The Quick Recap
In the first game out of the All-Star break, the Red Sox kept up their winning ways with a 5-4 victory over the Kansas City Royals at Fenway Park, their fifth in six games. Jonny Gomes' pinch-hit, two-run homer in the sixth inning proved to be the deciding margin and capped off a four-run rally that also included a two-run blast by Xander Bogaerts. Much maligned shortstop Stephen Drew went 2-for-3 with a double and walk (and is now six out of his last 11) and Clay Buchholz survived a shaky outing to win his second straight start.
It’s only been about nine months since the Sox won the World Series but that feels like eons the way this season has gone. But Gomes offered up a slice of nostalgia in the sixth inning, when Sox manager John Farrell called on him to hit for Jackie Bradley Jr. against Royals’ left hander Scott Downs.
The Sox had already plated a couple of runs to cut the KC lead to one on Bogaerts’ blast earlier in the inning and had Drew on second when Gomes strode to the dish. Five pitches later, the Sox had the lead on a no-doubter to dead away centerfield, Gomes madly pumping his fist and firing his arms into the air as he rounded first. It was the sixth pinch hit homer as a Red Sox by Gomes, putting him in second place on the team’s all-time list, one behind a dude you may have heard of by the name of Ted Williams. That’s some pretty good company, no? And something tells me the Splendid Splinter would have been a big fan of Gomes and his star-spangled jacket.
Last weekend’s first half finale series in Houston featured former radio voice Jon Rish and one-time Sox/longtime broadcaster Steve Lyons on the NESN call in place of the venerable Don Orsillo and Jerry Remy. The results were mixed at best, which was to be expected. But last night telecast featured another new wrinkle.
Remy thankfully returned to his seat in the analyst’s chair, but Orsillo remained off, with Rish remaining on play-by-play patrol. What was odd was that Lyons worked as a second analyst, only he did so from field level, in the first base camera well, while Gary Striewski also did his usual sideline reporter thing. That’s four, count ‘em, four members of the on-air crew.
It remains to be seen what exactly NESN, dealing with some ratings issues on its Sox broadcasts, has in mind for Lyons, who has been all over the place since joining the network at the beginning of the year. He certainly brings a different perspective and energy than longtime Sox viewers are used to and will occasionally offer some pointed commentary (during an interminable fifth inning, as Buchholz was putting the entire crowd and viewing audience at home to sleep, Lyons remarked, “These are the kind of outings from Clay that the Red Sox are afraid of. Since he allowed the first run there, you can almost feel any intensity leaving him.”). But he’s got a ways to go to catch up to Remy, or Dennis Eckersley for that matter, both of whom do games with the kind of ease and familiarity it takes a long time to master.
But still, can Rem and Eck say they’ve ever eaten a fan’s pizza from the field during a game as Lyons did during this one? Nope. That’s Psycho Country.
My view from the "cage"! pic.twitter.com/Mwuqr79ycd— Steve Lyons (@SteveLyons12) July 19, 2014
Slow Pitch Baseball
Buchholz is notorious for basically stopping the game dead in its tracks when there are runners on base and while his glacial pace wasn’t quite as egregious last night as it’s been in the past, he still did everything he could to hold up the proceedings. Some pitchers slow the game down to a crawl. With Buchholz on the hill, it’s more or less standing still. The fourth and fifth innings felt like they took three weeks. If you have insomnia, he pitches again on Wednesday. I'd encourage you to watch.
Of course, when the Sox are winning, Buchholz’s inability or refusal to work efficiently doesn’t feel quite as painful. And last night, after falling behind 4-1, he kept the Sox in the game despite the somnambulent effort. He allowed four runs, all earned, on 10 hits over six loooooong innings, striking out three and walking none. Buchholz is 3-1 with a 3.28 ERA and a 0.87 WHIP over 35.2 innings in five starts since coming off the DL. What's most impressive about his work in that stretch is the K/BB ratio, a stellar 26/1.
Apparently, sometimes slow isn't all bad.
With the Sox in some sort of strange, Twilight Zone-esque state between trying to contend and punting the rest of this season, several of their players whose names have been bandied about in trade rumors were featured prevalently in the game.
Gomes, who has been linked to the Royals of all teams, hit that game winning homer. Relievers Burke Badenhop and Andrew Miller, both of whom could be on the move if the Sox fall back into the same morass they couldn't find thier way out of as recently as a week and a half ago, combined on a scoreless seventh, with Miller, potentially highly sought after, especially impressive. And Koji Uehara of course closed it out, working around a two-out double in the ninth to earn his 19th save.
If for no reason other than sentimentality, it would be a shame to see Koji go. He's one of the most exciting, fun, unique Sox in a long, long time and his presence, even when things are going poorly, brightens up every game in which he appears. The non-waiver trade deadline arrives in less than two weeks. Here's hoping that if there's a fire sale at Fenway between now and then, Koji stays put.
Follow Jeremy on Twitter @jmg2776