Time Out For Sports Talk: Everything Is Just Jake For The Sox As They Hit The Road
Todd: Here we are with still seven weeks remaining in the baseball season, and the Boston Red Sox have won 70 games, which ties them with Atlanta and Pittsburgh for the most wins in MLB. But perhaps most importantly to a percentage of the fan base that have resisted making a full emotional investment in this club, it is one more victory than Boston’s boys of summer amassed all of last season.
I want to follow up on a point Mike made in last week’s column. What originally began as a 2013 Red Sox season with little to no expectations has become downright Dickensian. In that vein, GM Ben Cherington had no choice but to send the right message to the team at the trade deadline by bolstering the pitching staff. From what Mike and I witnessed of newest acquisition Jake Peavy last weekend, it appears Ben has done that in spades.
What looks to makes Peavy an ideal fit for Boston is the competitiveness and bulldog-type mentality he displays on the mound, which in his Red Sox debut vs. Arizona included considerable fussing and fist-pumping. While Peavy may have been a little too amped up at the start—causing him to walk two of the first five batters he faced—he quickly harnessed that energy and did not issue another base on balls over his 7-plus innings and 99 pitches of work.
Peavy used all four of his pitches (fastball, curveball, cutter and change-up) to strike out seven Diamondbacks while allowing just four hits. When he left the game in the eighth inning to a rousing ovation from the Fenway faithful, he gratefully acknowledged the crowd by tipping his cap on the way to the dugout. A fun night to watch in person that most importantly ended in a Red Sox win thanks to some clutch hitting and bullpen work.
Here’s hoping that Jake’s first start in his new Sox is an indication of what we’ll continue see from the 32-year-old, as the Sox find themselves in a tough stretch of August, playing 16 of 19 games on the road. These dog days have already proven to be difficult, as it took both a 15-run outburst one night and some ninth-inning heroics from Stephen Drew the next to win a series against the lowly Houston Astros, who frankly make the ’62 Mets look like pennant contenders.
But what just might pull Boston through this three-week cross-country trek is the same sticktoitiveness Peavy brings to each of his starts. The Sox have now won an incredible eighteen games in their final at-bat, and are on pace to win seven more such games over the final seven weeks. With these guys, it won't surprise me if they do.
Mike: Yes Todd, it was nice to see Peavy's first start last week, and it was especially nice to see that he was as strong as advertised.
I was impressed with how efficiently he pitched, throwing just 99 pitches in his debut, and it made me think that the Sox made the right move picking this guy up at the deadline, and even happier that he will be around next year as well.
And tonight (Aug. 9), the Sox are going to need another strong outing from Peavy as he tries to help the team bounce back from a tough loss to the Royals in Kansas City. Boston has had a good start (on paper) to this road trip with 2 wins in three games, but as Todd pointed out, they had a tough time against Houston, and if they were playing a decent team, there is no way the Sox would have come out of there with two out of three wins.
The good news is that Tampa Bay has cooled off somewhat, allowing Boston to open up a two-game lead in the AL East. That could be very important as the Sox hav a tough stretch coming up. After three more games with the hot Royals, Boston moves up north for a key series against Toronto. The Jays, expected to be contenders this season, have struggled, but the Sox can't afford to take a division rival lightly.
Then, after that, Boston is home as the Yankees and the A-Rod circus comes to town, and then right back on the road, flying to the West Coast to take on the Giants and the Dodgers in Interleague showdowns. Then it's back home for a big series with the Orioles before the White Sox come to town to round out August.
Let's hope that when the calendar rolls over to September, the Sox will still be on top of the division, because the final month of the season doesn't get any easier!