The Boston Red Sox are playing like they usually do during interleague play by continuing their dominance. They have gone 6-3 in their last nine games, and are in the midst of an easy road trip. They just took two out of three against the Washington Nationals on the road, and travel to Atlanta followed by Baltimore to conclude the road trip. The Sox have had a rough go of it on the road thus far, and this schedule gives them an opportunity to turn it around. Washington is the worst team in the Majors and Baltimore is by far the worst team in the AL East. Atlanta has been in a slump, and the Sox are catching them at the right time. Atlanta is four games below .500 so the Sox shouldn’t lose a series on this trip.
John Smoltz made his long-awaited start last night, but it didn’t go as planned. We were all hoping he would go out and throw six innings of two or three run ball, but that dream was lost when he allowed four runs in the first inning. It appeared he didn’t want to throw his fastball forcing him to throw too many breaking balls, which he couldn’t find the strike zone with. He did manage to settle down after the first, and only allowed a run in the next four innings. We were setting high standards for a guy that hadn’t pitched in the majors all year, but for him to get that first start under his belt is key. I think he will be a key pitcher for us in the playoffs (if we make it) and the fact that he settled in nice after a rough first, shows that after a little time Smoltz will be back to his old self.
Dice-K has had a dreadful year thus far and the Sox can’t send him to the minors because of his contract, so they were forced to put him on the DL. We all knew it was coming eventually and it was needed. After a couple of weeks rest he will get back into the swing of things by starting his whole preseason over. He will be going through the whole spring training experience in hope that it will bring last years Dice-K back. The Sox were going to go to a six-man rotation for a little while, but they will not have to do that with Dice-K gone. This also rules out any possible trade with Brad Penny for now, because I think the Sox would like to keep Clay Buchholz down in the minors as an injury replacement.
About a month ago Terry Francona moved the order around in hope to get some guys hot. It did seem to get David Ortiz back to his old self, but Dustin Pedroia has been in a slump since the day he was moved to the top of the order. I was never a big fan of this move because I don’t like J.D. Drew batting second. Jacoby Ellsbury is still batting around .300 in his new spot towards the bottom of the lineup. With his speed and ability to get on-base, I don’t think he should be batting seventh. Pedroia bats much better at the second spot and I think the Sox will produce more runs with Ellsbury and Pedroia one two.
Going into Thursday night’s game the Red Sox had their biggest lead in the division all year of 5 games. The Blue Jays and Yankees were both 5 GB of the Sox, but after a sox loss the Yankees are now 4 games back. The Sox know that the Yankees are the team they need to worry about and every game matters. It is likely that the division will be decided by just a few games and the Sox need to keep building on this lead so that if and when they have a key player out for 15 games for injury then dropping a few games won’t lose them the division. This road trip consists of some easy teams and hey need to take advantage of that.