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Posts Tagged ‘Johan Santana’

It’s that time yet again.  Since we’re now halfway through the season, an evaluation is in order.  Given where we started and where we are now, there’s a lot to evaluate.  But it’s going to be tricky.  It’s always hard to assess overall performance when it fluctuates wildly, and as a team, that’s what we’re looking at here.  Some players were extremely good for a while and then they petered out, but the team collectively is doing well because when one player declines, another rises.  Of course, it would make the whole thing easier if we could take the entire month of April and throw it out the window, but naturally we can’t.  It was an anomaly, but it’s the reason why we’re close to first place rather than actually in first place.

Alright.  Let’s do this.  Here we go.

Jason Varitek: A

He’s doing alright.  We’ve seen the same Renaissance from him this year that we did last year.  He landed on the DL on July 1, but before that, he was batting .263 with seven homers and sixteen RBIs in thirty-four games.  His numbers were somewhat similar to these last year with the important difference being that last year he posted the same numbers in more games last year.  That has to do with V-Mart moving permanently into the starter’s role and of course with the DL, but if he got an A last year, he should get an A this year for the same reasons.  Given his role, he deserves it.

Victor Martinez: A-

He’s picked it up, but he didn’t get the same start to this season as he did to last season.  He was less consistently good this year.  With that said, he’s still good, period.  He’s started to pick it up, he’s worked very hard on improving his arm with runners on the basepaths, and it’s his first full season, and in the starting role.  So it’s been and continues to be a season of changes for him, but he’s adapted nicely and continues to improve.

Kevin Cash: B+

He’s back behind the dish as a result of the injury onslaught.  He hasn’t been back here for very long, but he’s done his job: he’s manned his position while the usual pair are doing time on the DL.  We haven’t asked much of him, and he hasn’t given us anything spectacular.  He gets points for catching Wake really well after a long absence.  So I don’t have anything to complain about here.

Kevin Youkilis: A

As usual, nothing to complain about.  His average is at the cusp of .300, his defense is spick-and-span, and if you ask me he absolutely should have won the Final Vote.  His on-base percentage is a bit lower than last year because his strikeouts are up, but he’s been walking a ton, his slugging percentage is right where it should be at .575, not to mention his eighteen doubles, five triples, and eighteen home runs.  I think he’s one of the most consistent members of this lineup.

Dustin Pedroia: A

For a decent part of the season, he wasn’t performing up to expectations, which is inherently hard to do when you’re Dustin Pedroia.  But look at his numbers.  They clearly show his turnaround.  In April, he batted .302.  His average took a nosedive in May: .213.  But he got it together in June and batted a huge .374.  The turnaround was complete and absolute, and that was why his injury caused so much concern.  His defense is where it always is; he’s the quintessential dirt dog.  But he definitely gets an A for his resilience.

Marco Scutaro: A-

As with Beltre, we acquired him mainly for defense, and any offense was technically a bonus.  Our luck with shortstops post-Nomar hasn’t been great, and we just came off an abysmal fielder at short, so it’s been nice watching his range, athleticism, and .967 fielding percentage.  By general standards, that’s not that great, but compared to some other shortstops we’ve had recently, it’s great.  He’s already racked up 223 assists and turned thirty-seven assists.  And on top of that, his .283 average isn’t too shabby by any means.  Neither are twenty-two doubles, twenty-eight RBIs, and thirty-four walks.

Adrian Beltre: B+

No explanation needed here either.  Dude’s the best hitter on the team.  I’ll bet nobody expected that.  He’s third in homers and RBIs.  And his D is absolutely impeccable.  If you watch the highlights on SportsDesk.  If you watch the games too, you’ll be able to relate to my exasperation and disappointment.  The 159 assists and nineteen double plays are nice and all, but there’s no getting around his .943 fielding percentage, borne of his fourteen errors at third, which are tied with Miguel Tejada for most by a third baseman in all of Major League Baseball.  His improvement throughout the season is apparent; his errors were much more frequent and harmful in the beginning, which was obviously a contributing factor to the April fiasco, but still you can’t ignore them.  I guess it evens out, though.  Theo acquired him primarily for defense and didn’t expect much offense.  What he got was a ton of offense but mediocre defense.  So fulfilled our expectation of getting a lot of one and not much of the other; it was just the opposite.  As he spends more time in the park, his defense will also be above par.  So even though his knee has single-handedly sidelined some significant starters, we give him a decent mark for his bat.  In Theo we trust.  His fielding will come around in no time.

David Ortiz: A

This really doesn’t need an explanation, but I’ll give one anyway, just for fun.  He batted .143 in April and followed it with a huge surge in May, posting a .363 average with ten home runs and twenty-seven RBIs and a slugging percentage of .788.  He had a mediocre June but is on the upswing again this month.  Not to mention the Home Run Derby.  Big Papi is back!

Eric Patterson: A-

Again, it’s all about the expectations and the job he was brought here to do.  Like Kevin Cash, we brought him here in a pinch because we were dropping like flies.  And just by virtue of the fact that he’s healthy and can play, we’ve done well enough.  So I can’t dock him for mediocre baseball, because he wasn’t brought here to be the next Ted Williams.  So he gets a good grade for holding up under all the pressure of being thrown into an extremely competitive environment to keep us from crashing and burning.

Mike Lowell: C-

This is a difficult one to judge because of the dramatic decrease in playing time he’s seen this year.  But even if you look at his performance only in the context of his playing time, it’s not that great.  The highest he’s batted in a month this year is .250, and that was in April; he’s currently batting .213.  He has two homers and twelve RBIs.  He’s only walked eleven times.  His age is clearly showing.  It’s a harsh reality, but there’s nothing you can do but be honest.

Mike Cameron: B+

When Cameron came here, we expected good enough offense and stellar defense.  We have the good enough offense; he, like most of the team, batted horribly in April but picked it up in May before tanking again in June.  His fielding, however, has been subpar.  His fielding percentage so far is .976.  For him, that’s low; his fielding percentage is usually above .990.  And considering the fact that he replaced Ellsbury, whose fielding percentage was exactly one last year, he’s got to do better than that.  Part of it is getting used to his new territory – he’s never played in Fenway before this year – so look for him to improve his fielding in the second half.

JD Drew: A-

If you toss April out the window, he’s been great this year.  The improvement in his hitting between last year’s first half and this year’s is easy to see.  He had a fantastic May, a decent June, and is on his way to a fantastic July.  Overall, he’s batting .275.  His OPS is just .836, but again, it looks like he’s picking it up this month.  You also can’t argue with his fielding percentage: an even one.  No errors whatsoever this year in seventy-one games.

