Who needs good pitching? Not the Red Sox if they can face Brian Matusz every night.
In a must-win game that offered the Sox only the consolation of not falling into a virtual tie in the wild card race, the Sox decided to give their fans something to be happy about for once.
That didn't come from the mound. To get this bit of unpleasantness over and done with, John Lackey was terrible. He allowed three straight baserunners to start the game, and almost dropped leads of 6-3 and 11-5 in his awfulness. That he reacted negatively when Terry Francona came out of the dugout (to the loudest cheers of the game, I might add) is just so...perfectly Lackey.
The good news is that, as they have been three other times during this terrible streak, the Sox were able to pick themselves up from the dirt and absolutely destroy anyone that Buck Showalter called to the mound. Brian Matusz gave four runs right back in the bottom of the first, capped off by the first big hit Jed Lowrie has had in recent memory: a three-run shot that cleared the Monster in its entirety.
Two more came in the second, knocking Matusz out of the game in a hurry, and then came one hell of a two-out rally in the third. Starting with Darnell McDonald and ending with David Ortiz, the Sox put together six straight hits to put five more runs on the board and give them that 11-5 lead that, at the time, seemed untouchable.
But as mentioned before, Lackey stayed in the game and so the Orioles did too. At least until the seventh. That's when things really got fun.
Leading off the seventh inning, Jacoby Ellsbury took a 2-2 changeup over the outside part of the plate and blasted it into center field. While it didn't have quite enough to make its way into the bullpen, the carom off the wall of the triangle sent Matt Angle scrambling out in center as Ellsbury made his way to third. As the throw came in, Ellsbury motored right past third, and into home standing with an inside-the-park home run.
He would finish the night a triple shy of the cycle.
That began something of a conga line around the basepaths for the Sox. A single from Scutaro, one from Gonzalez, one from Pedroia; only a walk to David Ortiz kept it from being five straight with Jed Lowrie picking up his fourth RBI of the game immediately after on a ground ball into right field. Up came Conor Jackson, and after four pitches, the rally was dead, courtesy of a grand slam into the Monster seats.
OK, now complaints there I suppose.
With 18 runs now up on the board, the Sox felt secure enough to bring Michael Bowden in to finish things off.
Still, the game brings up questions. The Sox have, after all, scored big in the midst of this terrible streak before, and then instantly gone back to their losing ways. The good news is the Sox have the right guys lined up to finally maybe secure some momentum, but only if the offense doesn't immediately take a dive back to the land of 5-or-fewer.
There's also the issue with John Lackey, which is that he's terrible. Even ignoring the issue of the next three years, there's the question of whether or not the Sox can possibly pen him in to start a game in the playoffs--should they make it, of course.
For now, though, it's all about that next game. One with a decent pitcher on the mound, and against an inexperienced righty. An opportunity for momentum they can't afford to drop.