Red Sox 6 Tampa Bay 1. Buchholz with another strong outing, striking out eight in 6 innings. TB starter Wade Davis struggled a bit. Ortiz and Youkilis each homered while Pedroia and Beltre notched 3 hits apiece.
Red Sox 2 Tampa Bay 0. A one-hitter: Lester with the win. Delcarman and Bard with holds. Papelbon with the save. Ortiz delivers a two-run double for all the scoring. James Shields pitched very well for TB, but was the tough-luck loser.
This has been a pleasant, and somewhat unexpected, run for the Red Sox. We all knew that the pitching wasn’t as bad as it showed in the first 5 weeks of the season, but the starters (and relievers for that matter) have really stepped it up in a stretch where the Red Sox have faced four consecutive over .500 teams (New York, Minnesota, Philadelphia, Tampa Bay), and three of those teams lead their divisions. The Sox are 7-2 in that stretch (6-1 against the league leaders).
Together, Buchholz and Lester beat Minnesota and Tampa Bay one time each for a 4-0 collective record in the past week. Lester: 15 IP, 18 K, 1 ER. Buchholz: 14 IP, 15 K, 3 ER. Add Matsuzaka’s and Wakefield’s matching shutouts against Philadelphia, each with 8 IP.
Meanwhile, the defense is improving (Beltre has been outstanding in recent games), and the offense is producing consistently as Ortiz (6.12 RC in the last 7 days) and Martinez (6.96) have picked up the pace to match continuing production from Youkilis (11.93), and Beltre (9.15).
Pedroia (1.31) has been in a bit of a slide (he’ll right that ship soon enough), Ellsbury’s return has been stunted, and Beckett has gone to the DL. Victor Martinez may be out for a while, but you are not going to find a more capable back-up catcher than Varitek.
Still, after five or six weeks of hand-wringing, the Red Sox fans finally have something to crow about. Keep the crowing tempered for the fortunes of baseball can quickly become misfortunes.
Baseball Guru, SJ Contributor