Jason Varitek's third homer of the season -- a three-run job -- helped officially make it an afternoon laugher in Toronto today.
(photo originally uploaded by placidminds, on Flickr)
And to think, I was actually a little nervous before tuning in to today's game.
Another annoying yet boring combination of factors, including a Death Flu Virus from Hell, have been keeping me from the blog, as well as from catching many baseball games this week. In my absence, the Red Sox have swept New York to storm into first place -- the first time since 1913 the Red Sox have swept New York twice in the Bronx in one season. So I had a fleeting fear as I finally got to sit down and watch the ballgame today that maybe I'd be a jinx.
But for this team, right now, there seems to be no such thing.
The Sox lineup continued to dominate, particularly in the seven-run top of the fifth that officially made today's game a laugher. As a team, the Sox have scored at least five runs per game, and usually more, since June 2, and it's mostly been this onslaught that has them riding a season-topping 8-game winning streak since that date.
During this week of sickness and a general lack of baseball, I got an email from a colleague that posited the notion that if the Sox left the Bronx in first place, as they did, they wouldn't relinquish that position the rest of the season. This team has so much upside, especially when they're hitting, that it's perhaps easier to make such a bold statement this year than in others.
But a hot offense can hide a multitude of sins -- we may have the lineup we've been dreaming of, but pitching has been a less consistent story. Lester and Beckett have been solid, and Buchholz last night spun a gem, but the rotation and especially the bullpen have been afflicted with injury and other uncertainties, including back issues for Buch, and Tommy John surgery for two members of the staff, and have given up their share of runs over this recent winning streak.
It was a similar story today -- John Lackey allowed 4 runs, and was lucky it was only that few -- he got slapped around the park like a red-headed stepchild in the early innings, but the ball kept finding gloves in the outfield. He's also lucky the Red Sox threw a cool, season-high 16 runs up on the other side of the board for the day, so it was never really an issue, anyway.
Team hitting hotness is fickle, as is life in general in the AL East. So until the pitching goes on as hot a streak as the hitting has lately, and preferably for a good, long time, it's still too soon to declare the division lead truly safe. But here's hoping the tear they're on as a team isn't temporary.