Scott Cordischi On Sports: Lester, Sox Take Off!
Monday, August 26, 2013
What a difference a week makes!
Last Sunday after the Red Sox lost to the Yankees on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball in the “Dempster Plunks A-Rod” game, it was doom and gloom in Red Sox Nation.
The Sox had lost 7 out of their last 10 including 2 of 3 at home to the dreaded New York Yankees. Then something happened.
The team flew out west on Monday, the same day that they opened up their 3-game series in San Francisco and they beat the Giants 7-0. While some of the players may have been a bit tired, Jon Lester wasn’t. The previously struggling ace of Boston’s staff, who had flown out west a day earlier, pitched his best game of the season pitching 8.1 innings of 6-hit shutout baseball to secure the win in the opener of the team’s 6-game west coast swing.
After losing the second game of the series to the Giants, Boston took the series finale with ease 12-1 leading them into a much-needed off day before their weekend series with the red-hot Dodgers in Los Angeles.
Unfortunately for Boston, despite a terrific effort by John Lackey, the Sox were shutout by LA 2-0 in the opener of the series Friday night. But, they rebounded nicely from that loss.
Another Lester gem – 7.1 innings of 3-hit, 1-run baseball helped the team grab a 4-2 win heading into Sunday night’s game in LA which, like the Yankee game a week earlier, would be in prime time.
And the Sox were ready for prime time. From Jake Peavy’s solid pitching (9 innings, 3 hits, 1 run) to Mike Napoli’s solid hitting (2-4, HR, 3 RBI), the Sox became the first team since June to win a series against baseball’s hottest team.
So, what’s with the turnaround? Simple – great starting pitching.
Even in the team’s two losses on their 6-game road trip, Boston starters were magnificent. All-in-all, Red Sox starters combined to pitch 46.1 innings allowing just 25 hits, 6 earned runs while walking 9 and striking out 27. That’s an ERA of 1.16 on the road trip.
The bottom line is that, no matter how inconsistent the offense might be from game to game, starting pitching like that can take a team a long way come October. That’s provided the Red Sox will be playing baseball when the leaves start to turn here in New England.
But, if Jon Lester has finally figured out how to pitch again, this team will be on to something. With the way Lackey and Peavy have pitched, they wouldn’t even need Clay Buchholz to come back and be dominant again. That would simply be a bonus.
-Just when you thought that the Major League Baseball Players Association was the all-time worst and morally corupt union, along comes the NFLPA. They have filed a grievance against the New England Patriots for $82,000 in workout bonus money due alleged murderer Aaron Hernandez. Did the NFLPA not read the deal that they collectively bargained with the league? Because a team can recover bonus money and avoid a cap hit when a player violates one of the league’s personal conduct policies or defaults on certain parameters of his contract. Maybe their argument will be that Hernandez is innocent until proven guilty, but that appears to be a fait accompli.
-Good news Pats fans, WR Danny Amendola returned to the practice field Monday after missing all of last week’s practices and the team’s preseason game in Detroit. Even better news might be that Tim Tebow will likely take the bulk of the snaps in the team’s preseason finale Thursday night against the Giants. That would mean keeping Tom Brady and back-up Ryan Mallet out of harm’s way.
-Even better news for Pats fans is the fact that their week 1 opponent – Buffalo – will likely have to play their third-string QB against the Pats in the opener September 8th. Injuries have decimated the Bills at that position this preseason.
-And, still even better news Patriot fans. Rex Ryan is on the hot seat in New York again! His decision to play Mark Sanchez late in the game last week against the Giants backfired when the Jets’ second and third string offensive linemen couldn’t adequately block for him causing him to get sacked and injure his non-throwing shoulder. It has led to some pretty nasty PR for the normally verbose Ryan who looks more like a deer in the headlights these days than an NFL head coach.
-And, while we’re on the subject of the Pats, fullback James Devlin stopped by his alma mater – Brown University – Sunday to take in the team’s football practice. As you might expect, Devlin was received warmly by his former coaches and teammates. Believe it or not, he was a standout defensive end in college at Brown before being converted to offense and fullback in the NFL.
-The Pats did cut five players – WR Kamar Aiken, LB Niko Koutovides, CB Brandon Jones, long-snapper Mike Zupancic and CB Lequan Lewis Monday. They also placed DL Corey Grisson and OL Marcus Zusevics on injured reserve and DL Armond Armstead and WR Mike Harrisson on the reserve non-football injury list. That puts the team’s roster currently at 77 players meaning they need to make 2 more roster moves before nightfall Wednesday to get that number down to the league-mandated number of 75. Don’t expect Tebow to be one of the two as he will likely play a lot Thursday night. However, it is possible that Tebow will not make the team’s 53-man roster before the season-opener in two weeks.
-As one of my responsibilities as the new Director of Football Operations at Brown University, I am administering a Facebook and Twitter page for the program. Check them out at BrownUFootball on both Facebook and Twitter. I hope you’ll like them.