Bill Hall: B-

Hall is listed on the roster as an outfielder, even though he’s really a jack-of-all-trades.  It’s hard to beat the athleticism he’s exhibited in that role.  He can pretty much play any position.  We didn’t sign him for offense; we signed him for defensive depth on the bench, and to some degree that’s what we got.  He’s played second base, third base, shortstop, left field, center field, and right field this year, and he’s even pitched a bit.  While he has been a go-to guy whose value to the team has increased tremendously since the onslaught of injuries began, he’s not automatically excellent in the field.  With the conspicuous exception of one position: left.  He has a fielding percentage of one in nineteen starts and thirty games in left field.

Darnell McDonald: A

Darnell McDonald absolutely gets an A.  Think about it.  The guy is old, he traded hands in the minors, he was probably settling in for a long and hard career there without much hope of advance, he comes up, and he’s instantly a hero.  He’s been nothing but a hero to this team in its time of need.  Without the contributions of McDonald and Nava, we’d be in dire straits, trust me.  His .271 average is just ahead of the league leader.  His fielding percentages in left and right are both one, and his fielding percentage in center is a neat .988.  This guy exceeded all of our expectations, if we even had any, and for that, we salute him.

Daniel Nava: A

Same with this kid, and when I say kid, I mean kid.  He was called up in a pinch and delivered big time.  Literally.  A grand slam on the first pitch of your first Major League at-bat is no small talk.  Even putting that aside, he’s batting .300 with twelve extra-base hits and sixteen RBIs in twenty-four games.  He’s started twenty-one games in left field without making an error.  At such a young age and on such short notice, we were asking a lot of Nava, and he delivered.  For that, we also salute him.

Jacoby Ellsbury: A

Before his injury, Ellsbury was his usual self offensively.  His season average is only .250, but if you look deeper, you’ll notice that he only played a month and a half of baseball.  In April, he basically played every day and batted .333.  Then, in May, he only played three games.  Same with defense.  In fact, he sustained his injury while being his usual self in the field.  He was error free in both center and left.  So he was on track to have another fantastic year.  Too bad his ribs ended it.

Jeremy Hermida: B

We acquired Hermida your usual fourth outfielder.  After Ellsbury became injured, he stepped up majorly to get us through before he himself got injured.  While he played, he was decent.  He had some flashes of brilliance, but overall he was consistent and stable, providing defensive depth and nothing too fancy at the plate.  Still, as the fourth outfielder, he played a very important role.

Jon Lester: A

He’s an ace.  His ERA is 2.78, good for sixth in the American League.  His WHIP is 1.09.  He’s got 124 strikeouts – nobody hits his cut fastball – and a record of eleven and three in eighteen starts.  He’s given up only six homers in exactly 120 innings, proving his endurance and durability.  He had his usual horrible April, but his turnaround was so sharp and so complete, and he’s been so dominant for the rest of the season.  How do you not give him an A? He is definitely a backbone of this staff, especially this year with Beckett out.  And to think at one time he may have been on the block for Johan Santana.  Always, in Theo we trust.

Clay Buchholz: A

You can’t talk about Buchholz without talking about how much fun it is to see this kid mature into an ace right before your eyes.  We remember his no-no, we remember his abysmal season in 2008, we remember his improvement last year, and we’re seeing right now everything we knew he had in him.  He’s yet another example of why in Theo we trust.  Our farm system hasn’t failed us yet, and we know a good pitcher when we see one.  Buchholz tosses some of the salad I’ve ever seen.  His ERA of 2.45 is second in the American League and eighth in the Majors.  Wow.  He’s ten and four with only one no decision.  He’s pitched ninety-two innings and has given up only three home runs.  Phenomenal.  Absolutely phenomenal.

John Lackey: B

When we signed Lackey, I was so psyched.  I immediately started counting the automatic outs that his mean first-pitch strike would generate.  I envisioned a one-two-three punch in the rotation that would be impossible to beat.  But that’s not what I got.  His reputation as a workhorse did come through.  He pitched 113 innings in eighteen starts, which is less than Lester’s total, but he usually throws more pitches per start than Lester.  But his record is only nine and five, his ERA is 4.78, his WHIP is 1.60, and his OPP AVG is .298.  He’s given up ten home runs and has only racked up sixty-eight strikeouts.  Those are bad numbers.  They’re certainly not what any of us was expecting, that’s for sure.  In his defense, it is his first season in a Boston uniform, and we know from experience that pitchers usually perform better in their sophomore season with us, but still.  It takes good pitching and good defense to play the run prevention game.  We have the good defense.  It takes five starters to give us good pitching. Lackey is an integral part of that, but we haven’t seen him at his best.

Daisuke Matsuzaka: C

Just to be clear, that’s a C for inconsistency.  That’s his theme.  If I had to use one word to describe Dice-K as a pitcher, that would undoubtedly be it.  If he goes out and has a terrible outing, you have no reason to expect that from him in his next start.  But if he pitches extraordinarily well, like he did when he almost no-hit the Phillies, you sure can’t expect a repeat performance like that either.  Every time you think he’s turned a corner, he reverts.  Every time he reverts, you hope he’ll turn a corner.  And it just goes on and on with no progress.  His ERA is 4.56, his WHIP is 1.39, he’s six and three in twelve starts.  It’s frustrating.  Also, he’s not a good fielder.

Tim Wakefield: B-

Wakefield is obviously not performing as well this year as he did last year.  Last year, he was an All-Star.  This year, he was moved to the bullpen and is only starting now because Beckett is out.  His record is three and seven in fourteen starts.  He didn’t get his first win until May 23.  His ERA is 5.22 and his WHIP is 1.32.  In exactly one hundred innings, he’s allowed fifteen homers.  His numbers don’t reflect his flashes of brilliance.  He’s known for not receiving a ton of run support.  He could be pitching a lot better.  However, he’s an integral part of this staff, which clearly wouldn’t be the same without him.

Josh Beckett: D

He almost won the Cy Young three years ago, and should have in my opinion, and then all his dominance went out the window along with his back.  In eight starts this year, he’s one and one.  His ERA is over seven.  In about forty-five innings, he’s allowed thirty-seven earned runs, six homers, and nineteen walks.  It was painful to watch.  Then he got injured and he’s been on the DL working his way back for a while.  His recover has been proceeding nicely, and we hope when he returns, he’ll return with his health as well as his skills.  Meanwhile, he epically failed.

