Did everyone see Stephen Strasburg‘s debut on Tuesday? If you didn’t you missed a truly historic performance. Strasburg managed to exceed the seemingly un-exceedable hype while tallying 7 innings, 4 hits, 14 breathtaking K’s, and his first big league win. His fastball had more movement than any I’ve ever seen and his curveball had me shouting at my tv in amazement. His only mistake was a changeup that Delwyn Young took out of the park for a 2-run homer, but Strasburg kept his composure and finished by striking out the last SEVEN batters that he faced. I can honestly say that I’ll remember this game for the rest of my life, even if it ends up being the best one of his career ($5 says it won’t be).
Before tonight’s 2-0 victory over Toronto, check out the last time the Red Sox won by more than 1 run:
That’s right, not since April 14th, 2 weeks ago. The BoSox may have gotten back to .500 with tonight’s win, which is always good to see, but the fact of the matter is they still have a lot of work left to do if they want to contend this season. I am encouraged by the way Clay Buchholz has been pitching and by Jon Lester‘s last two starts. If John Lackey and Josh Beckett can pick it up, then the rotation will be in good shape even if #5 remains a mystery with Tim Wakefield and Daisuke Matsuzaka. Don’t look now, but Lester hasn’t allowed a run in his last 13.1 innings.
One of the more interesting and surprising bright spots for the Sox thus far has been Darnell McDonald. Carrying a .286 average and 2 home runs through just 25 plate appearances into tonight’s contest, many fans are wondering where the heck this guy came from. That’s where I come in.
McDonald is 31 years old and in his fourth major league season. He made his major league debut back in 2004 at the tender age of 25 with the Baltimore Orioles, who selected him with the 26th overall pick in the 1997 amateur draft. Since then he’s been all over the majors and the minors, logging just 147 big league at-bats coming into this season. During that time he posted a below average slash line of .231/.276/.333.
So where is this new found success coming from? Your guess is as good as mine, but I can tell you one thing. He’s not the young prospect that some interpret him as, and for this reason he doesn’t have a legitimate chance of staying with the team long term. He may be a fan favorite already, but something’s gotta give when both Mike Cameron and Jacoby Ellsbury (remember them?) return from the DL. The team can’t afford to carry more than four outfielders at a time, and there’s just no way that McDonald can play himself ahead of Ellsbury, Cameron, J.D. Drew, or Jeremy Hermida. Thanks for the memories DMac, but I’m afraid your time is almost up.
Okay, now hear me out on this one. You’ve got Clay Buchholz on the mound. Through 7 innings he is throwing a one-hit shutout. The next logical step to an ten-year old would be to leave him in the game because he is pitching so well. I apologize for wanting to have a manager with just a little more insight than an ten-year old. Buchholz was over 90 pitches entering the 8th inning. He’s just a kid and at the end of last year the Sox even curbed his use in order to save his arm the wear and tear. But now, Francona ignores his bullpen and pushes his luck with Clay, in turn costing us the game. You can argue until you’re blue in the face that it was worth the risk considering the poor performance and lack of rest/health of the bullpen recently. That is still no excuse to stretch out the starting pitcher longer than is appropriate. It’s not fair to Buchholz, it’s not fair to Okajima (who should’ve got the ball), it’s not fair to the fans. We’ve won 2 World Championships under Francona. For that he deserves a medal. Maybe two. But I have hated him as a manager ever since his arrival in Boston and it is decisions like the one he made tonight that add fuel to that fire. Accuse me of Monday Morning Quarterbacking, but I thought it was quite obvious that Clay was done for the day. It sickens me that Francona just signed a four year contract extension. Stop chewing your damn tobacco for half a second and pay attention to the game.
On a happier note, Jacoby Ellsbury has been making a pretty strong case for himself being the centerfielder of the future. With two more hits tonight, he’s at .296. How long before Coco Crisp gets traded? His stock may be at a peak right now as he too is off to a hot start hitting .333. Then again, if we traded Crisp then Francona wouldn’t be able to anger all of Red Sox Nation by benching Ellsbury. And we all know how much he likes to do that.