BOSTON, MA - June 22: Jon Lester #31 of the Boston Red Sox pitches against the Atlanta Braves during the first inning of the game at Fenway Park on June 22, 2012 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Winslow Townson/Getty Images)
It's been a great week for baseball around these parts. The Sox won five straight, and looked good doing it. Their only hiccup was last night's game against Atlanta, in which they just couldn't put anything together against Jair Jurrjens. Adrian Gonzalez still isn't hitting, and Dustin Pedroia's still scuffling, but the rest of the team has been picking up the slack. For the most part, it's been fun to watch the Red Sox again.
I say for the most part because, of course, there's been outside drama to deal with. A report by Buster Olney triggered a fun bout of psychoanalyzing and clubhouse anthropology. We took a look at some of it, with me taking the locals to task for their emphasis on such reporting, and Matt Sullivan giving us a bit of insight into Bobby Valentine's managerial style and how it may be contributing to the atmosphere.
But mostly, as with all weeks, we tried to keep our focus on actual baseball, the stuff that takes place on the field. Armchair psychology gets dull after a while, especially when there's so much going on. Roster moves, players showing off unexpected skill... There's a whole world of stuff to analyze out there, and most of it's much more interesting than whether Kevin Youkilis and Bobby V are besties.
Recap after the jump.
This is really weird. It's normally the first paragraph after the jump that I use for the latest casualty report. And, well, there's nothing to report. No one's been maimed this week. Scott Podsednik was placed on the DL, but that seems not to have been so much because he couldn't play as because Cody Ross could. (By the way, check out that story just for the pic of Cody Ross blowing a giant gum bubble. He's able to make it that big by filling it with the hatred of Philly fans.) The other injury news was not about guys getting hurt, but about them getting better. Long-lost outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford are on the horizon. Andrew Bailey is throwing off a mound for the first time since his thumb surgery. It may not be long before the Boston roster looks like it was supposed to.
Of course, the Red Sox have somehow, some way, managed to stay afloat and in hailing distance of the division lead. And it's almost entirely thanks to an assortment of castoffs, role players, and bench guys who've stepped up in big spots. This week saw one remarkable example of that as Franklin Morales, who hadn't started a game since 2009, filled in for an injured Josh Beckett on Sunday. All he did was go five innings and strike out nine, tying him for the team high this season. Also covering himself in glory has been Daniel Nava, who came up as filler and has wound up hitting .340/.455/.519.
The Sox rotation has yet to earn the "good" appelation. It's been improving, it's certainly better than it was a month ago. But it's still not fully worked out. This week, we took a look at two members of that rotation. Marc analyzed Clay Buchholz's not-great start against Miami (damn, I still always want to write Florida) and concluded that it was just one of those days. Matt Sullivan compared Felix Doubront's season to some pitchers of the past, and it turns out the Sox lefty is in pretty good company statistically.
A few months ago, Boston acquired Mark Prior and assigned him to the minors. Prior, once, in the before time, in the long long ago, was the greatest college pitching prospect ever. He lived up to the hype for a few seasons with the Cubs, and then his arm turned into hamburger. He's barely pitched since. Now he's in Pawtucket, and he's absolutely on fire. Matt Kory gave us a peek at how well Prior's doing, and the sort of roster shenanigans that would need to occur in order for him to join the big club. Prior's success prompted me to take a spin through some of the Sox' previous attempts to rebuild broken pitchers, attempts which ranged from largely unsuccessful to "oh my god, that ERA, my eyes are bleeding."
Tonight, Braves vs. Red Sox at Fenway. The Sox try to recover from last night's loss and gain more ground in the AL East. Happy weekend, all.