Felix Doubront: A

For a young kid who’s only made two Major League starts, he’s done well, and he’s shown us that the future of our rotation is in good hands.  He’s won one and barely lost the other.  His inexperience clearly shows, but so does his potential.

Scott Atchison: B

He’s old.  It shows.  But he’s still pitched decently this year.  He’s not an elite reliever, but then again we never expected him to be.

Manny Delcarmen: C+

He hasn’t been healthy; he started pitching really badly, and then they figured out he had to go on the DL.  He’s a great pitcher, so if he gets better and picks it up, he’ll help the team a lot in the second half.  But until then, he’s left much to be desired.

Hideki Okajima: C+

Same story.  He wasn’t that great, turned out he was hurting, he went on the DL, he came off the DL, and he still wasn’t that great.  I think it’s safe to say that the league has figured him out.  I don’t think we’ll see the dominance he exhibited when he first came over any time soon.  Back then his delivery, where he turns his head, was very disorienting.  It was a novelty.  Now that everyone’s seen it and got used to it, it doesn’t have the same effect anymore.  He’s still got stuff, but he needs to work on his precision.

Ramon Ramirez: B

His story is similar, plus a little better performance.  He just hasn’t been that great.

Dustin Richardson: B

He was called up to add some depth to the bullpen and to compensate for some injuries.  He’s done a fairly decent job.  He’s still a kid, so you can’t fault him for inexperience.

Robert Manuel: B

Same thing.  He was called up even more recently and has done what he can to help out in the ‘pen.  Given the circumstances of his and Richardson’s callups, they’ve both done admirably.

Daniel Bard: A

What can I say? He’s the ultimate setup man because he was built to close.  His fastball is on fire.  His ERA is under two.  His WHIP is under one.  He’s got three saves and nineteen holds.  It’s easy to forget sometimes that he’s still just a kid and has a long way to go yet, but he’s halfway there already.

Jonathan Papelbon: B+

His ERA at 3.50 is astronomically high for a closer.  There’s absolutely no disputing that fact.  His WHIP of 1.11 isn’t great for a closer either.  Especially not one of his caliber.  Nevertheless, he’s pitched thirty-six innings and converted twenty saves while only blowing three.  Of course, those three blown saves were blown pretty badly, but at least he’s only blown three.  His improvement since last year has been good.  He’s expanded his repertoire and worked on his delivery.  So despite his ERA, he’s still a fantastic closer.

Terry Francona: A

Terry Francona should be the Manager of the Year.  He’s a wizard.  It takes profound managerial skill to manage your club while eleven guys from the forty-man roster are on the disabled list, eight of whom are regular players and five of whom are starters.  He’s a genius.  He has such intuition for the game.  I’m not even sure how he’s been able to guide us through this, but it absolutely is a testament to his ability.  He’s the best there is.  This episode of injuries proves it.

Theo Epstein: A

I say, “In Theo we trust,” all the time for a reason.  In this post alone, that right there was the fourth time.  It’s because it’s true.  After April and before everyone landed on the DL, the run prevention game he’d planned showed that it was working.  In fact, it was working so well that, despite the awful April we had, we were about to steal first place away from New York. The man knows what he’s doing.  And there are also the previously mentioned examples of Beltre, Lester, and Buchholz.  He’ll get us there.

The Boston Red Sox Overall: B

The team overall gets a B because, even though most individual players received As, the team overall hasn’t been performing as well as the abilities of its individual members would suggest.  This is the direct result of two things: April and injuries.  Our April, for whatever reason, was disgusting.  We played like minor leaguers and dug ourselves into a hole that we spent the entire first half trying to get out of without succeeding.  The starting pitchers, most notably Lester and Beckett, were terrible in April, as was essentially the entire offense, which didn’t do much of anything at all that month.  But after we exited the month of April, we played like everyone expected us to play when the season started.  Our starters started dominating, our hitters started hitting, and our run prevention game started working.  We looked like a team that will go all the way.  We even put ourselves into position to seize the entire division.  Then all of the injuries to many key people happened all at once, and it’s a testament to the team’s gritty attitude, resilience, and never-say-die determination that we are where we are in spite of that.  The fact that we’re five games out of first and three games out of second after a first half with an abysmal first month and injuries to three of our most important starting bats, which is a third of the entire lineup, and two of our most important pitchers, one of whom hasn’t really been out significantly but the other of whom has been out since said abysmal April when we originally expected him to be as dominant as ever only confirms the fact that we have what it takes to win the World Series.  Because if we’ve come this far with the B team, just imagine what we can do with a healthy A team.  We’d be so good, it’s not even funny.  So we have a lot to look forward to in this second half.  There’s still a lot of baseball to be played, and I have a feeling that we’ll play it very well.  Get psyched.  It’s about to be on.

Boston Globe Staff/Yoon S. Byun

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Apparently, last night was Dice-K’s attempt at redemption from his altogether disgusting performance against the Royals.  Hey, those are his words, not mine, but I’m sure not going to disagree with him.  He was horrible against the Royals.  Which makes his performance last night all the more interesting.  If he can turn himself around between starts, why can’t he just turn himself around definitively once and for all and stay the course?

As per usual, he had his bad inning.  He allowed three runs in the first.  But after that he was lights out.  It was remarkable.  His final line was three runs on ten hits with no walks and seven K’s over six and two-thirds innings pitched.  So, to review, he just decided that he did enough walking against the Royals and simply didn’t walk anyone against the A’s.  He threw 109 pitches.  Eighty-four of them were strikes.

Maybe Dice-K needed to go through that walkfest to reach a turning point.  His quality was never at issue – the relievers call him the Magic Man because he’s got stuff but you never know when you’ll see it – it’s his command that’s at issue.  He said afterwards that he realized that, instead of beating around the bush and ending up with so many walks, he may as well pound the zone and pitch aggressively, and if they hit it, they hit it.  A hit and a walk are no different if it means a guy is standing on first base and especially if it means a guy is standing on first base too often for comfort.  So that’s what he did.  He pounded the zone and pitched aggressively.  And it paid off.  Finally.  He had this problem last year too; he’d try to pitch around batters and get himself in all kinds of jams.  His old Houdini act.  Then, when he’d have to pitch aggressively, he would, and the opposition wouldn’t be able to do anything.  So, as last night showed, he should just pitch aggressively from the start.

