Better. Much, much better. I would have preferred a more lopsided score in our favor, but a win is a win and this will do. Our pitching staff held its own for the most part, but unlike Friday’s game, the offense brought it yesterday. You can tell a lot from a game’s final score. If it’s a one-sided slugfest, you thank the offense and the pitching. If it’s a close slugfest, you thank the offense and not the pitching. If it’s a pitcher’s duel, obviously you thank the pitcher and not the offense. And if it’s a close game in general, you pretty much almost always thank the offense. All of this barring special circumstances, of course.
Yesterday we won, 7-5. Let’s start with the five. Unfortunately Lester was responsible for all but one of them; it was the first time he’d allowed at least one run after three previous starts in Philly. He gave up eight hits, walked three, and struck out one, and he pitched six innings. He threw ninety pitches, fifty-nine of which were strikes. If he’d gone maybe one more full inning, I would have said that he was pretty efficient. He allowed his first run in the third via a single-double combination. He allowed all the rest in the fourth; he hit his first batter in the inning on a 2-1 count and then induced a groundout but allowed a single followed by a home run after that on a 1-1 count. The pitch was a sinker. The tough thing about home runs is that they’re such an isolated phenomenon. A pitcher doesn’t give up a home run because he’s having a bad night; a pitcher gives up a home run because he makes one single, isolated mistake that the particular hitter he’s pitching to just happens to pick up on at that one moment in time. And even though the rest of Lester’s outing was mediocre and not his best work by any means, that’s what happened. Incidentally, he also made a throwing error in the fourth.
Lester handed the ball to Padilla for the seventh and eighth, when the fifth run was scored. Padilla recorded the first out in the eighth but also gave up two singles before Hill took the ball. Hill induced a groundout for the second out and then gave the ball to Aceves. And Aceves allowed a single that brought home the inherited runner. Aceves pitched the ninth as well for the save.
Fortunately, as I said, thanks to the offense we were able to come out on top, and we did so with four less hits than the Phillies. Aviles did not waste any time seeing to that. He sent the fifth pitch of the game into the bleachers in left center field. It got out of there in a hurry. It was the first time he’d ever hit a home run to begin a game in his career. We added two runs in the second; Salty singled, Sweeney doubled, Salty scored and Nava reached base on a missed catch, and Sweeney scored when Lester grounded into a double play. (There’s nothing like an American League pitcher making an easy out to remind you that it’s Interleague. Another way you know it’s Interleague is when your Gold Glove first baseman ends up playing right field to make room for your DH at first, although I must say that Gonzalez did a fine job; his sliding catch in the third was a tough play for any starting outfielder to make. Speaking of stellar catches, how about Sweeney’s diving catch just feet in front of the scoreboard to end the seventh? Mighty stellar. That catch prevented at least two runs from scoring and was absolutely integral to our victory.) We turned on more power in the fourth, when Middlebrooks and Salty smacked back-to-back jacks to lead it off, both balls ending up in right center field. Both swings were right on the money. Both balls left the park really fast. Both shots were awesome.
Not to be outdone, Papi crushed a two-run shot in the fifth (Pedroia had singled to start the inning) on the first pitch of his at-bat, a sinker. He sent that to straightaway center field. It was a classic Papi swing: strong, powerful, precise, and fast. He snapped the bat back, and the ball lofted out.
So this time we hit four home runs, and we did what you’re supposed to do when you hit four home runs: we won. And now it feels like Interleague.