If you thought about it, what is the most cliched saying in all of sports? I’d argue that a team or a person “having someone’s number” is probably in the top five.
That is all you could hear or read if someone read the papers or listened to sports talk radio in the Boston area. “The Orioles have their number.” The sad part about the cliche? It may be true.
The Red Sox have a winning record against the teams they have faced this year except for four: The Kansas City Royals (won one out of three games in Fenway), the Chicago White Sox (won one out of three games in Chi-Town), the Texas Rangers (lost four out of six games), and the Baltimore Orioles. The other three teams are irrelevant to a point, but the Orioles dominance sticks out because of the divisional ramifications.
The Orioles inched two games closer to Boston in the AL East, but the Red Sox still escaped with the American League’s best record.
Here are some notes from the weekend series:
The cliche was one thing, the Jon Lester columns and analysis on his poor performance over the past few starts was another. After his five inning, five earned run performance yesterday, his 2013 earned run average ballooned up to 4.37 ERA. He owns a 0-4 record and a 7.20 ERA in his last six starts, which includes 47 hits and 18 walks in 34 innings. Is he still the ace of the pitching staff going forward? Or do the Red Sox need to bring outside help?
What does a .551 average since his call-up at the end of May get José Iglesias? How about the second spot in the lineup? With Dustin Pedroia and Shane Victorino out of the lineup on Sunday, Iglesias got promoted from the bottom of the order to the top of the order. His second year is looking more and more like Pedroia’s 2007 Rookie of the Year campaign. Pedroia made a lot of contact to start his career, which earned him the lead-off spot. Iglesias is producing a copy of that, if the photo copy machine took a black and white original and made a color copy.
Who would you guess has the lowest ERA in the Red Sox Bullpen? Would you have guessed Andrew Miller? He has appeared in six of the 15 June games for the Sox, and he has only given up one run over 6 2/3 innings. He still struggles with his control (four walks in those 6 2/3), but his strikeout dominance is becoming breathtaking (eight strikeouts in those 6 2/3). He was used in more than lefty-on-lefty situations against Baltimore, going multiple innings twice. John Farrell is trying to use him more than a lefty-specialist, and it is starting to work.
Why is first base all of a sudden an injury position? Well, in the case of Mikes, the Red Sox first base position has lost a little bit of its depth. Mike Napoli had to leave Thursday’s game in the third inning due to illness, and then his replacement, Mike Carp, pulled his hamstring running to third in Sunday’s game. Next man up? Daniel Nava, who worked very hard in spring training to play first base. The Red Sox have more position depth now than they have had in five years, and that could be thanks to the elimination of Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford from the team.
While the focus remains on Lester in the starting rotation, Ryan Dempster has quietly improved his 2013 numbers. After his ERA rose as high as 4.69, he has worked it all the way back down to 4.21, thanks in large part to his start friday where he went 7 2/3 innings deep of two-run ball. He has a quality start in his last four appearances, and he has gone at least seven innings in three of those starts. With Lester faltering and Buchholz’s neck flinching, Dempster’s fluidity on the mound will be a fantastic change of pace for the first-place Sox.
When a team scores 12 runs in four games, the first thing to look for is the opportunities to score. When a Will Middlebrooks home run accounts for a quarter of the runs (he hit a 3-run home run on Sunday), that means a lot of chances went begging. The Red Sox were 5-for-26 with runners in scoring position – 1-for-7 on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Who would have thought that Middlebrooks’ .199 average would not be the lowest batting average talked about this weekend? The Red Sox do have the fifth-highest batting average with runners in scoring position, but that has to translate when they are playing a divisional opponent.
(Photos Courtesy of Nick Wass/Associated Press)