Let's hope the last week is a sign of things to come for the Red Sox this year. Since catching fire last Sunday, the starting pitching staff has rocked steady through the last five games, giving us:
- A more-than-quality start from Jon Lester on Sunday, accompanied by an offensive barrage to salvage the series in Toronto. I say just not being swept by them on the road after having swept them at home is doing all right.
- Something approaching a quality start from Daisuke Matsuzaka to open the series in Detroit on Tuesday. It was a win, anyway. I'll take it. Bonus: the squirrel.
- 6.2 innings of no-hit ball from Josh Beckett on Wednesday. Yes, the no-hit bid was lost, but I would be shocked to see Beckett ever pitch a no-hitter or perfect game. He's generally dominant, but his MO most starts is to scatter hits. Sometimes lots of hits. I'm amazed he got as far as he did in this game without giving one up. Also, if someone had to spoil it for Beckett, it couldn't have been a nicer guy than Curtis Granderson. Bonus: rare Mike Lowell freak-out and ejection in the eighth.
- A sweep in Detroit on Thursday, led by a solid start from Wakefield, and a Sox offense that surged to 6-3 after beginning the game down 3-0. The rally was sparked by Jason Bay. I know I have defended Manny in the past, but I will say it is an undeniable relief to have a right-handed hitter in our lineup who is regularly delivering what my friend Ryan calls "jack jobs", while simultaneously adhering to a strict diet of shut the hell up.
- What I'm going to call a hard-luck loss for Brad Penny Friday night, who threw a bad pitch to Ian Kinsler after four innings and change of solid pitching to dig the Sox a hole they couldn't pull themselves out of. But before the homer, in that inning, Marlon Byrd had been allowed to reach in what arguably should have been an out (I have Eckersley to back me up on this). Saltalamacchia arguably should've been the final out, putting Kinsler up with the bases empty to start the sixth. And who allowed Marlon Byrd to reach in the top fo the fifth inning? Why, none other than Julio Lugo! I rest my case.
- A complete-game, one-run, two-hit masterpiece from Jon Lester tonight, beginning with six and one-third innings of pure perfection. The first 19 batters in a row retired. 70 percent of a minimal number of pitches thrown for strikes. Eleven strikeouts, one less than his last start. Dennis Eckersley opened the third inning saying it was best not to get too hyped up about Lester too early. A few pitches later, he commenced a two-inning stretch of gushing all over Jon Lester. But it was deserved, as was the round of applause Lester got when Michael Young broke things up in the seventh. Lester further destroyed the perfect-game effort with a walk that inning, but coasted to a win on 8 runs from the offense. Bonus: Big Papi's second home run, and a chance to see Tito dragging Papi up to the top of the steps for a curtain call by his shirt collar like an overgrown kid.
After beginning the season with malaise, Josh Beckett and Jon Lester seem to have rounded into top form in the last month. This past week, they have been unquestionably the crown jewels of this rotation, a pair of aces if ever there was one. If they can keep it up...
The best thing of all about this pair is the way they also seem to be merging into a single Phiten-necklace-and-silk-screened-T-shirt-wearing, squinty-eyed, ambidextrous, flame-throwing beast. What should we call it? Josh Bester? Jon Leckett?
Either way, let's hope our visit from this firebreathing chimera lasts for a while. And that the Yankees keep losing.