Sunday, May 20, 2007

Series Wrap-Up: Sox Take 2 of 3 From Braves

The Braves came into Boston at 25-16. They leave at 26-18. Make no mistake about it, the Braves are one of the best teams in the National League, and aside from one hideous start by the AAA-bound Devern Hansack, the Red Sox took them apart. The Sox sent their #3, and two minor leaguers, while Atlanta countered with their #1, #2, and a minor leaguer.

The Sox and Braves each beat up on the other team's sub-par starter. And I mean beat up. The Red Sox dropped 13 on the Braves the night they threw a minor leaguer, and then the Braves turned around and scored 14 on the Red Sox when they threw a minor leaguer.

The rubber game of the series was delayed by rain today, but after about a two hour rain delay the game got going. The Braves threw Tim Hudson, who was 5-1 with a sub-2.00 ERA. The Red Sox countered with Kason Gabbard, who had been throwing well for AAA Pawtucket this season.

Early in the first the Red Sox got to Tim Hudson, loading the bases with two outs. Jason Varitek, who doesn't like loaded bases, cleared them with a triple. Eric Hinske then drove in Varitek with a single, and the Sox had a 4-0 lead. They'd tack on two more, one in the second and one in the fifth on a Kevin Youkilis solo homer around the Pesky Pole in right.

That was all the Red Sox would need. Kason Gabbard pitched very effectively, not giving up a hit until the fourth inning. He struck out seven and only walked one. Francona took him out after giving up two hits to start the sixth. Brendan Donnelly, inexplicably pitching in a day game after pitching the night before, allowed both runners to score, and walked two as well. Francona yanked him with the bases loaded and only one out, and brought in another guy who had pitched last night, Javier Lopez. Lopez got Scott Thorman to ground into a 3-6-1 double play to end the inning.

The Braves had rallies going against Okajima and Papelbon in the eighth and ninth, respectively, but only managed one run against Papelbon. Final score: Red Sox 6, Braves 3.


Gabbard not only won the game for the Sox, he made a case for himself as the fill-in starter for Josh Beckett's next turn in five days. Especially so when compared with the other alternative, Hansack, who looked over-matched in his start against Atlanta. [The Red Sox have sent Gabbard back down to AAA and recalled Manny Delcarmen. The Boston Globe reports that that means the Red Sox will skip Josh Beckett's spot this time through the order and allow Josh Beckett back into the rotation on May 29th.]

I was especially impressed with Gabbard's curve, which he used he curve to set up his other pitches. He got Andruw Jones to swing and miss on the curveball a number of times, and stuck Jones out twice for two if his seven. Jones ended up striking out five times on the day.

AL East: The Yankees are playing the Sunday night game at Shea (Yankees are up 4-1 in the 5th). Baltimore, Toronto, and Tampa lost. The Red Sox lead Baltimore by 10.5 games, Toronto and New York (for now) by 11.0, and Tampa by 12.0.

The Red Sox are the first team to win 30 games in the majors this year. They have the most wins and the least losses of any team, and they hold the largest lead in any division in baseball.

Tomorrow: The Red Sox visit the Toilet in the Bronx with a chance to put the nail in the Yankees coffin. The Red Sox play three against the Yankees. The pitching match-ups are as follows:

Monday: Tim Wakefield vs. Mike Mussina
Tuesday: Julian Tavarez vs. Chien-Ming Wang
Wednesday: Curt Schilling vs. Andy Pettitte

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