The Red Sox wrapped up the first half of their season losing the last 2 games of a 3 game set with Oakland. Nevertheless, the series had some encouraging moments, and nobody East of New York will be complaining about Boston’s 58-39 record heading into the Break.
Things I liked: Even though Oakland took the last 2 games, there was a lot to like about the way the Sox played. For starters, John Lackey pitched 7 innings and racked up 5 Ks while leading Boston to a 4-2 win in game 1.
I have been told to alert Mr. Lackey that the 2005-07 Angels called and they want their pitcher back. Seriously. What has gotten into this guy? The dude has a 2.78 ERA and a 3.27 xFIP through 100.1 innings pitched and he leads Red Sox starters with a 4.04 K/BB ratio. We shall discuss whether or not Mr. Lackey’s success to this point is sustainable in another post, but at the moment he is leading the Boston pitching staff in the absence of Clay Buchholz.
In game 2 of the series, Boston was brushed aside by Oakland’s AJ Griffin. Griffin pitched eight shutout innings and the he never really let Boston get into the game. However, Jon Lester produced an encouraging night in which he only allowed 3 runs (albeit on 3 walks and 6 hits, including Derek Norris’ 5th inning home run). For the Red Sox to build upon their unexpected play thus far they’re going to need Lester to figure out how to pitch like he did from 2008 to 2011.
Game 3 saw the Sox produce their third straight positive start. 24-year-old rookie Brandon Workman took a no-hitter into the 7th inning when Coco Crisp broke it up with a ground ball to Pedey. Two batters later, Josh Donaldson blasted his 16th home run which tied up the game at 2. Nonetheless, the Work-Man (wow, how bad is that nickname?!) pitched well enough for Boston to win, and if he keeps pitching like that he’s going to be a great asset for years to come.
Things I didn’t like so much: For a series against a potential playoff opponent in which Boston lost 2 of 3, the last three games didn’t give me a whole lot to complain about. The offense disappeared for all but two of the last 20 innings of the series, but we’ll just chalk that up to fatigue after a long first half and the fact that Boston faced Oakland’s two best starters (2.4 WAR for Colon and 1.5 for Griffin, per Fangraphs.com) in games 2 and 3.
Overall, I’m not going too far out on a limb by saying that Boston’s first half was a success. If you had told any member of Red Sox Nation at the start of the year that their boys would be 58-39 and 2.5 games up in the division at the All Star Break, you would be hard-pressed to find someone who would have believed you. But, after 97 games that’s the case.
Moving forward, the Red Sox figure to be in the heart of the playoff race come September. Boston would love to win the East and at this point there’s no reason to believe that they can’t. But in one of the toughest divisions in baseball, in which 4/5 teams still have a legitimate shot to make the playoffs, it would be A-okay if the Sox can sneak into the postseason with a Wild Card birth. But hey, let’s not let that patented Red Sox-pessimism start sinking in just yet. This season has been a blast so far, so let’s keep enjoying it.