The strike percentages of his fastball and cutter were ridiculously high.  As were those for every single other pitch he threw: curveball, slider, and changeup.  Not coincidentally, his strike zone was packed.  He used all but the bottom left corner of it profusely.  His movement was sharp but not wild.  He used a game-high twenty-three pitches for the first and seventh, before he was taken out.  But in between, he used at most eighteen (in the second, so he probably hadn’t fully settled down yet) and at least nine (in the third, so you can see how striking, pun intended, the turn around was).

All of which is to say that I’m not of the opinion that Dice-K can just right himself permanently over night such that he’ll be super-consistent and we’ll never have to worry about him again.  But I am saying that now we know of a solution to the problem: he needs to be less concerned with keeping his hit total down, because if he pitches too carefully as a result, he’ll end up with too many walks.  If he pitches aggressively, he’ll end up with fewer hits than he would walks if he pitched carefully.  Now that he’s convinced himself that by putting himself through the two extremes, he can look at his history here and see that that’s a very good and very viable option.  We all know he’s always been reluctant to pound the zone, but he’s seen now that it’s better than not pounding it, so hopefully he’ll just do it more often.

Unfortunately, it’s not quite that simple.  He gave up ten hits, like I said, some with two out.  But I’ll take hits over both hits and walks any day.  So will Terry Francona, who explained that the first inning was a product of throwing too many strikes.  Dice-K was being a bit too aggressive, pounding the zone a bit too much, so they read him and jumped on him.  His broader problem is that he’s not the best at orchestrating a mix of aggressive pitching and careful pitching that adapts to the game’s needs.  We usually see him pick one or the other; he either pitches aggressively for the entire game or he pitches carefully for the entire game.  But a successful starter is flexible and adaptable, just like Dice-K was during his no-no bid.  The reason why he’s such a conundrum is that he has it in him; it just doesn’t always come out right.

What can we expect from Dice-K next time? It’s very hard to say.  I hope that he will in fact get himself on a solid road to consistency, but we don’t know for sure.  If things continue the way they’ve been going, he’s scheduled to bomb his next start, because it’s been alternating good and bad, and the better one performance, the worse the next.  So we’ll just have to wait and see.

The final score was 6-4.  Bard got a hold in the remainder of the seventh, but Paps allowed a solo shot in the ninth.  So that’s how they got to four.  How we got to six has a lot to do with David Ortiz.

In the first, Papi double to left and put runners in scoring position with nobody out, and Youk singled in two.  In the fifth, Papi launched a two-run homer that found the right field stands in a hurry; he’s the American League Player of the Week, and deservedly so.  In the seventh, Pedroia doubled in Scutaro; that’s his second hit in two games.  In the eighth, Scutaro singled in Hall and has quietly become a solid leadoff hitter.

Congratulations to Jon Lester, the American League Pitcher of the Week.  Lester and Papi are the first pair of teammates to win both of those honors in the same week since Joe Mauer and Johan Santana did it for the Twins in June 2006.

We shut down Beckett for ten days.  As far as Cameron is concerned, there’s nothing wrong with him, and he could be back as early as this weekend.

Since April 20, we have the best record in the American League: twenty-seven and fourteen.  And by the way, we’re in third place.  Not fourth.  Third.  Half a game ahead of Toronto.  But it’s like I’ve been saying all along: one game at a time.  Next up, Anderson at Wakefield.  Let’s keep rolling.

AP Photo

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Doubleheaders are rare these days.  I don’t even think they schedule doubleheaders anymore; they’re a result of rain or other unforeseen circumstances.  So when you find yourself presented with two ballgames in one day, you treasure it.  But you also appreciate how difficult it is for the team.  That’s at least six hours of work.  Terry Francona slept in his office last night because he saw no point in going home, only to return a few hours later.  It’s tough.  So for the fan, having a doubleheader is really awesome.  But having your team sweep a doubleheader is monumental.

Which makes yesterday’s all-out domination that much more special.

Buchholz cruised in the opener.  Seriously.  This is exactly why Roy Halladay still pitches for the Jays.  Seven innings of five-hit, one-run ball with three walks and five K’s.  But the Rays tied it at one on his watch, so he was removed from the decision.  Okajima got the win and Paps picked up the save when we won it, 3-1, and it was all because of Dustin Pedroia.  V-Mart singled him in in the sixth, and he took care of himself and Gathright in the eighth when he sent the ball out of the park to deep right.  One down, one to go.

Tito got creative with the lineup again, but that’s what doubleheaders are all about.  For the opener, he had Bay DH while Kotchman played first, Rocco played right, Reddick played left, and Green started at short.  And it was good that Kotchman was on his toes; he may have fumbled the ball a bit, but he fired to home in time to prevent Gabe Gross from breaking the tie in the seventh.  Later, Drew was back in right, Bay was back in left, Ortiz DHed, Lowell played third, and Gonzalez started at short.

Lester was one inning, two hits, and three walks shy of a perfect game.  Add seven strikeouts and it really doesn’t get much better than that.  And let’s not forget about his efficiency.  He finished those almost-perfect eight innings having thrown 105 pitches.  But one of the most remarkable things about him is that he does all of it quietly.  He doesn’t attract the attention of a Johan Santana or a CC Sabathia, and yet right now many would say he’s better than both.  Billy Wagner ran into some trouble; he allowed two hits but ended up getting out of it two strikeouts and eighteen pitches later.  No save though, because we won that one, 4-0.  I love shutouts.  I really do.  One RBI for Lowell, two for Varitek, and an absolutely towering home run for Bay to lead off the eighth.  Lowell was solid at third base.  Cut fastballs produce a lot of ground balls to third, and he was all over them.  No incidents of note.  You’d think he never had any hip issue at all.  Pat Burrell was ejected in the eighth inning for using some choice words to argue balls and strikes.  I don’t even know why he bothered; he so blatantly went around that he had no argument.

Well, that’s a wrap! Yesterday was just a really great day.  Six hours of quality baseball.  And not only did we kill one of our division rivals, but we killed them twice.  With long balls in the eighth innings.  Really a fantastic show.  This puts us four games ahead of Texas in the Wild Card race, if you can even call it a race.  We ran away with it the minute we set our sights on it.  We have another off day today, and just in time, too.  I’m telling you, our good luck with timing regarding days off is incredible.  This is just what the doctor ordered after a doubleheader.  And then tomorrow we welcome Dice-K back to the rotation.  Like I said, hopefully this goes well.  Hold on to your hats.

