I feel like I'm better than I've ever been. I have a slider now, I have a changeup now, I'm pitching in, drastically more than I've ever pitched in my career. The numbers are showing it. ... My first two starts, I haven't felt like I've been consistently burying the [splitter] well and I didn't think I was throwing it on a very good angle. I threw it [against Seattle] and it was exactly what I wanted it to be, from a feel standpoint. ... [W]e are such a tremendous defensive ballclub. There is a very different feel about contact from a pitcher's standpoint than there has ever been for me. It's the best defense that I have ever pitched in front of, our infield defense.The flip side of the Sox' wonderful (including three victories by a 2-1 score) is that the offense is a bit less than expected. Among the 14 AL teams, Boston is 4th in OBP, 6th in slugging, 6th in batting average, but 10th in runs scored. (They are 3rd in ERA, after New York and Detroit).
Manny Ramirez has just one hit in his last 18 at-bats and is hitting a paltry .200 through 10 games. All of his hits have been singles. One note on the slump: Dave Heuschkel of the Courant notes that this is "the first time in Ramirez's career he had not had an extra-base hit in the first nine games. That streak is now 10." Over in the Globe, however, Chris Snow makes a slightly different point: "Never before, in 13 previous seasons in what someday will be a Hall of Fame career, had Ramirez gone 10 games without an extra-base hit."
I don't know if either of those statements is inaccurate. Has Manny had a similar 10-game stretch before in his career? Snow says he hasn't had a similar singles-only slump, but I'll bet he's hit .200 over 10 games a few times. Of course, having it at the very beginning of the season makes it far more visible. I'd rather have Manny mashing the ball, obviously, but I'm not concerned. (Reminder: he was batting .224 on May 27, 2005).
By the way, Ramirez's next home run will be #200 for the Red Sox and he'll become the fourth player to hit more than 200 taters for two teams, joining Jimmie Foxx (A's: 302, Red Sox: 222), Mark McGwire (A's: 363, Cardinals: 220) and Rafael Palmeiro (Rangers: 321, Orioles: 223).
Trot Nixon might be available to pinch hit Sunday or Monday.