox came to within a run in the bottom of the fifth. Corey, Delcarmen and Timlin would all contribute a scoreless inning of work as the offense put up another 8 runs of support in the later innings. Eric Gagne would give up a run while on mop up duty in the 9th.

The Red Sox offense was the exact opposite of it's performance the night before as every Red Sox hitter had a hit and all but Kevin Cash had multi-hit games. This is not surprising as the Tampa Bay bullpen is horrendous and had ample ground to cover after Tampa starter Sonnanstine only went for 3 1/3 before getting pulled.

With the season wrapping up there are still so many questions about the Red Sox. They have managed to win games and still have the best record in baseball, but there are so few players that have been consistently dependable this year.

Josh Beckett has been solid all year and is definitely worthy of Cy Young consideration, but what about the rest of the starting rotation? Curt Schilling has shown some flashes of brilliance and has been more consistent as of late but still has some terrible outings in the mix. Daisuke Matsuzaka seems to be feeling the effects of a longer season and a shorter rotation. His IP and number of starts is entering uncharted territory. In Daisuke's last 5 starts he's 1-4 with a 9.57 ERA. Tim Wakefield had been pitching well, but in his last two starts he has failed to make it out of the fourth inning. He has also been terrible against good teams this season. His record against teams in the playoff race (LAA, SDG, NYY, COL and DET) he is 2-6 with a 8.45 ERA

The bullpen is also no longer the place where games with opponents trailing after 6 go to die. Jonathan Papelbon continues to dominate the ninth inning, but what about the rest of the bullpen. Hideki Okajima seems to be burnt out from his overuse all year long and is developing his own case of Japanese Late Season Syndrome (JLSS) as his ERA has climbed from 0.87 at the end of July all the way up to the 1.76 it stands at now. Clay Bucholz will get a chance to contribute by making bullpen appearances, but how will the rookie hold up in the post-season. I think it's also worth noting the reservations Terry Francona voiced about Bucholz when the discussion of placing him in the bullpen was brought up.

"It's not just etched in stone - OK, this guy is a good young pitcher, goes from Double A, to Triple A, to the major leagues, that you throw a guy in the bullpen in September and it translates into a bunch of zeroes, I'm not sure that it's practical."

"He's the type of kid that it looks to me as he works into a game can get stronger. Having a guy come in [in relief] who's never done it and throwing him in there in the eighth with a couple of men on base, I don't know how that works. I'm sure it's something we'll talk about, I just don't know the answer yet."

Hardly a ringing endorsement for the "Bucholz to the bullpen plan" from the manager. Eric Gagne has managed to settle down and looks more comfortable in a Red Sox uniform, but he is still giving up runs in many of his appearances and has yet to throw a clean inning for the sox. Mike Timlin has been fairly solid ever since his return from the DL in early June, lowering his ERA from 6.23 to 3.24, but he still has the occasional implosion, like the four runs he gave up against Baltimore on August 31st. Also, at Timlin's age it definitely raises questions about his durability down the stretch.

If this team were playing like it did in the first half I'd feel confident that they could beat any team in the league. The way they're playing right now? I'm not sure.

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