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Home » August 2008 Game CommentsAugust 2008 » Holding


Game 128: August 22, 2008
WinRed Sox 8 W: Paul Byrd (8-11)
H: Justin Masterson (1)
74-54, 1 game winning streak
Blue Jays 4 L: Shaun Marcum (8-6) 66-62, 1 game losing streak
Highlights: Byrd reminds me of John Burkett, who signed with the Red Sox as a free agent in late 2001 and turned in two adequate seasons in 2002 and 2003. What these pitchers don’t have in stuff they make up for in guile. When pitchers such as these are on the hill, the offense must be prepared to score more than four or five runs, which is what they will typically surrender. The bullpen should be ready for three, or, if they are lucky, two innings of shutdown ball. The pieces of the puzzle fell into place for the Red Sox last night for a road win, something that has been a more common occurrence for Boston lately.

How the visiting team would muster up the requisite number of runs to support Paul Byrd was uncertain. J.D. Drew was scratched from the lineup because his herniated disk was acting up, Mike Lowell is in the midst of his disabled list stint due to a strained oblique, and Julio Lugo had a setback with a left quadriceps pull a few days ago.

I was just being polite mentioning Lugo. Jed Lowrie has been a superior option both offensively and defensively up the middle. Unlike Lugo, Lowrie can also cover second and third. The rookie demonstrated this flexibility by starting at the hot corner. Lowrie went hitless but scored a run after reaching base on a free pass in the fourth.

I was reminded of Lugo when Blue Jays second baseman Joe Inglett fell victim to two double plays to staunch rallies in the seventh and ninth. Inglett was also picked off for the final out of the third with Vernon Wells in the box. Unlike Boston, Toronto has no Lowries to call up to spell Inglett, but John McDonald is mouldering on the bench. Nor did the Red Sox get trigger-happy contract extensions like the Blue Jays did: McDonald and Alex Rios seemed to have slid into complacency in the aftermath of their multi-year extensions.

With power threats Drew and Lowell absent, other outlets have been tapped. One source has been consistent the season so far: Dustin Pedroia, who had his first hit (a home run, no less) against Shaun Marcum in the first. Another source, Kevin Youkilis, has sustained his consistency in his trademark skill, getting on base, and has added a dimension to his game. Youkilis’s previously unseen store of power has been unleashed, enabling Terry Francona to place the versatile infielder behind David Ortiz in the batting order with confidence.

One player that most fans, including me, had written off was Jason Varitek. The backstop has had a late-season resurgence at the most opportune time; in the last three games Varitek has exceeded his home run production of in June and July combined. Perhaps the road trip was particularly well-timed for Varitek, who recently filed for divorce from his wife Karen.

With the runs on the board, the final piece of the puzzle to be put into place would be the bullpen’s performance. In any major league team, this component is often the most ill-fitting, if it is present at all. Yesterday, however, the relief corps completed the picture with the trio of Justin Masterson, Hideki Okajima, and Jonathan Papelbon closing out the final third of the contest.

Surprisingly, it was Masterson’s first major league hold. He had come into so many games to clean up Clay Buchholz’s mishaps I thought there must have been some point where he met the criteria for a hold.

Some day somebody’s gonna make you want to turn around and say goodbye
Until then, baby, are you going to let them hold you down and make you cry?
Don’t you know, don’t you know things can change, things’ll go your way
If you hold on for one more day

I didn’t think there would be a song as lame as the hold statistic. Silly me.

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