In other news, football season starts today for New England! The Patriots take on the Bills tonight.

Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis

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We’re more than halfway through the season.  In fact, it’s already August, when more than the weather gets hot.  Each and every Major League club goes into playoff mode, but only a select few will get there.  There isn’t a doubt in my mind that we will most definitely be one of the few.  We’ve dominated our division.  Toronto started the season strong but has since slipped into fourth place and was seriously contemplating trading Roy Halladay to get some much-needed fresh blood into the clubhouse.  The Baltimore Orioles did the usual: fell to the bottom of the pack.  They’re twenty games out now, which is quite pathetic.  The Rays have been nonexistent in third place, even though somehow they just managed to sweep us in a two-game set, and we’ve been wiping the floor with the Yankees and are ready for another go-around.  It’s been fantastic.  We’re currently undefeated against New York.  Let me say that again.  We’re currently undefeated against New York.  Feels good, doesn’t it? So we start the two-month playoff rush in a decent place: two and a half games out and ready to rock and roll.  Not great but it could be worse.

Every year, Boston.com grades the team individually and overall at the All-Star break, with a little help from Tony Massarotti.  You can find Boston.com’s report card here.  I’ll be taking a break for about twelve days, but I’ll leave you with a report card of my own: a late-season grading of that team we all know and love.

Jason Varitek: A

Compare this year to last year.  So far this year, he’s hit thirteen home runs, batted in forty-four runs, scored thirty-seven runs, and has sixty-four hits.  Last year, he hit thirteen home runs, batted in forty-three runs, scored thirty-seven runs, and had ninety-three hits.  And this season isn’t even over yet.  So he’s significantly exceeded his numbers from last year in all of those categories, and he’s thirty-seven years old.  Experiencing a renaissance at the catcher’s position and at that age isn’t easy, but he worked closely with hitting coach Dave Magadan to make that happen with very positive results.  And we still get all of the goodness behind the plate; he’s got a 3.72 catcher’s ERA, the fourth-lowest in Major League Baseball.

Victor Martinez: A

Theo landed him at the trading deadline to add another big bat to the lineup.  Victor Martinez has done that and more, making an immediate impact and finding a groove right away.  He adds his .294 average, sixteen home runs, and seventy-three RBIs as well as a fielding percentage of upwards of .990 at first base.  He hasn’t made an error at catcher all season.  He plays first, he catches, he DHes; he does it all in the field and, as a switch-hitter who bats .307 from the left and a decent .258 from the right, at the plate.  A brilliant acquisition yet again by our general manager.

Kevin Youkilis: A

I have nothing to complain about here.  He consistently bats at or above .300 with a .422 on-base percentage and a .580 slugging percentage.  He’s hit twenty home runs this year, so his power numbers are up but not at the expense of his walks (fifty-six) or other hits.  That, plus his defense.  He moves between third and first like it’s the easiest thing in the world.  And these are his numbers with a stint on the DL and a slump during which he batted .194 over twenty-eight games.

Dustin Pedroia: A-

I give the kid an A.  Unlike many reigning MVPs, he’s not having a bad season the year after winning the award.  He’s batting above .300.  His power numbers are down, but he’s batted in forty-six runs and hit thirty-one doubles.  He’s second among Major League second basemen in runs and doubles, third in hits, fifth in walks, third in batting average, and fourth in on-base percentage.  Of course the top-notch fielding can’t be ignored, even though his .987 fielding percentage is low.  Still, he’s a dirt dog if I’ve ever seen one.

Mike Lowell: B

His 2007 season was outstanding.  His 2008 season, not as much.  His season this year will be a test of whether he can successfully rebound from his hip surgery.  He’s done that so far, posting a .296 batting average and .817 OPS, good for fifth in the American League among third basemen.  And after his three weeks on the DL in the first half, he’s really come on strong in the second.  We headed into the All-Star break thinking we needed another bat, and now we have one.  (Actually, we have two, since the acquisition of V-Mart.) As far as his fielding goes, the hip does prevent him from going the extra mile sometimes, but that’s rare enough.

Nick Green: B

Nick Green really stepped up to the plate.  Definitely an unsung hero of the team.  Jed Lowrie was out, and we were looking at a long stretch of errors from Julio Lugo.  Then some non-roster Spring Training invitee stepped in and lo and behold.  Lugo lost his job, and Green made the most of his opportunity to start.  His offense is his weakness, walkoff home run notwithstanding.

Jason Bay: A-

This man is phenomenal.  Theo Epstein hasn’t been able to lock him up yet, but he will.  Jason Bay is too good to let walk into the free agent market.  We’ll sign him.  Anyway, he does the usual.  He hits for average (the .252 is a little low but the .279 career gets the point across) and power (twenty-one home runs).  He fields (no errors at all this season).  He’s seventh in the American League in RBIs and first in walks with seventy-one.  He did go through a rather pronounced slump during which he batted .153 and struck out twenty-five times in seventeen games, but with a strong second half, which may be hampered by his right hamstring issue, he could be in the running for MVP along with Youkilis and Pedroia.

Jacoby Ellsbury: A

Whatever issues he may have had at the plate last year have been solved.  Ellsbury batted .287 in April, then .308 in May, then .313 in June.  He’s now batting .301.  With six home runs and thirty-five RBIs.  He’s gotten really comfortable at the top of the order, and there’s that whole stolen bases thing.  Since the start of last season, only Carl Crawford has more thefts.  And that steal of home against Andy Pettitte will be playing on highlight reels for the rest of the decade.  This speed translates perfectly from the basepaths to center field, where he makes the most difficult and convoluted catches look like walks in the park.

JD Drew: B

Theo Epstein knew exactly what he was getting when he signed Drew to a five-year, $14 million-per-season contract.  He’s batting .248.  With an on-base percentage of .365.  Consistently.  That’s the key.  You always know what you’ll get with Drew: nothing great, but nothing too bad, either.  And get this: the Red Sox are fourth in the American League in OPS in right field.  He’s put those numbers to good use in the leadoff spot, and the one-two punch of him and Pedroia has become something to be feared by opposing pitchers.  With Ellsbury fitting perfectly into that leadoff role now, he finds himself batting lower in the order, but his consistency remains intact.  He mans right field well, which isn’t something you can say for everyone who plays the position in Fenway Park.

