Boston Red Sox (27-25) at Toronto Blue Jays (27-25)
SP - Felix Doubront (5-2, 3.86) v. Kyle Drabek (4-5, 4.55)
1. Daniel Nava, LF
2. Mike Aviles, SS
3. Adrian Gonzalez, RF
4. David Ortiz, DH
5. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C
6. Kevin Youkilis, 1B
7. Ryan Sweeney, CF
8. Will Middlebrooks, 3B
9. Nick Punto, 2B
1. The Red Sox have won 15-of-21 to get themselves back into the playoff picture in the A.L. as the calendar turns to June.
It would be easy to say that this turn around is due to better pitching, better hitting, and better fielding - which are all true - but it's the guys getting the job done and the manager who is making the decisions that are the real story.
Guys like Nava and Punto have been pressed into service due to injuries. Nava has been a major reason for the improved play with a triple slash of .314/.444/.543, 2 home runs, and 16 RBI in 22 games.
The starting pitching and the bullpen have both been much better (3.93 staff ERA in May compared to 5.54 in April).
Jarrod Saltalamacchia (.273/.307/.576, 10 HR, 25 RBI) is living up to his potential. Will Middlebrooks' emergence (.313/.340/.566, 6 HR, 21 RBI) and Mike Aviles continued strong play (.264/.285/.443, 8 HR, 32 RBI) and more brilliant hitting from David Ortiz (.323/.398/.615, 13 HR, 37 RBI) have all played a huge part
Even Adrian Gonzalez, who is still fighting through a slow start at the plate (.275/.330/.425, 4 HR, 29 RBI), has made his presence felt - and has taken on a leadership role - by volunteering to move from first base into right field a few days a week so that Bobby Valentine can put Kevin Youkilis and Middlebrooks into the lineup as much as possible.
Valentine has also survived the slow start, the backlash from fans who never wanted Terry Francona to leave the Boston bench, and a rash of injuries that started early (Jacoby Ellsbury, Carl Crawford, Andrew Bailey) and has continued (Dustin Pedroia, Cody Ross, Darnell McDonald).
Imagine if this team got healthy and could move Youkilis for one more piece, either in the bullpen or on the field? There is a long way to go in the season and there is no guarantee that the injured players would bounce back or that the current players will stay healthy but it's fun to think about the potential of the Red Sox going forward this summer.
1. Ellsbury, CF
2. Pedroia, 2B
3. Ortiz, DH
4. Gonzalez, 1B
5. Middlebrooks, 3B
6. Saltalamacchia, C
7. Crawford, LF
8. Ross/Sweeney, RF
9. Aviles, SS
Bench: Shoppach (or Ryan Lavarnway), C; Ross/Sweeney, OF; Nava, OF; Punto, Utility
Rotation: Beckett, Lester, Buchholz, Doubront, Bard
Bullpen: Aceves, Bailey, Hill, Miller, Morales, Albers, Atchison
2. As good as the bullpen has been, I am still wondering when Mark Melancon - he of the 49.50 ERA in 4 April appearances - will get a second shot in Boston.
In 18 appearances with Triple-A Pawtucket, Melancon has posted an ERA of 0.96 and has a 26 strikeouts compared to just 3 walks.
He has earned a promotion and as soon as any of the Red Sox current relievers hits a speed bump, he should get his opportunity.
Another reliever in Pawtucket who could get a shot in Boston this summer is Mark Prior. Yes, that Mark Prior.
3. After a miserable start of his own, Clay Buchholz has posted a 3.98 ERA in his last five starts. His eight inning, two-run performance last night was the best he has looked all year.