This headline, borrowed from Earl Weaver, the amusing and insightful former manager of the Baltimore Orioles, who originally said, “Momentum is the next day’s starting Pitcher”, succinctly describes the key issue of this year’s Red Sox.
Boston seems to have gotten their mojo working, at least for now, but they sure didn’t have it going two weeks ago. That’s when Cody Ross’s exciting walk off homer against the White Sox was followed by a dreadful start by Beckett which led to a 4 game losing streak. Back then, Lester and Beckett were acting like momentum stoppers not ace pitchers who stop losing streaks.
Enter Clay Buchholz, who on July 24th stopped the losing streak with 7 strong innings and a no decision win for his team. Three games later Lester pitches a good game and helps stop a two game skid. He apparently made a critical mechanical adjustment and it worked. This was against the damn Yankees and nothing less than the entire season was at stake that night. Next night, same stakes and Doubront delivers a strong start. This led to Boston winning a 10 inning cliffhanger against the bad guys from New York. Next game, in the sometimes unfriendly Fenway Park, Buchholz goes eight very strong innings giving up 2 earned runs against the hot- hitting Tigers. If Buchholz, Doubront and Lester can continue pitching like this it could catapult them into the playoffs.
Now, miracle of miracles, Beckett takes the mound and doesn’t screw the whole thing up. He actually starts the game by retiring the first eight hitters. However, this is 2012 so weird things had to happen to Beckett. An infield hit, HBP, two walks led to a run and a back spasm which put the kibosh on Josh with the bad karma. Ironically, this injury could really benefit the Red Sox even if it puts Beckett on the shelf for a start or two. This is because on this day of the trading deadline the Carmines acquired a lefty reliever, Craig Breslow. This gives them two lefty relievers, which allows Franklin Morales to start and not leave the bullpen short of a lefty. Missing a start or two or more might be the best thing for Beckett’s fragile shoulder. Lou Merloni has, I believe, correctly pointed out on his radio show that Beckett’s shoulder is probably the big reason why Beckett has been so inconsistent on the mound. His shoulder is probably why his approach this year has been to throw a lot of curve balls mixed in with a few 90 mph fastballs. This start was unusual for Beckett because he started the game throwing more fastballs then the Tigers’ Verlander. Maybe it was throwing in the rain, but Josh had great control of his fastball and relatively poor control of his curveball. The rain gets the save for the Red Sox as the Tigers had a bases loaded rally going when the game was stopped. If anyone needed a sign that their season has finally turned around, this just might be it. Now, as long as the next day’s starting pitcher does a quality job, they should keep this momentum going.