David Ortiz: B+

I never thought I’d give that grade to David Ortiz, but you can blame it on his horrendous first two months.  His lowest point was June 2, when he batted .186 with one home run, eighteen RBIs, and an OPS of just .566 in forty-seven games.  Ugh.  But then, what a turnaround.  I want everyone who said he was done to take a good, long look at the following numbers: in his next thirty-four games, he led the team in home runs with eleven, RBIs with 29, and OPS with 1.011.  That, my friends, is Big Papi.  So far he’s batted .225 with fifteen home runs, so the numbers continue to climb.  With a solid second half, the season might not turn out to be so bad for him.

George Kottaras: B-

Let’s remember why he’s here.  He’s here to catch Tim Wakefield.  He’s not here to hit or to take the reins from Jason Varitek; those two responsibilities fall squarely on the shoulders of Victor Martinez.  He’s here to catch knuckleballs every fifth day and give the captain an extra day of rest if he needs it.  And he’s done a great job of that.  Less than ten passed balls and a 5.08 catcher’s ERA.  As far as offense goes, there really isn’t any, but again, that’s not the point.

Jeff Bailey: C

Again, we knew what we were getting here.  Key players were out with injuries, and we needed someone to fill in.  He’s significantly better against lefties (.400) than righties (.111), and the defense is fine enough (no errors).  He wasn’t staying in the Majors anyway, so it’s not a big deal.

Rocco Baldelli: A-

He was signed to provide backup in right field and to handle southpaws.  He hasn’t seen much playing time because of his health concerns, but he’s still batting .261.  Something he’s not usually credited with is a really strong arm.  He practically won the game for us when Lester dueled with Kansas City’s Brian Bannister on July 10; Ellsbury had been ejected for throwing equipment in frustration when called out at the plate, so Rocco Baldelli came in.  He gunned down a Royal at second, something Ellsbury probably would’ve have been able to pull off.  That was key.

Josh Beckett: A

Obviously.  Quite simply, he is an ace.  He is one of the fiercest competitors I’ve ever seen.  He had a 7.22 ERA to start June, but look at him now.  In his last thirteen starts before the All-Star break, he’s 9-1 with a 2.14 ERA.  Currently, he’s thirteen and four with a 3.27 ERA that just keeps dropping.  This is shaping up to be a Cy Young year.  Again.  Hopefully they’ll get it right this time.

Jon Lester: A

It’s almost the exact same story.  His rough patch was about two weeks longer than Beckett’s, but his turnaround was just as rapid and just as dramatic.  He is now the best southpaw in all of Major League Baseball.  In the middle of May, he was looking at a 6.51 ERA.  In his ten starts before the All-Star break, he was 6-2 with a 2.01 ERA.  He’s now nine and seven with a 3.79 ERA, but don’t let that fool you.  Theo knew what he had here.  Who needs Johan Santana when you have Lester.

Tim Wakefield: A

He’s eleven and three with a 4.31 ERA.  He’s an All-Star.  He carried a no-no bid into the eighth inning on the road against the A’s this year.  By the way, did I mention he’s forty-two years old? He’s the longest-tenured member of the club, and all he does is consistently give us quality innings and put us in a position to win.  It’s not his fault if he doesn’t get any run support.

Daizuke Matsuzaka: F

Fail.  Epic fail.  Without a doubt, this is the lowest grade I gave this year.  Eight starts, 1-5 with an 8.23 ERA.  The Sox’s record is 2-6 in those starts.  Awful.  Just awful.  And we can thank Bud Selig and the World Baseball Classic for that.  Dice-K went hard during the Classic and basically blew his season along with his shoulder.  He finally seems to be receptive to adapting to the Major League way of doing things (but only after airing his grievances), and after a stint on the DL, he’s now down in Fort Myers basically catching up on all the Spring Training he missed while pitching for Japan.  Just a big, huge, epic fail.

Brad Penny: C

He’s a number five starter.  He never pitches less than five innings, and he never pitches more than six.  He usually gives up about three runs per outing.  And he does this every single time he starts.  Consistency has been the name of his game, but it’s withered considerably in the second half.  He’s been struggling lately.

John Smoltz: C

Two and four with a 7.12 ERA isn’t the John Smoltz I was expecting, but then I stepped back and remembered why we signed him.  We signed him for October.  He has more wins in the postseason than any other pitcher, and he’s here to bring some of that success to us.  We can weather regular-season spottiness if it means some major Ws in the postseason, but the problem is that it just doesn’t seem like he’s peaking at all.  If the goal is to peak late, we should see glimmers of brilliance this month.  Maybe we will, starting tonight.  It doesn’t look likely, though.

Ramon Ramirez: A

The bullpen’s unsung hero.  Theo’s trade of Coco Crisp for this man was genius.  During his sixteen-game rough patch in the first half, his ERA was 5.02, and we all know it wasn’t pleasant to watch him during that stretch.  But he’s gotten better.  And he’s one of the best overall.  His ERA is 2.28, and less than ten relievers in the Majors have an ERA lower than his.  One of them being Jonathan Papelbon.

Daniel Bard: A

Daniel Bard has a long way to go, but he’s getting there fast.  As his confidence grows, so does Terry Francona’s.  He’s using him more and more, and Bard is stepping up and delivering.  A 2.25 ERA, and keep in mind that what you are seeing here is our setup man of the future.  Who tops out at one hundred miles per hour.  Imagine that.  The one-two punch of Bard and Papelbon.  Unhittable.

Takashi Saito: C

He was supposed to be our third-day closer, but with the bullpen being the best in baseball and all, he hasn’t really been used that consistently.  Actually, he’s mostly used when we’re losing.  If the bullpen stays healthy, we don’t really need him that much.  He’s been decent; 3.32 ERA.  But we have better.

Manny Delcarmen: B

He’s a workhorse who gets the job done and keeps the ERA low at 3.05.  Delcarmen is consistent, healthy, and can handle more than one inning of work if necessary.

Hideki Okajima: A

We keep talking about his epic season in 2007 while he’s having one of those right under our noses.  Since the start of that season, he’s been among the top ten relievers in the game in ERA.  A 2.98 ERA is not something to be taken for granted.  He’s a fantastic setup man.

Javier Lopez: D

He had a horrible start to the season and was optioned to the minor leagues.  Tito used him when he shouldn’t have been used: against righties.  But now the bullpen is having some trouble handling lefties, and he’s improved in the minors.  If he’s able to works his way back up, we could be all too ready to welcome him back.

