Wednesday, July 19, 2006

And the Cradle Will Rock

Game 92 – Red Sox

Red Sox 1, Royals 0
Record: 56-36

If nothing else, last night portends great things for the next 8-10 years, Good Lord willing and the luxury tax don’t rise. Jon Lester pitched a terrific 8 innings, yielding 1 hit and 4 walks before turning the festivities over to Jonathan Papelbon for a tidy dispatching of the Royal offense. And yes, I recognize that the phrase ‘Royal offense’ is a bit of a stretch, and that young Lester was aided and abetted mightily by Kansas City’s lack of patience and overall embarrassing dearth of talent. Nonetheless, the Sox’ newest starter picked his team up when it needed him.

Lester’s now 5-0 with a 2.38 ERA and rapidly gaining on my compadre in my compendium of Top 10 Lesters (which includes Lester Hayes, Lester Bangs, Lester Claypool, and Les Nessman in addition to Whitney) – he’s number 2 with a bullet. I don’t think it’s much a stretch to say that without Jon Lester, the Sox would find themselves behind the Yankees in the standings (especially if the New Yorkers keep getting calls like they got last night from the umpiring staff), and probably not far ahead of the Blue Jays, either. Without Lester, some combination of Kyle Snyder, Jason Johnson, David Pauley, and the Sox’ batboys would be anchoring the 4th spot in the rotation, leaving the 5th spot for a JUGS machine, or perhaps Jose Canseco. In fact, you could argue (you’d be wrong, but still) that Lester’s been more important to the Sox in 2006 than today’s starter Ebby Calvin “Nuke” Beckett.

The fact that I could type that last sentence with a moderately straight face is telling testimony regarding Beckett’s erratic performance to date. He follows Lester’s gem today with a chance to send the Royals packing on the wrong end of a 3-game sweep. From a talent perspective, it’s a mismatch the likes of which you rarely see at the Major League level – Beckett should dominate the AAA lineup he’ll face this afternoon. I’ll be “watching” with interest to see how he follows up Lester’s performance – I’ve got a hunch that the competitor in him will be motivated to show the Nation that the new kid’s still got some learning to do. Just in case, it'd be nice if the Sox bats show up with more than the 3 runs per game they've laid on the Royals in the first 2 games of this set.

T-minus 18 hours before our annual pilgrimage to the sun, surf, and (apparently) tropical storms of North Carolina’s Outer Banks. Enjoy the time away from MLC – I’m sure we’ll return to regale you with epic tales of debauchery and heroic manliness. Or tales of laying around the house drinking beer and playing poker. Too early to tell.

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