Interleague play's arrived, and whether your feelings on it are violent fury or merely "eh, more baseball," time to get used to another few weeks of David Ortiz at first and Clay Buchholz trying to figure out which end of the bat to hold. And just think, next year, with the Astros moving to the AL West, there'll have to be an interleague series going on every week. Fun!
The big story was of course former Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon potentially facing his old team for the first time, and the story didn't disappoint. Papelbon shut down the Sox in the ninth, striking out Nick Punto to end the game and preserve Philly's 6-4 win. It was a weird ninth inning. Kelly Shoppach led off with a kind-of hit, a ball which bounced off third baseman Mike Fontenot, who lost the ball behind him and couldn't play it in time. Marlon Byrd hit a sharp grounder up the middle, and was called out at first base after an impressive ranging throw from Philadelphia shortstop Jimmy Rollins. Bobby Valentine got ejected arguing the call, and replays showed he may have been right to argue.
All in all, an exciting game that saw the return of Adrian Gonzalez, home run hitter, the latest chapter in the hate-hate relationship between Philly and Cody Ross, and another frustrating start from Daniel Bard.
It took Bard 32 pitches to get through the first inning, as he handed out three walks and gave up four runs. After that, he settled down considerably, holding the Phillies offense (with the exception of a Hunter Pence solo shot) in check as the Red Sox chipped away at the lead. Inefficiency and wildness continued to plague Bard, as he ultimately walked five and hit two, and his high early pitch count forced him out of the game after five innings.
His counterpart Cole Hamels showed why he's one of the top pitchers in either league, striking out nine and mostly holding the Boston offense in check. But the Red Sox, as has been their specialty when they're right, worked counts all night, driving up his pitch count and getting him out of the game after seven. Even though they didn't score many runs off Hamels, this was incredibly encouraging. The Sox offense has always been strongest when they can force an opponent's top pitchers to work hard, getting them off the mound and feasting upon the tasty bullpen. A patient, focused offense for the Red Sox is bad news for the rest of the league.
The good: Boston got two strong scoreless innings from Good Matt Albers. Mike Aviles continued to help us move on from Marco Scutaro, clubbing a home run off Hamels in the third. Cody Ross again endeared himself to the friendly fans of Philadelphia, going 2-3 with a walk, a double, and a solo homer. And for the first time since mid-April, Adrian Gonzalez left the yard, crushing a solo shot to right in the top of the eighth. Bobby Valentine got run for the first time.
The bad: Bard's control, as previously mentioned, was lousy for much of the game. With Daisuke Matsuzaka looming in Pawtucket, Bard needs to get his stuff together quickly to keep his rotation slot. Franklin Morales gave up a home run to Freddy Galvis. Really, he did that. Jarrod Saltalamacchia left the game with an ear laceration after getting hit by a pitch that ricocheted off Ty Wigginton. Cody Ross left the game after fouling a ball off his foot, in a play that looked frighteningly similar to the one that put Pedroia on the shelf back in 2010.
Lousy way to end the week, but once again, the Sox looked like a real baseball team, even though they lost. Hopefully tomorrow they won't be relying on Nick Punto to win it in the ninth.