Monday, May 25, 2009

On the Road Again

On Sunday, the Rex Sox logged a much needed victory at Fenway against the Mets. Although contrarions will be quick to point out the insignificance of a single victory in late May (especially as Boston stands at 26-18), I believe this victory is momentous for morale across Red Sox Nation. A three game sweep at the hands of the Metropolitans would have been devastating heading into their upcoming season long ten game road trip (against the likes of surging Minnesota and resurgent Toronto), especially after squandering arguable ace Josh Beckett's best start of the season (8.0 IP, 1R, oER) the previous night on Jonathan Papelbon's first blown save since last September.

Tim Wakefield delivered his typical shaky-yet-solid performance (6.0 IP, 7H, 5ER) and the bullpen slammed the door on the Mets, allowing only one hit over the final three innings. The precocious Jacoby Ellsbury extended his hitting streak to 19 games, JD Drew had a four-hit day, and David Ortiz's painful struggles at the plate continued. But perhaps trumping all of that was the biblical weather that befell Fenway Park, resulting in a 36 minute rain delay. Seeing golf ball sized hail rain down upon the Fenway faithful on a May afternoon seemed to be an ominous portent of doom for the Sox, but fortunately such was not the case.

And so the Sox hit the road, riding the hot bats of Ellsbury and Youkilis and a starting rotation that finally seems to be rounding into shape, after being prematurely dubbed as one of the league's best. Also, look for Ortiz to finally move down in the batting order, much to the chagrin and dismay of Red Sox Nation. Manager Terry Francona will sit Ortiz for the Memorial Day game against lefty ace Francisco Liriano, and expect to see Big Papi return to the lineup against Minessota's righties somewhere besides the number three batting spot that has owned during his auspicious stint with the Sox.

With the Sox standing atop the AL East standings for the first time this season (0.5 games up on Toronto, 1 game up on New York), this road trip appears to be as important as a ten game stretch in late May can be. With the slugging Yankees finally hitting their stride and nipping on Boston's heels (amazingly, A-Rod's presence in the lineup has single-handedly rejuvenated struggling slugger Mark Teixeira), the Sox have their work cut out for them if they wish to remain atop the standings for long.

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