The Boston Red Sox are putting an inauspicious start to the season behind them by using Toronto’s Rogers Centre as their own personal punching bag. It is a small sample size, but Boston has won three of the past four games, namely the last two up in Toronto where it scored a combined 15 runs. The Red Sox scored seven runs just one time over the first 23 games, but have now scored eight and seven runs in the past two games against the Blue Jays, most recently a 7-6 win.
Over the upcoming six games, Boston is slated to face six starters who have combined for just four wins in 2014. Only one is currently sporting an ERA under 4.00, and that would be converted reliever Cesar Ramos who has yet to throw more than 65 pitches in a game this year. Boston also heads home for an 8-game home stand following the series finale in Toronto on Sunday, so some more offensive firepower could be in the works.
It is no coincidence that the recent offensive surge has come immediately following the returns of Shane Victorino and Will Middlebrooks. The two not only solidify a shaky defense, but Victorino gives the Red Sox a needed jolt at the top of the lineup, while the right-handed power of Middlebrooks at the bottom of the order lengthens the lineup. Middlebrooks has doubled and homered in his two games back and will see a lot of opportunities to drive in runs hitting behind on-base machines like Mike Napoli and Xander Bogaerts. His ability to embrace his role as, in essence, a second cleanup hitter near the bottom of the order can launch this team back to the top.
Saturday’s contest looked to be another installment in the free-fall of Clay Buchholz after the right-hander allowed three runs in the first to dig an early hole. He came into the game with a 7.71 ERA and had shown little semblance of the guy who started last year 11-0. He flipped the script, however. Buchholz held the Jays to just two hits over six scoreless innings after his rocky start, making it the first time he made it through seven frames this year. Boston would love to get him rolling to round out the starting rotation.
The players-only meeting that the Red Sox held following the 14-5 drubbing by the Yankees on Thursday appears to have worked wonders. The offense has produced 21 hits and 11 walks in two games against Toronto and will go for the sweep on Sunday against a starter on whom they have feasted in the past. R.A. Dickey got rocked to the tune of an 8.53 ERA in two starts versus Boston last year, and to make matters worse, he will be opposing Red Sox ace Jon Lester.
As the weather is beginning to warm up, it seems as though the Red Sox may be heating up right along with it. Boston could be in for a big run next week if it can finish off its first sweep of the season on Sunday and ride that momentum back to Beantown for the home stand.
Commentary by Justin Hussong, Guardian Liberty Voice Sports Writer covering the Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers