Train Kept A-Rollin'. The Red Sox are 17-7 in August and have won 9 of their last 10 games -- and that one loss was to Ted Lilly. Everything -- hitting, pitching and fielding -- is falling into place. And the Yankees had to rally late in Toronto to avoid having their lead cut to 4.5 games. One of the local news broadcasts here in New York began its Yankees coverage last night with "And the Boston Red Sox simply will not go away ..."
On Wednesday, the Red Sox batted around twice, belted 3 home runs in the space of 8 pitches in the 4th inning, David Ortiz hit 2 bombs, Manny Ramirez scored 3 runs -- hell even Dave Roberts had a couple of singles. Schilling pitched into the 7th inning and was able to leave after 99 pitches. We received further confirmation that Terry Adams is useless. Ramiro Mendoza retired all four batters he faced.
Back home last night, Bronson Arroyo continued his work as the team's #3 starter, allowing 6 hits and 1 unearned run in 7.1 innings. He struck out eight batters with a breaking ball that was hellish on Detroit's right-handed hitters. The Tigers scored their only run when, on an attempted pickoff throw to third base, Doug Mirabelli's throw glanced off Ivan Rodriguez's bat (!!) and sailed over third base into foul terriorty. Omar Infante, who had begun the inning with a double, walked home.
That tied the game at 1-1. In the 4th, Bill Mueller doubled and scored on Dave Roberts's sac fly. Ramirez began the next inning with a double of his own and after Ortiz singled (and Manny was held at third!), he scored when Kevin Millar grounded into a double play. In the 8th, Mirabelli walked and came around on Mark Bellhorn's single.
Boston forced Jason Johnson to throw a ton of pitches: 30 in the first inning, 28 in the second, and 109 through 5 innings. And they ran. Roberts and Damon both swiped second base -- and both of Rodriguez's throws were short and skipped into center field for errors.
Terry Francona managed the bullpen correctly, pulling Arroyo with one out in the 8th, after Bobby Higginson's double. Mike Timlin came in and struck out Rodriguez and got Dimitri Young on a first-pitch line out to Manny. Keith Foulke then set down the side in the 9th on only 9 pitches. Francona also put Bellhorn in the #2 spot, dropping Roberts down to the 9-hole -- where he belongs.
Francona has been more focused with his bullpen management. His usage patterns have certainly improved, and with the starters often going 7+ innings, the moves have been pretty timely and logical. On Wednesday, Boston led 11-1 when Adams relieved Schilling after only 99 pitches. Adams got the next two batters, but was hideous in the 8th, allowing 3 consecutive singles, getting two outs, then allowing a 4-pitch walk and another single before getting the hook.
Obviously, the big lead gave Francona the luxury of seeing if Adams could work out of trouble. He could not. With Williamson a huge question mark for the rest of the season, Mendoza will be pitching a lot of high-leverage innings. So far, he seems up to the task. The main arms of LH Embree and Myers and RH Timlin and Mendoza setting up Foulke looks pretty solid right now.
Derek Lowe faces Mike Maroth tonight. Then it's Pedro/Bonderman on Saturday and Wakefield/Ledezma on Sunday. After a day off, a tough stretch begins with three games against the Angels and Rangers in Fenway and three in Oakland. Right now, Boston leads Anaheim (8 straight wins, off last night) in the wild card by .5 and Texas by 2. Oakland leads the Angels in the West by 1 game.
In the world of SoxBlogs, Surviving Grady is essential reading. Great stuff the past two days, including Steinbrenner's sock puppets and a muffin shoppe in the bullpen.