May 28, 2011

Everything's falling into place.

The best team in baseball; that's what the Boston Red Sox are.

The 30-23 record is still a bit behind the Cleveland Indians and Philadelphia Phillies, but that's what happens when you start 2-10. Between April 16 and May 29, the Red Sox are 28-13, which is best in the majors. And the results aren't magic; the Sox are finally playing up to their talent level.

They have won six series in a row, beginning with a sweep of the Yankees in the Bronx and leading up to a series win, which should have been a sweep, in the home of the AL-best Indians. "AL-best Indians"; how did that become a phrase, by the way?

The Sox still have their weaknesses. Crappy old John Lackey is on the DL and Daisuke Matsuzaka may be out for a while, though that isn't necessarily a bad thing. Even when effective, he makes golf look face-paced. Dustin Pedroia and J.D. Drew have all been fairly cold -- though there have been signs of emergence -- and Daniel Bard has looked very human, probably due to overwork during the absence of Bobby Jenks.

But the rest of the team has picked up the slack whenever necessary, and the big three of Lester, Beckett and Buchholtz have been near-automatic wins lately. They have combined for a 15-6 record, and Beckett in particular has been devastating, sporting a .95 WHIP. If anyone says they predicted that, walk right up and knee them in the junk.

The lineup, once a demonstration in choking, has begun hammering the ball for homers and hits with runners in scoring position. Adrian Gonzalez, Kevin Youkilis and David Ortiz have turned into a 2011 Murderers' Row row (let's call it "pwners row") and the Jarrod Saltalamacchia/Jason Varitek catching duo has improved their game in every respect, bringing order to chaos.

The bullpen seemed it could be a chink in the armor, but Matt Albers and Rich Hill have been a pleasant surprise. Jonathan Papelbon has been his old dominant self, and the return of Jenks and Dan Wheeler should allow Francona to lean on Bard less often, making him more effective and keeping his right arm firmly attached to his body.

So where does all this leave the Red Sox? Well, they've already grabbed first place in their division; if they remain healthy, don't expect them to relinquish it. If the rest of the AL isn't afraid, well, they should be.

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