Is June too early to say we've got a real pennant race going? After completing the sweep on Oakland this weekend, the Sox are .500 on their homestand and a half-game out of first place. The Rays, three games out, and even the Jays, at 3.5 games back, aren't necessarily out of it either. Ain't we got fun?
I will say, however, that I was pleasantly surprised at how resilient the Red Sox were today. I fully expected a loss after yesterday's phyrric 14-inning victory, but John Lackey came in and pitched a 3-run, 5.2 inning effort, an out short of a quality start, but good enough for the W and a standing ovation from the Fenway crowd. In a brief beanball war in the third inning, Lackey also seemed to get away with hitting catcher Kurt Suzuki despite both benches having been warned -- sometimes being effectively wild is the most effective thing, I guess.
The bullpen, too, showed resilience, even sharpness, in the latter innings of this game, during which Matt Albers, Tommy Hottovy, Dan Wheeler and Daniel Bard combined to blank the A's. Dan Wheeler had a 7-pitch 8th, and beginning his ninth with a three-run lead and Mark Ellis at the plate -- like a do-over of yesterday's ninth -- Daniel Bard didn't just do his job. He did it with such quick, ruthless efficiency he almost looked bored, as one after another, 100-mph pitches pumped their way out of his arm.
I used to worry that Daniel Bard was too sweet and calm (or at least he seemed that way) to be a closer. But between his nasty stuff and that blank demeanor, he's actually cultivating his own kind of icy intimidation factor. It's the opposite of the bombast and fire we're used to seeing with Jonathan Papelbon, but over the last two days, the contrast has clearly worked in Bard's favor.
Meanwhile, as tough as they proved they can be today, I'm still grateful for an off-day tomorrow before the Sox head into a challenging road trip, beginning with a series in the Bronx. Hopefully it'll allow everyone to recover before another contentious series with the Bombers.