Jonathan Papelbon: B

Many of his saves have been sloppy.  The one-two-three inning that’s been his trademark in the past hasn’t been as common this year.  But that’s changing.  Here’s the thing.  Papelbon has to be used every so often whether we need him or not because he needs to get his work in.  But when you put your closer in again where the team is leading, he doesn’t get the same high-pressure, adrenaline-rush-inducing sensation, and he relaxes.  And when he relaxes, he can’t sustain that fierce competitiveness.  I think Papelbon’s experienced that this year, which incidentally is a credit to our lineup.  The point is that recently, in close games, the one-two-three inning has resurfaced and seems to be appearing more and more often.  Numbers-wise, his problem is walks.  He’s giving up many more walks this year than he did last year.

Terry Francona: A

Again, obviously.  We’re almost leading the division again.  We’re set to appear in October again.  We’ll win the World Series again.  All with Terry Francona at the helm.  This is the first year of his three-year contract extension, and he’s the first Boston manager to begin a sixth season in about sixty years.  Sixty years.  Finally.  And rightfully so.  There are a lot of different personalities floating around in that clubhouse, and they all blend together seamlessly without a hitch.  A lot of that has to do with Tito.  Now that the revolving door for manager has closed, it’s time to seal the one at shortstop, too.

Theo Epstein: A

The man is a genius.  In Theo we trust, and he always comes through.  He’s made two major mistakes that I can recall: Eric Gagne and Julio Lugo, and so far that’s been it.  And even those weren’t that bad in the long run.  He went after bargain pitchers this offseason, and it paid off; we have one of the best rotations and definitely the best bullpen in the game.  All we need to do is work on hitting for the long-term and we’ll be all set.  Theo Epstein is someone Red Sox Nation and I can trust to do that.

The Boston Red Sox Overall: B+

We’re heading into August and we are poised to go on a tear.  The postseason is approaching.  Expect us to win it all.  We have what has to be the deepest team in Major League Baseball.  We have hitting.  We have pitching.  We have fielding.  We have the wherewithal to bring another World Series trophy to the city of Boston.  And we will.  Because we can.

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And there you have the cushion! Incredible! We’re getting everything we need right now.  That’s good.  We’re playing .600 ball.  That’s first in the American League and tied with Milwaukee for second in the Major Leagues.  (The Dodgers are playing .674 ball.) It may seem like it’s early in the year, and it is, but it’s still a crucial time.  The month and a half leading up to the All-Star break is very important because it sets the tone for the second half of the season.  And right now we’re doing a lot of good tone-setting.  The Jays lost their seventh straight yesterday, so they’re in third with New York in second by one game.  But I’m not worried.  They may be on a hot streak, but New York isn’t going anywhere.  They always do this; they have a bad season with a few hot streaks just to scare you.  Then they’ll have a great September and ruin a bunch of teams’ playoff hopes and either not get to the playoffs or get to the playoffs and peter out in the first round.

Anyway, Brad Penny pitched a great game.  Quality start after quality start.  I like it.  And what we didn’t know is that he was battling indigestion before, during, and after battling the Twins.  Apparently he was throwing up between innings in the bathroom.  That right there is a warrior.  That’s something you don’t see too often.  And through it all he pitched five and a third, gave up three runs on six hits, no walks, seven strikeouts.  That’s about his usual; five or six innings and three runs.  He threw about seventy percent strikes.  His OPP AVG with runners in scoring position is below .200.  And he continues to improve.  The bottom line is that if the Twins couldn’t get to him in those conditions, they weren’t going to get to him at all.  Ramirez and Okajima each collected holds, and Paps got the save after almost blowing it.  Joe Mauer pinch-hit for Mike Redmond in the bottom of the ninth and hit a two-run shot.  The final score was 6-5.  Honestly I’d love to be furious with Paps right now and I am but the thing is it never lasts.  You can’t be furious when you know well and good you’ll never find a better closer in all of Major League Baseball.

We again out-hit our opponents, 16-8.  Ellsbury went two for five and scored, extending his hitting streak to twenty games.  That’s a career high, and he’s batting around .330 during that streak.  He was picked off first and caught stealing second, and it was ugly.  The Twins had him beat bad in the third inning.  The ball was waiting for him.  Very unusual.  Pedroia the Destroyah went three for five and scored twice and has a hitting streak of his own for eight games, during which he’s batting over .400.  He’s batted around .500 over his last four games alone.  That’s a hot hitter.  Youk and Bay each went two for five with a run and two RBIs.  Bay continued his dominance with runners in scoring position and is currently batting something like .340 in that situation.  Based on the way Bay’s been playing, we have two priorities this season: first, win the World Series, and second, lock up Jason Bay for the long term, because he’s establishing himself as one of the best in the game and with today’s market it’s almost impossible to find someone that good for that price.  Lowell went four for five with an RBI.  Baldelli made an error but went two for four.  Bailey took Dickey deep in the eighth for a very powerfully hit solo home run.  So what all of this means is that the first six starting spots in the lineup had multi-hit games.  It was fantastic.  Basically, it was watching one of the best teams in the American League figure out that there’s one of the best, and then there’s the best.  And when you play the best, you probably won’t win.  Hey, it happens.  We’ve now got six straight wins over the Twins and three more games to go in the series.

Jed Lowrie teed off before the game yesterday.  He took fifteen swings from each side of the plate and said he felt better hitting from the right than from the left.  His rehab is still on schedule, and they’re not going to rush.  He should be back in a few weeks.  Clay Buchholz is 3-0 with Pawtucket and almost had himself a perfect game last night.  He took it into the ninth inning but then gave up a leadoff single.  But he retained his composure.  That says a lot, because as soon as a bid like that is broken up, the pitcher can unravel very easily and very quickly, and for a young pitcher to stay with it says something.  So it ended up being a one-hit shutout, and it was the first one-hitter Pawtucket’s had since Bartolo Colon’s combined outing on April 3, 2008.

It’ll be Lester at Nick Blackburn tonight.  Hopefully Lester will build on that outstanding start against the Jays.  That was the first classic Lester start we’ve seen so far, and I’d love to see more.  The kid is good.  There’s a reason why he, and not Santana, wears our letters.  (Of course the irony is that Santana was with Minnesota, and they were after either Lester or Ellsbury.  That wasn’t going to happen.) And as soon as he remembers for good what that reason is, it won’t be pleasant for the opposition.

