If you are one of the millions of four-sport Boston fans in the world, then this has been an awe-inspiring week for you. With the Boston Bruins clinching their first championship in 39 years, it marked the 7th title in the city since the turn of the century. Winning has become the new standard in Boston and looking at these 2011 Red Sox, it’s not hard to think that October could very well yield an 8th title in the 21st century for the Hub.
As we wrapped up Father’s Day Weekend in New England, both the Bruins and the Red Sox continued to remind all of North America that it’s serious about commanding the professional sports landscape.
The Celtics’ Ray Allen admitted to being ‘jealous’ of the Bruins 2011 title and renewed his passion to raise Banner #18 in the TD Garden for the Celtics before his storied career comes to a close.
That type of competitiveness and success has built a camaraderie in Boston between the players across the city’s four franchises. So much so that Kevin Youkilis referred to the band of athletes across the Celtics, Red Sox, Bruins and Patriots as a fraternity of Boston champions. That type of connection can only lend itself to more regional support and success. These are not your father’s Boston sports and that is very clear. Since 2002, Boston sports has repeatedly staked it’s place in history, cementing legacies that will be spoken of for decades to come.
And one person who knows how to win in Boston while fighting adversity is Jon Lester. And although he is four seasons removed from battling cancer and clinching a World Series, he is really just steps away from being the best pitcher in the American League. Nearly 70% of Lester’s starts in 2011 have been dominant. This includes Saturday’s tilt against Milwaukee, which at first blush looks middling, but actually rates out fairly well.
For Lester, it’s just unfortunate that the trouble started in the first inning with back-to-back home runs to start the game.
Lester threw 115 pitches in his 8-inning start on Saturday night. He allowed three runs and eight strikeouts with seven hits and three walks. He flirted with trouble but allowed just the three runs — all by way of the homer. For the season, Lester is allowing 1.3 home runs per nine innings, more than double his totals from 2010 (0.6 HR/9).
Perhaps the most interesting Red Sox starter right now is Andrew Miller, the Red Sox’ latest reclamation of a former phenom college star. Miller was once the centerpiece of a blckbuster trade that send Miguel Cabrera from the Florida Marlins to the Detroit Tigers. Miller, who will draw his first start of the season for the Sox against the Padres on Monday, is a wild and live arm who has incredible size, velocity and potential. Miller was the 5th overall pick out of UNC the same year that Daniel Bard was drafted. If the Sox have been able to ‘right’ the big left-hander, then they may be sitting on a gold mine.
Miller credits his pre-start approach as the predominant reason for his new-found success in professional baseball. In an interview with with Dan Hoard from the MLBlogs Network
- , Miller talked about the improvements.
After 13 outings for Pawtucket, Miller is 3-3 with a 2.47 ERA and is holding opposing hitters to a .181 batting average – the lowest of any starter in the International League. Since altering his pre-game routine to pitch a simulated inning in the bullpen, Andrew has posted a 1.80 ERA in 4 outings with 3 walks and 26 strikeouts in 25.1 IP.
“I go out with (pitching coach) Rich Sauveur maybe 10 or 15 minutes earlier than most guys would and get loose like you would before the game,” Miller said. “Then I sit down with Rich and the catcher and do a mini half-inning where we sit down for 4 or 5 minutes and talk and maybe go over the lineup a little bit. Then I get up and try to simulate game speed and simulate hitters and maybe work out some kinks that generally I’ve had to battle in the first inning. By the time I go out and pitch in the real first inning, it feels like it would in the second or third inning. So far it’s been great. I think it’s accomplished everything we were hoping it would, and I’ve gone out there and felt aggressive and in the zone to start the game.”
And although it may be a longshot possibility, Peter Gammons did say on NESN this Spring Training that at some point Miller would be a regular in the rotation and Bard would be the closer. During the month of March, it sounded a little-far fetched, but this could be one step closer.
It’s nice to see Marco Scutaro back healthy but it’s unfortunate for Jed Lowrie that he still cannot shake the ‘injury bug’ label. Now with Lowrie experiencing a shoulder that ‘popped’, you have to wonder when he may be able to strike the ball with authority again
For the first time in his big-league career, Lowrie had a clear path to playing time and showed off his advanced skill-set by destroying American League pitchers for the better part or two weeks in April. But since April 27th, Lowrie’s extra-base power has been well-below league-average and his xBA (.195) is below the Mendoza Line.
We are not sure the extent of Lowrie’s shoulder injury, but it’s certain he will end up fighting yet again to prove he can be an everyday shortstop, Lowrie’s defense, injury woes and inconsistency say that path is probably unlikely.
Finally, how about this neat little interleague matchup on Monday? You have Adrian Gonzalez facing his old team on his new home turf. A-Gon will be looking to display his perfect-for-Fenway Park-approach in front his old organization. Add in the Anthony Rizzo debut as the blue chip that helped swing the blockbuster trade for Gonzalez, AnDrew Miller‘s premiere and the fact that all of attention is squarely on the Red Sox now, it will make for what should be an interesting night at Fenway.
Side Session: Happy Father’s Day to all of the dads out there. It sure is a good time to be a sports fan in Boston.