The Sox won behind erstwhile ace Matt Clement, who moved to 8-1, 3.48 as he makes a bid for an All-Star berth.
Sidelights included two hits and a walk from Trot Nixon, leading off in place of an injured Johnny Damon, and two hits and a homer from malcontent Jay Payton, who has performed well in limited duty (.328/.459/.787) and .500/.923/1.423 the past week.
Alan Embree starred in 2 innings of 'Dawn of the Dead' with three strikeouts and no walks, in a 'Baby Steps' move in from the gangplank.
Reality Check. The Sox remain three games back behind the Orioles, who are rumored to be discussing dealing for Andy Pettitte for Jorge Julio and Jay Gibbons. The O's have full coffers from the spoils delivered by MLB via the Washington Nationals and continue to play good baseball.
The Sox are 1/2 game behind the Twins in the Wild Card race, and 1/2 a game ahead of both Texas and (huh?) the Tribe. The Yankees are two games back having gotten well after playing the Pirates and the Cubs.
Absent Curt Schilling, with inconsistent relief most of the season, we have to consider the Sox very fortunate to be competitive.
We can't know what Curt Schilling can give us, in terms of quality or quantity. The pitching staff largely righted itself this week, although the bullpen remains a sore spot.
We can't know where the Craig Hansen negotiations are, or whether Hansen might be able to contribute this season. Hansen is a special case as he is believed to be closer to the majors than other top choices. Can Hansen's fate and Johnny Damon's be linked? How do the Sox view Brandon Moss for the future (as a rightfielder)?
We also know that it's a seller's market for trades, and the Sox have hot commodities that realistically have a possibility to become cornerstones. Jon Papelbon has been terrific lately, and Jon Lester pitched another 6 innings today, giving up a run and fanning 10. Trading either for a rent-a-player doesn't make sense.
Peter Gammons mentioned that the Sox have had offers for Bill Mueller (and a replacement in Kevin Youkilis) but are reluctant to deal Mueller.
Overall, it's hard not to be puzzled by what this team is right now. It's reasonable to expect at least as good if not better offense, mediocre defense, and better pitching, either from the existing staff or via a couple of moves. The most 'economical' would involve 'hope' moves; the Sox might get a better preview of Papelbon and Lester by bringing them up to Pawtucket to face AAA hitters rather than throwing them directly into the fire. A successful audition at Pawtucket might give Theo the impetus to go for it with the kids instead of via bids.