It was a perfect Sunday to bask in baseball at Fenway Park. The sun was beaming. The sky was blue. The Red Sox played like the team general manager Ben Cherington drew up, defeating the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim by a score of 6-1. It felt like summer penning its signature on a postcard and sending it to Boston.
P.S. Don’t give up on enjoying baseball this summer.
Maybe it’s time to stop the race to write off the Red Sox. The skepticism surrounding the Sox is understandable after the Fenway Faithful have been scarred by two last-place finishes in three years and endured a halting, at times pathetic, start to this season.
Memorial Day marks the unofficial, but psychologically signficant, dawning of summer. It’s going to be a long, boring one around here if the Sox aren’t relevant. No one should be hastening for Fenway to be a barren baseball wasteland again come August.
It shouldn’t be because the American League East is eminently mediocre, full of flawed teams, including the Red Sox, who at 21-23 headed for Minnesota after Sunday’s win just 2½ games back in the division.
Think about that. The Sox are right there despite atrocious starting pitching in April and anemic offense for most of May. It’s not time to start dusting off the rolling rally route, but it’s also far from time to declare the Sox a hopeless cause.
This was the Red Sox’ most complete win of the season, full of lights-out starting pitching from lefty Wade Miley (8 innings, 4 hits, 1 run), thunder from Mike Napoli, who homered for the third consecutive game, and sterling defense. It showed what the Sox are capable of being. Now, as they embark on a seven-game road trip to Minnesota and Texas, they have to show they’re capable of putting it all together on a consistent basis.
“Yeah, this team is probably good to go probably 10 in a row, you know,” said shortstop Xander Bogaerts. “The offense, the pitching, everything that we have, if it all fits together like it has the last few days it will be pretty dangerous.”
Just like the starting pitching couldn’t possibly be as dreadful as it was in the beginning of the season, the offense couldn’t possibly be as impotent as it had been for most of May. In taking two out of three from the Angels, the Sox scored 19 runs and collected 35 hits.
The Sox were built to bash. Offense won’t be their demise. Say what you will about the scuffling David Ortiz, but his 30-100 numbers will be there in the end.
The Sox went into the weekend ranked dead last in the majors in batting average against lefties, yet defeated C.J. Wilson on Saturday and took down Hector Santiago, who entered ranked fifth in the AL in earned run average, on Sunday.
Maybe Napoli was sleeping too well after his offseason surgery to deal with sleep apnea because his bat had been soporific. But in this six-game homestand Napoli definitely woke up, hitting .429 to boost his average above .200 and give the Red Sox lineup a different look.
Napoli continued his assault on his former team and the baseball, blasting a mammoth two-run homer to center in the second and tagging Cam Bedrosian for a long two-run double off the Wall in the eighth inning as part of a 2-for-3 day.
Hell hath no fury like a former Halo scorned. Napoli batted .555 with 4 home runs and 8 runs driven in during the series, raising his career totals against the Angels to .333 with 18 home runs, 36 RBIs, and a ridiculous 1.192 OPS in 47 games.
The shake-up of dropping Napoli to sixth and promoting Bogaerts, who was 4 for 4 on Sunday, to the fifth spot has ignited the lineup.
“We changed some things up, it sparked some things,” said Sox manager John Farrell. “But overall it comes down to quality starting pitching, which we got today.”
Yes, the much-mocked Sox starting rotation suddenly doesn’t look like it needs an ace, as well as Ace bandages, to stop the bleeding.
Making former pitching coach Juan Nieves a scapegoat was still indecorous, but you can’t argue with the results. Since May 13, Sox starters are 5-4 with a 2.72 earned run average.
A glorious day for baseball looked for a while like it had the potential to be a historic one for Miley.
Miley flirted with perfection for 4⅔ innings. He walked Chris Iannetta to give the Angels their first base runner.
Miley went to a 1-and-2 count on the next batter, C.J. Cron. Plate umpire John Hirschbeck ruled Miley’s next pitch hit Cron as he checked his swing. But the umpires held a confab and overturned that decision, ruling that the ball had struck the knob of Cron’s bat for a foul ball. Angels manager Mike Scioscia initiated a replay challenge. The Angels lost the replay review, but Cron lined the next pitch to left field for a clean single.
Miley is a rapid-fire worker. Plan your trips to Fenway around his starts. Sunday’s game took a tidy 2 hours and 37 minutes.
This game had to brighten the mood of Red Sox principal owner John Henry (also the owner of the Boston Globe). It was a bloody Sunday for his other professional sports franchise.
Liverpool closed out its English Premier League season with its worst loss in the top-flight division of English soccer since 1963, losing 6-1 to Stoke City. Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers apologized after the match for the team’s sixth-place finish in the Prem.
Henry already has one disappointing club with a manager on the hot seat. He doesn’t need another.
And we need something to occupy the sports landscape this summer other than rehashing and gnashing teeth over Deflategate.