Tim Wakefield pitched 8 innings, giving up only 5 hits and 1 run in a pitcher's duel that the Sox squeaked out for a 2-1 victory. The win moved Wakefield to 5-2 on the season, breaking his tie with Ramon Ramirez for the club-high in wins. That's right. That's how bad the Sox starting pitching has been this season. Going into the night, only Wake and Ramirez had reached the 4 win plateau. Wake has, of course, been the rotation's rock. He brought his ERA down to 3.59, and of those 5 wins, 4 have been Quality Starts. Wake has just been an inning-eating machine, averaging almost 6 2/3 per outing.
The efficiency was on full display last night. It was one pop after another, hardly any of them leaving the infield. (Except Kevin Millar's home run, which, since it's retroactively harmless, you can kind of be happy about. Boy that guy has got Sox loyalty. Before the game he met with Papi and tried to help talk him out of the slump. That's right, before the game, Millar went to the opposing club and tried to pump up the opposing slugger. I love that guy. He doesn't care about the imagined animosity that fans and writers build up. He's just about everyone having a good time.) And because Brian Tallet was no slouch himself, cruising through most of the Sox lineup, the game came in at just a little over 2 hours total. In the 9th, Wake handed it right off to Papelbon, who finally had a stress-free save, his 11th in 11 tries, and everyone got to bed at an early hour.
The Sox lineup was not exaclty potent, but they should get a boost tonight with the return of Youkilis. The question now is how will the lineup be jiggered. Will Ortiz remain in the 3 spot with Youk coming back?
Francona has shown no inclination to bump Papi down, but after another disappointing night, he may soon find his hand forced. Ortiz went 0 for 3 last night, striking out twice. The current Sox 1, 2, 4, and 5 hitters (Ellsbury, Pedroia, Bay, and Lowell) are all hitting over or right around .300. (Not to mention the returning Youk.) How many rallies have been killed because Ortiz is in the middle of that stretch? How many runs have been lost? Is this all for a man's ego? Can't he get himself going just as well from a less vulnerable spot in the lineup? Won't he feel just as good about himself if he starts hitting in the 8 spot?
If there's any news on the Ortiz story, ITM will come back with it after Francona talks to the media today. If not, let's just sit back, enjoy the return of the prodigal Youk, and thank our lucky stars we're not gonna see Halladay this go around.