Ladies and gentlemen, we have officially won the series with the Astros. We can do no worse than that. Our last game is this afternoon, and if we win it, we’ll sweep and be on a four-game winning streak. It’s a pretty modest goal, but for a team that’s been down in the dumps lately, anything to boost morale and standing is a big deal.
If the team plays half as well this afternoon as it did last night, we should be able to complete the sweep easily. I’m not kidding. Last night we won by a final score of 10-4, and tomorrow we have Beckett. So if Beckett allows only two runs and the offense scores five, that’s an easy win right there.
Miller started and pitched well. In six innings, he allowed two runs on seven hits while walking two and striking out three. He was efficient, too. He threw eighty-five pitches, fifty-five of which were strikes. His repertoire isn’t huge, but he worked with what he had. His four-seam was outstanding. He threw less than a handful of two-seams, which were also outstanding. His changeup was nasty, and his slider was decent. He varied his speed, pounded the zone, and threw no more than nineteen pitches (in the third) and no less than eight pitches (in the sixth, his last inning, ironically enough) in a single frame. He gave up his first run in the first on a triple followed by a single, and he gave up a leadoff solo shot in his last inning. That home run was just the result of a bad pitch; Hunter Pence hit out the very first pitch he saw, a changeup. He’s 2-0 with a 3.06 ERA. For someone who was just trying for a roster spot during Spring Training, so far he’s already pitching better than some starters on the rotation.
By the time Miller left the game, we were already leading it, 4-2. We scored three runs in the first inning alone. (That’s half as many as we scored in the seventh inning yesterday, but still.) Ellsbury, who’s finally back in action, led off the game with a walk and ended up at third due to a dropped throw. Pedroia singled. And Gonzalez batted in the game’s first run. Then Youk singled, and Papi walked in Pedroia. Salty grounded into a double play, which scored Gonzalez. Then McDonald flied out to end it. Five consecutive baserunners. Not a bad way to start a baseball game.
Things were pretty quiet until the fifth, when Ellsbury and Pedroia’s back-to-back doubles yielded another RBI. Oh, by the way, in case you hadn’t noticed, Pedroia is not in a slump anymore. His problem had been two-strike counts and high inside fastballs. I think he has made it perfectly clear that they are no longer a problem.
That was it until the sixth, when Pence hit that homer. But we got that run back. After Scutaro flied out to open the seventh, Yamaico Navarro hit the first home run of his career. It was a solo shot on a ninety-mile-per-hour fastball to the first few rows of seats in left. If you saw batting practice before the game, you wouldn’t have been surprised. He was peppering that part of the park. So he pinch-hit for Miller, made like it was batting practice, and became the first pinch-hitter to hit his first career Red Sox homer since Juan Diaz did it in 2002. No big deal.
Aceves came on for the seventh but was pulled in favor of Bard after he loaded the bases with two singles and a walk. Bard walked in a run but secured the third out. (The fact that no pitcher, especially a late-game reliever, should ever walk in a run ever, even if it’s inherited is another story. So the fact that technically his last fourteen appearances have been earned run-free doesn’t really console me.)
Luckily for Bard, that run didn’t matter and we avenged him anyway. We scored four in the eighth. Three straight singles by Gonzalez, Youk, and Reddick led up to a sac fly by Salty, which brought in one, followed by a much more impressive three-run blast of a home run by McDonald, also on a ninety-mile-per-hour fastball and also to left. It was a blast in every sense of the word. It cleared the seats and went over the wall. Three runs with one swing. It doesn’t get much better than that. And that’s really good; Cameron has been designated for assignment, so McDonald is the man now
Actually, it did. We weren’t quite done. Gonzalez doubled in the ninth, and Youk singled him home. Jenks had pitched the eighth; Wheeler came on for the ninth and allowed a run, but fortunately and obviously it did not matter.
In short, the game was three hours and five minutes of pure, unadulterated dominance on every front. We batted .500 with runners in scoring position. Our pitching was better, our hitting was better, and our defense was better. Like I said before, if we play half as well today as we did yesterday, we’ll be the proud owners of a sweep tomorrow.