August 21, 2004

Red Sox Keep Rolling. Everything is clicking for the Red Sox. They came out swinging against Chicago for the second day in a row, taking a quick 7-2 lead en route to a 10-7 victory. Last night, they scored six times in the first two innings off Mark Buehrle and coasted 10-1.

Boston has won 5 straight, 9 of 11, and 11 of their last 14. The Angels beat the Yankees today 6-1 -- New York has now lost 5 of their last 6 games -- so the Red Sox are 6½ games behind in the East, New York's smallest lead since July 10. In the wild card race, they are ½-game ahead of Texas (who plays in Kansas City tonight).

There simply isn't much to complain about. In these two games against Chicago, Damon has reached base in 5 of 9 plate appearances. Orlando Cabrera is 4-for-9 in the #2 spot and clearly becoming more relaxed in the field. Manny Ramirez has caught fire once again, belting his 16th career grand slam last night and launching a 3-run shot (#31) in the first inning today. Jason Varitek singled twice last night; he doubled and hit two home runs today. Ricky Gutierrez got two hits last night. Mark Bellhorn returned from the DL today, walking on four pitches in his first appearance; he later singled and stole a base.

Curt Schilling threw only 78 pitches in 7 shutout innings last night and Francona was right to take him out with a 9-0 lead and save his arm for October. Tito also managed the bullpen just right today, yanking Bronson Arroyo before the lead vanished, sticking with a rusty Mike Timlin in the 6th and 7th, taking a look at Terry Adams in the 8th and giving Keith Foulke some work in the 9th.

Yesterday, Francona said he made a mistake in using Foulke Wednesday night with a 4-run lead. It was Foulke's third consecutive day of work and he was not sharp. ... Alan Embree has been getting some necessary rest. He has pitched in only three of Boston's last 17 games.

Curtis Leskanic pitched a scoreless ninth last night. "I don't think I've ever been this nervous in a major league game, other than my major league debut. ... I didn't know what my stuff was going to be like." ... Jason Varitek may drop his appeal of his four-game suspension for the July 24 brawl with the Yankees. A hearing is scheduled for next Thursday.

Alan Schwarz, whose new book "The Numbers Game: Baseball's Lifelong Fascination With Statistics" looks great (an entertaining review from George Will; Schwarz's website), writes about Ichiro, who is making a run at George Sisler's record of 257 hits in a single season.

Tomorrow night, Derek Lowe faces Freddy Garcia in the ESPN Sunday night game.

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