Monday, May 14, 2007

Sox Brutally Kick All Comers In Nuts! This Week: Detroit!

The Tigers came into the game riding high with the the second best record in the American League (behind guess who). From a few media reports, many are starting to believe that these could be the two best teams in the AL. If you look at their runs scored and runs allowed, both teams entered today having scored 198 runs, but Detroit has allowed 174 while the Red Sox had given up only 125. You can see, despite their close records, there is a pretty large disparity in how these teams have actually played.

That disparity was evident on the field as well, as the surging Red Sox continued their systematic destruction of the American League, taking the first in a four game series with the Tigers at Fenway Park, 7-1. Daisuke Matsuzaka was on his game, striking out five and giving up only six hits in a complete game performance. Matsuzaka's ERA dropped from a grizzly 4.80 to more palatable 4.17.

It would have dropped lower, but Curtis Granderson hit a good low fastball into the right field stands for a solo homer to give the Tigers a 1-0 lead in the top of the third inning. After that it was all Red Sox all the time. Boston answered with one in the third, took the lead with one in the fourth, padded it with one in the fifth, and then blew it open with four in the eighth.

Nate Robertson, one of Detroit's most effective starters this season, held his own through five, but Boston's patient hitters forced him to work for each out. Robertson threw a ton of pitches (115 through five innings) and began to tire noticeably sometime in the third inning. The Sox had runners on against Robertson constantly, and were fouling off pitches left and right. It took Robertson 39 pitches to get through the fourth inning.

Matsuzaka threw a lot of pitches himself, 124 in nine innings. Pitch counts are very important, but the stress a pitcher is under is more important, and pitch counts are not always a proxy for that (though they frequently are). In this case, Matsuzaka was not laboring in any way during any of the last three innings while Robertson was working very hard. This is one instance where the pitcher who threw more pitches worked under less duress than the one who threw less. Thats directly attributable to the quality at-bats the Red Sox had against Robertson and all the Detroit pitchers.

Its very encouraging to see the Sox offense come around like this. To compare them to the team we all thought would be their chief rivals, the Red Sox have now scored 205 runs in 37 games. The overly-vaunted offense of the Yankees has scored 200 runs in 36 games, or about the same amount. The Sox have now given up 126 runs while the Yankees have allowed 175. Suffice it to say, unless things change radically there isn't going to be a miraculous Yankee come back this season.

AL East:
The Orioles lost to Toronto. The Yankees and Rays were off Monday, but that didn't stop them from losing ground. The Red Sox increased their AL East lead over the Yankees by a half game to 8.5 games. They lead the Orioles by 9.0, the Blue Jays by 10.5 and the Rays by 11.0. The Red Sox are now 26-11 for a .703 winning percentage. That is the most wins by any team in both leagues and the best winning percentage in the Major Leagues.

Tomorrow (Tuesday): The Red Sox play game two of the four game set against Detroit. Tim Wakefield (4-3, 1.79) starts for Boston. He's opposed by Justin Verlander (3-1, 2.83). Game time is 7:05 pm EST.

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