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Our offense has nothing to be ashamed of.  Nothing.  We knew going into last night that Johan Santana would be challenging, in a good way; every once and a while, it’s good for a batter to face a worthy opponent just to keep you on your toes.  And Johan Santana is a worthy opponent up to our lineup’s level.  He now has an ERA of 1.50 in nine starts this year.  It’s true that he usually doesn’t do well with us; he’s now only 5-4 against us overall and 2-3 in Fenway Park, but with a start to a season like that, you can’t afford to assume he won’t have it together.  In fact, one could say he didn’t; he gave up three runs which, according to his numbers, is more than usual.  And it’s the best of both worlds.  We have nothing to be ashamed of because we know those numbers are genuine, being that he was an American League pitcher through 2007 and therefore was trained to deal with more offensive pressure.  And we have nothing to worry about, because he’s in the National League now and everyone knows the Mets aren’t going to make the playoffs, and if they do, they won’t get very far.

Ellsbury extended his hitting streak to seventeen games.  Seventeen games! And after last night his average is .299.  One more hit and he’ll be up and over.  Pedroia went two for four.  Ortiz and Youk, our leading hitter with runners in scoring position who bats over .400 in that situation, both struck out three times.  Bay went hitless but walked.  Drew and Lowell both went one for four, but each scored a run.  Lugo not only went 0 for 4 (surprise, surprise), but he came up twice with one out in runners and scoring position and failed to make any constructive contact, and he failed to turn a double play which turned what should’ve been a one-run fourth into a three-run fourth for the Mets.  So essentially he’s back to his old self, and I don’t mean that in a good way.  (On a more postivie note, Jed Lowrie says his wrist feels great, and he even took some ground balls yesterday.) But Varitek went two for four with a run and two RBIs.  We lost the game, 5-3, and the third run was unearned.  So the captain taking the reins last night.  We went 0 for 10 with runners in scoring position and left seven on base.

Pedroia made a fielding error.  It was one of the strangest things I’ve seen so far this season.  Pedroia making a fielding error? Does that happen? I mean obviously there’s a reason why his fielding percentage is .988 and not 1.000.  But still.  A fielding error? That’s something  I couldn’t have believed unless I’d seen it.  And I did see it, and it was still weird.

So our offense was covered.  And our pitching, in a way, was covered as well.  But less.  On one hand, it was Dice-K’s first Major League start since coming off the DL for fatigue and strain, so it wasn’t going to be a long outing.  He pitched only five innings.  Good.  He walked only two and struck out four.  Fine.  He allowed four runs on five hits, including a leadoff solo shot for Gary Sheffield in the second (of all the Mets to hit one out, it had to be Sheffield?).  That’s not so great.  So on the other hand, he should’ve been able to contain the Mets lineup much more.  They’re the Mets.  And they’re a National League team.  But we’ll cut him slack because he had an ERA close to 1.00 in his rehab starts with Pawtucket, and we’ll give him a chance to settle in.

Masterson pitched the next three innings and gave up a run on three hits.  But that’s understandable as well.  It’s his first long shift as a reliever since returning to the bullpen.  The difference between a starter and a reliever is that a starter pitches most of the game and is expected to give up a run or two, which isn’t a big deal because you’ve got more innings to come.  A reliever doesn’t have that luxury.  So Masterson has to reacclimate himself to his role as a reliever after starting for so long.  (By the way, if you ask me, I still say it’s a waste to keep him out there.) Bard was perfect.

Quite the interesting broadcast from Eck, who used an expletive by accident on the air last night in the bottom of the fifth.  He was talking about Youk getting hit in the right elbow with a pitch.  Youk stared down Santana and said it, and in describing the play Eck repeated it.  Meanwhile, Don started cracking up and could barely call the at-bat by Jason Bay.  It was hilarious.  Only on NESN.  And as far as the hit-by-pitch was concerned, it was pretty clear that Santana wasn’t trying to start anything, so it’s all good.

So all in all, I can’t complain about the outcome of last night.  No, I mean literally.  I’m annoyed at the loss and want to chalk it up to something but I can’t because there’s a reasonable reason for everything, and all those reasons just sort of came together at once to produce a loss, which really was only by two runs.  Even Lugo shouldn’t be to blame, because we should be prepared to account for his incompetence.  Luckily, Toronto also lost, so we’re still only half a game back.  And that’ll change tonight, because tonight it’ll be Mike Pelfrey at Beckett.  And if Beckett’s start is even remotely close to what his last start was, we’ll be in great shape.  Last night we had an AL-level pitcher opposing a pitcher returning from the DL.  It was an anomaly.  Tonight will be different.  I still love Interleague.

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I’ve been writing some lengthy posts lately, so I’ll keep this brief.  We won.  The final score was 5-1.  And with this win, Toronto has only a half-game lead over us in first place.  That’s pretty much no lead at all.  I’d say you can start considering us in first now.  Because it’s only a matter of time before the numbers reflect it.

Jon Lester did indeed remember who he was.  This is easily one of his best starts all season.  You saw him pitch last night and you were thinking there was no way this was the same kid who pitched those other horrible outings.  6.1 innings, only one run on eight hits, two walks, four strikeouts.  A little high on the hits and a little low on the K’s, but trust me, I am not complaining.  That was a gem of a start.  So that’s five quality starts and three quality wins in a row (five, if Nick Green pays attention to what he’s doing).  Lester used a full range of pitches to get it done.  He threw 106 pitches in total, 68 of which were strikes.  Yes, the ratio there is a little off, but again, I’m not complaining.  Excellent outing.  Outstanding.  Once I saw he was settled in for good I was so psyched I refused to think about it, just in case I’d jinx the man.  I think it’s safe to say he’s back.  Let’s see what he does with his next start.  Ramirez and Paps were perfect.

Pedroia the Destroyah went two for four with an RBI and a run.  Jason Bay hit a ridiculous two-out, two-run homer in the first to plate two of the three we’d score in that inning.  Then in the seventh, Adam Lind hit a high foul ball in left field.  Jason Bay made the catch at the wall.  Literally.  He couldn’t have gone any further.  He reached up with his glove and grabbed the ball before it went over the ledge.  And that was huge, because there were two outs in the inning with the bases full of Blue Jays.  So, as usual, Bay getting it done at the plate and in the field.  No errors.  Ellsbury stole, and Drew got caught.

Tonight is our first Interleague matchup, with the Mets.  I love Interleague.  Nothing provides a boost in the standings and a scoping-out of the possible World Series competition than a matchup with a National League team.  Dice-K will be returning to the hill in the midst of quite the showdown; he’ll be opposing Johan Santana.  But Dice-K is Dice-K; he’s got it.

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