Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Halfway Mark

The Red Sox took home a 7-3 win last night over the Rangers in their 81st game of the season, giving them a healthy 50-31 record. With exactly 81 more to go, the Nation is officially in unchartered territory. A 10-1/2 game lead before July 4th? The Yankees under .500? Manny and Papi still looking for their power groove? Life is indeed good, but how come it feels so shaky?

I'll tell you why - because us Red Sox fans are wired differently. Our DNA contains strands of Bucky Dent, Bill Buckner, Christ even Harry Frazee, the hare-brained owner who only sold off the greatest baseball player that ever lived. Oh, and he sold him to the Yankees. And of course, the epic collapse in 1978 - sealed by Bucky F'ing Dent's pop-up into the left-field screen - reminds us to not be too overconfident. Anything can happen, as evidenced by the scars we bear.

That's been proven during the first half of this weird, wacky season. Ironically, the Sox have the same exact record (50-31) that they had a year ago at the midway point. Back then, that was only good for a 4-1/2 game lead on the Yankees. Today, in the pathetically lame AL East, that same record is good for a comfortable 10-1/2 game lead on Toronto and an 11-game lead on the Yanks. Why the big spread? Number one, again the rapid deterioration of the once-tough AL East. But also pitching, pitching, pitching. The starting five (with a few blemishes, mostly from Wakefield) and the bullpen (Okajima and Papelbon) have been magnificent, and they've served as masking agents for the underperformance of Boston's big boppers, Manny and David Ortiz:

Mid-year 2006: Ortiz 26 HRs, 76 RBI; Manny 23/63
Mid-year 2007: Ortiz 13/49; Manny 11/44

The offensive heroes through the first half have been few, but while Manny and Ortiz try to find their power strokes, both Mike Lowell and Kevin Youkilis have been pretty steady.

Hopefully Manny, Papi, Drew and Lugo can all contribute more offense in the second half. The easy schedule the rest of the way plays in the Sox' favor. Fifty-eight of the Sox' remaining 81 games are against teams with sub-.500 records, including a whopping 19 meetings against the perpetually woeful Tampa Bay Devil Dogs, and 13 more against the skidding Orioles. Take care of business, beat the teams you're supposed to beat, and we should have our first division... nope, not going to say it. Not yet anyway.

I'm planning to post a fairly comprehensive mid-year report card at some point in the next couple of days, so stay tuned.

As far as last night, it was the rookies who stole the show. Dustin Pedroia got the Sox off on the right foot with an early two-run double, and Jacoby Ellsbury electrified Fenway when he scored from second on a passed ball. This kid can pick 'em up and put 'em down. One of the many luxuries of having a big lead is being able to play the kids every now and then. Eric Hinske also had a huge hit, a bases-loaded triple to the triangle that just eluded Kenny Lofton. Oh, and while the embattled Julio Lugo didn't have a hit, he also didn't commit any stupid baserunning mistakes. Lugo laid down a nice sacrifice bunt, and walked a couple of times. About as good a night as you can have without getting a knock.

Tonight, believe it or not, we face the Devil Rays for the first time all season. Get ready for a steady drumbeat of D-Rays over the next couple months. We're gonna get to know them really well. Maybe there'll even be some Daubachian/Nixonian fireworks between these two "blood" rivals.

Good one on tap for tonight, with K cards at the ready: Dice-K vs. Scott Kazmir.

Lets be positive...not only are alot of guys going to "lose their swings " during the home run derby.....the yanks still look like a softball team...old & slow with 2 good guys.
also, the mean east is the easy league in the A.L.
Positive up 10.5 and manny & ortiz are happy human years, lowell is back to being a pro hitter like his old days in FLA, 10.5 up and weak production from cf & rf
positive -pitching & defense & timely hitting win play off games....p.s. do you make a move for M Young or an outfield bat?
allstars left off:shields, pena,harris ,reyes
Might as well just name the entire D-Rays roster! Agree with you on Shields - he's been unreal - where'd he come from?

Would love it if they went after Michael Young but doubt the Rangers would want to lose him. I think they need a good OF with a good stick - maybe so Coco can be a 4th outfielder. Someone like Aaron Rowand from the Phillies. You have to think that Manny, Papi and Drew are going to pick it up in the second half.
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