A little more than a week ago Fire Brand’s Dan Podheiser wrote about the upcoming “Stretch from Hell” that the Red Sox were about to embark upon. They were slated to play 25 games in 27 days; 22 of those games were going to be against teams with winning records.
The 4-week sprint began on May 31st in the Bronx and the Yankees were reeling, losers of 5 straight (3 to the lowly Mets). However, Friday night marked the return of former Red Sox Kevin Youkilis and former Georgia Tech grad Mark Teixeira. The Yankees were hoping for a spark and were desperate for anything to get them going. Although the two returnees combined for 1 hit over 7 at bats the Yankees won 4-1 while riding the coattails of C.C. Sabathia. It was an ominous beginning for the Sox and the “Stretch from Hell”.
5 games and 6 days later the Red Sox find themselves winners of 4 of their last 5 games. The Sox took two straight from the Yankees over the weekend, hung a Texas size 17 run spot on the Rangers Tuesday, and then won Thursday night on a thrilling Ortiz walk off three run home run. By the way that Ranger 9th inning was maybe the most unproductive inning by a Major League reliever, ever. Michael Kirkman came in to the 9th, which was peculiar in the first place since sleepy head Ron Washington had Joe Nathan ready to be called upon in the pen. Anyway, Kirkman’s tremendous line is as follows:
- At Bat 1, Jonny Gomes: First pitch double
- At Bat 2, Dustin Pedroia: Intentional Walk!! (more to come here later)
- At Bat 3, David Ortiz: First pitch walk off HR
Essentially Kirkman threw 2 real pitches and both were absolutely annihilated. Talk about the epitome of an unproductive inning.
It is hard to believe that Big Papi is in his 11th season as a Boston Red Sox. It is even more remarkable that at the age of 37 Ortiz is having, arguably, one of the best seasons of his career.
Despite not playing defense and missing a couple weeks, Ortiz’s 1.6fWAR ranks him 40th out of all hitters. In addition to this, Ortiz is striking out 6.2% less than his career average mark of 18% and his ISO (Isolated Power) sits at .299, which is ranked 3rd in the MLB and the best it has been since 2006 when he hit 54! home runs. To top it all off his wOBA is .427; the best it has been since 2007 and ranked 5th in the MLB. These are simply remarkable numbers for a guy who is 37 years old and coming off an Achilles injury that sidelined him for more than 6 months.
Not a single pre-season projection pinned Ortiz for the numbers he has produced thus far. In fact, the preseason composite projection gave Ortiz a triple slash line of .285/.380/.528 with 22 HR and 69 RBI. Through 42 games this season Ortiz already has 11 HR, 42 RBI, and a slash of .325/.401/.624.
Certainly Ortiz could regress a bit, but nevertheless his 2013 has been nothing short of extraordinary. If Ortiz can remain healthy and keep this up 2013 could be easily one of the best seasons of Ortiz’s long and successful career.
The legend of Daniel Nava grows by the day. The guy just won’t quit. He delivers clutch hits, plays good defense, and is about as smart a hitter as the Red Sox have had around in a long time.
His plate discipline is akin to Kevin Youkilis back when he was in his prime; he simply does not swing at pitches outside of the strike zone. The only time you see Nava get upset is about a pitch he thinks was outside the strike zone that is called a strike. And, guess what, more often then not the good ole Amica Pitch Zone agrees with Nava. Evidence of this plate discipline is his 12.5 BB%, which is good for 14th among all hitters (tied with Pedroia who must have learned his new found hitters eye from Nava) and his .393 OBP is 13th.
Oh, and during the “Stretch from Hell” Nava had 8 hits, 2 BB, 2 doubles, 1 HR, 6 RBI, and 5 runs.
The curious case of Prince Felix is, finally, becoming less curious. Personally this has resulted in less stress every 5th day of my life. Earlier in the season I would have to walk away from my computer when Doubront was pitching because it was so maddening and taxing on my psyche.
Now, Doubront seems to have maybe-hopefully-lets-not-jinx-it figured this pitching thing out. Over his past 4 starts Doubront has gone 23 combined innings, given up only 7 runs, and struck out 24 hitters. Granted he is still walking around a batter every other inning, but so is Ryan Dempster. At least those walks are now down around 2-3 every outing versus 4-5 at the beginning of the season.
Even more remarkable than Doubront’s turn around is that it should have been expected. Doubront’s xFIP is 3.65 while his ERA is 4.88; this means he was and is still getting unlucky on balls in play. Hopefully (knock on wood) we can expect to see continued improvement from the player version of Les Miles.
Not much needs to be said here except well I think everyone is frustrated by his nagging, recurrent injuries. The other day Victorino said he was 80%. Well, I think Pedroia is about 80% too and he is having a career year. I defended Vic before the season started and I will continue to defend him, but I hope that it is the medical staff making him rest and it is not on his own prerogative.
Let’s not hit the panic button with Lester yet, Red Sox fans. Although he has been less than stellar in his last 4 outings, he is still pitching deep into games and keeping the Sox offense within striking distance. The fact that he was able to limit Texas to 3 runs last night allowed for the Ortiz magic. That is a positive.
However, Lester has to be better; he is not a middle of the rotation starter. Run support won’t be there every night and there will come a time down the road when the Sox need Lester to put an end to a losing streak. If he can consistently be that guy in 2013 remains to be seen.
Because, well, I can’t think of anyone else and he was credited for the loss on Tuesday night after Lackey’s great start.
Tweets of the Week
The aftermath of the Ron Washington intentional walk of Pedroia to pitch to Ortiz then the walk off was remarkable. Take a look:
Well, yeah, that was gonna happen.
— OverTheMonster (@OverTheMonster) June 7, 2013
— Hunter Golden (@HunterGBaseball) June 7, 2013
Ron Washington gonna Ron Washington.
— Evan Brunell (@evanbrunell) June 7, 2013
Has anyone ever seen a manager TRY to pitch to David Ortiz in the 9th? With the score tied…at home? I haven't…til tonight. #redsox
— Michael Holley (@MichaelSHolley) June 7, 2013
My personal favorite of the night:
On the Kirkman saga:
Kirkman threw two non-intentional ball pitches. Yeah…
— OverTheMonster (@OverTheMonster) June 7, 2013
Michael Kirkman came into game with highest ERA among AL relievers. Padded lead tonight.
— Anthony Andro (@aandro) June 7, 2013
Here's a complete list of Rangers players who would've been a better option for the 9th inning than Michael Kirkman: all.
— Greg Tepper (@Tepper) June 7, 2013
The life of a Minor Leaguer or college student?
Report: Blue Jays Sign Chien-Ming Wang http://t.co/ju6WXOGGLQ
— Bluebird Banter (@bluebirdbanter) June 7, 2013
This Team, You Guys!!: