Welcome to the weekly recap, New Orleans edition. I'm off on a bit of a vacation this week, but Sox fandom knows no earthly bounds, so here I sit typing away while jazz musicians wander about en masse four blocks down the road.
When we last did this, the Red Sox had played one game, and lost it in painful walkoff fashion. It's a week later, and they now stand at 2-5, in last place in the division. Yet things are, strangely, looking up. The Sox absolutely pummeled the Rays yesterday, driving David Price from the game early and unleashing hell upon an overmatched Tampa bullpen. Josh Beckett threw an efficient eight innings, and likely would have gone for a complete game had it not been for his teammates scoring all of the runs in the bottom of the eighth. Jon Lester turned in his second straight solid start against the Jays on Wednesday, and Dustin Pedroia has been a one-man wrecking crew in the late innings.
Of course, there have been less-encouraging outcomes as well. The aforementioned 2-5 record. The still shakier-than-we'd-like bullpen. The fact that of the 34 runs they've scored this season, 24 have come in two games. And yesterday, their most complete victory of the season, saw Jacoby Ellsbury leave the field early with a potentially serious shoulder injury. 155 games to go, and we still don't really know what we've got in front of us. It's pretty exciting, actually.
All eyes in Boston right now are on the shoulder of Jacoby Ellsbury. Taking off from first on a 3-2 count to Dustin Pedroia, Ellsbury slid into second, taking out Tampa shortstop Reid Brignac. Brignac fell directly onto Ellsbury's right shoulder, leaving the center fielder clutching his arm in pain. Ellsbury left the game immediately. The loss of Ellsbury is obviously a serious blow to the Red Sox, the major question now is how long they can expect to be without him. The latest reports last night indicated the injury was most likely a partial or full dislocation of the shoulder, perhaps enough to keep him on the shelf for two months. Not a great way to start the homestand.
Other concerns have abounded as the Red Sox have again stumbled out of the gate. Marc Normandin checked in on Kevin Youkilis, who started the season mired in an offensive funk. Youk picked it up a bit yesterday, with a couple of hits in the Sox' rout of Tampa, although his play at third base hasn't been confidence-inspiring. More questions have surrounded new Boston reliever Mark Melancon, who's pitched only two innings so far, yet given up five runs against only one strikeout. Ben Buchanan took a look at the tactical maneuvering of new Sox manager Bobby Valentine, and came away unimpressed.
Were there any bright spots for Boston this week? Well, the Sox got strong, durable outings out of both Vicente Padilla and Scott Atchison. Padilla threw four solid innings against a formidable Tigers lineup on Sunday, while Atchison submitted three and was credited with a win against Toronto on Monday. The fact that both pitchers had to throw such long outings isn't a particularly good sign, but that they stepped up to the challenge is a relief (sorry, I had to).
As a rule, counting on a pair of relievers to eat up that many innings isn't conducive to a long, successful season, so where does the Boston rotation stand? Lester's pitched twice, and done quite well, even if the team lost both starts. Beckett submitted one horror-show outing against Detroit and one gem against Tampa. Clay Buchholz got beaten up by the Tigers, and takes a second shot this afternoon.
Now, those three, with the possible exception of Buchholz, are known quantities. The bigger question marks surround fourth and fifth starters Felix Doubront and Daniel Bard. Now that they've each got a game in the books, are things any clearer? As Marc writes, Doubront's outing showed promise, although he'll need to harness his fastball and keep his pitch count down to truly succeed in the bigs. Bard's, meanwhile, while producing an uglier line (five runs on eight hits) was just as encouraging, if not moreso. As has been mentioned quite a bit since the conversion to starter began, he'll need to mix in more changeups, but Tuesday's start certainly earned him a longer look in the rotation.
Yesterday saw the greatest stolen base in the history of baseball (non-Roberts division). Red Sox backup catcher Kelly Shoppach got a jump off first, and then, well... Behold the gifable glory. Such a masterful display of baserunning surely must put pressure on current Sox starter Jarrod Saltalamacchia. As Ben wrote this week, the 2012 season will be critical in determining Salty's future, and whether that future will come in Boston.
The rocky start to the 2012 season has a lot of nerves frayed around here. Matt Kory took a shot at soothing those nerves on Thursday. Because the Red Sox are definitely better than 2-5. And after all, this time last year they were 1-6. So already, better. If perhaps a little too familiar. Matt Sullivan discussed the similarities, and important differences, between this year's start and last year's.
Once in a while hereabouts, we talk about things not entirely Red Sox-focused. Sometimes it's me getting all thinky about moral quandaries in baseball fandom. Most of the time it's Matt Kory talking about poop. Still, it's good to remember that there's a wide world of baseball out there. For example, it reminds us that whatever flaws we may see in the ownership/front office of the Red Sox, we could have to deal with the Marlins' ownership. We got a fantastic look at the Ozzie Guillen/Fidel Castro fiasco (wow, that's weird to type), along with musings on the responsibilities of athletic figures and public statements, from lone1c.
We finish out the recap with the first chapter in the strange tale of the time-wandering Ryan O'Malley, which Matt Sullivan has been good enough to share with us all. It's really terrific, and the coming chapters should be equally enthralling. That was the week, folks. It's been a weird one, and the season may yet get weirder still. I plan to contemplate this over a substantial cocktail somewhere in the French Quarter. Enjoy the weekend.