Monday, August 22, 2011
Scouting the opponent: Boston Red Sox
By Richard Durrett
The great Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com sent Rangers fans a letter to get you ready for the four-game series with the Red Sox. Read carefully if you want to be fully prepared for this series:
Letter from Boston,
4 Yawkey Way,
We’d begin by saying, “Hi, y’all,’’ but figure you’ll think we’re trying too hard, so we’ll just get right to it. We haven’t forgotten the way the Rangers smacked the Red Sox around back in April, when evidently the Sons of Nolan Ryan didn’t much like the idea of all the so-called wise guys conceding the American League pennant to the Sawx, as if the Rangers’ trip to the World Series the previous October had never happened.
Talk about kicking the wrong hornet’s nest: That was some whipping the Rangers put on the Red Sox, who were still reeling when they got to Cleveland, ended up losing three more, and found themselves in an 0-6 hole that sobered up everybody real quick.
That was learning respect the hard way: Outscored 29-12, 11 home runs by the home team (four off Clay Buchholz), a fellow Texan, John Lackey, pounded for 10 hits and 9 runs almost as soon as Ron Washington posted his lineup card, and a former Sox discard, David Murphy, putting a hurting on the high-and-mighty reliever, Daniel Bard.
So while the Red Sox will show up in Arlington Monday night with payback on their minds, they do so with no illusions that will be an easy task, especially when they’re showing up nursing a few wounds. Kevin Youkilis, who has never backed away from a fight, is on the disabled list but it’s not easy to play the tough guy when you can't stand up straight. Hey, the Rangers have been playing without their third baseman, Adrian Beltre, for a month, so no crying here.
But Big Papi, David Ortiz, also is limping into town, sidelined for the last week with bursitis in his right heel. He took his walking boot off Sunday in Kansas City, might try running Monday afternoon in the Ballpark and hopes to face the Rangers, but it's real iffy.
The other notable Sox absentee over the weekend was center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury, who took a fastball smack on his No. 2 and sat out the last two games. "A real bad bruise in the right spot," is how it was described to me, but manager Terry Francona said it's 50-50 he's back Monday night. I'm guessing, he'll be playing, and Rangers fans might not recognize him if he does -- he's morphed from a slap-hitting jackrabbit into a potential 30-30 man, having harnessed the power potential that has always been there.
Y'all (sorry) will have no trouble IDing the Sox first baseman, since he used to be one of yours -- Adrian Gonzalez. The same is true of the catcher, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who will have a Texas-sized chip on his shoulder when he plays here, seeing how you gave up on him. Salty probably has improved more than any other player since the start of the season -- run at your own risk -- while AGon has been MVP material from jump street, even though a stiff neck may have put a crick in his power. Gonzalez has just 2 home runs in over 200-plus plate appearances, though he came close to leaving the yard twice in Kansas City.
The Sox will run out their two Texans, Lackey and Josh Beckett, to pitch this week, bookended by new lefty Erik Bedard, who gave the Rangers occasional fits when he was with Seattle, and Tim Wakefield, who is older than God but has been all too mortal in five failed attempts to win his 200th game. The back end of the bullpen remains money -- closer Jonathan Papelbon is pitching for his paycheck in his walk year and Bard is clearly future closer material -- but the rest of the pen has been vulnerable, with rolypoly Matt Albers in a two-week slump, Bobby Jenks in Florida rehabbing, and Franklin Morales still trying to win trust as lefty in residence.
The wild card for the Sox? Whether another Texan, Houston-bred Carl Crawford, shows up for the season's last six weeks. The Sox had high hopes for their $142 million man when the batted him leadoff against the Rangers on the season's opening weekend. He's dropped to sixth or seventh in ther order since as he has been a shadow of his Tampa Bay self, but the Sox keep hoping he figures it out before October.
And speaking of October, you can be sure of this: The Sox understand the road to the World Series may well pass through Arlington, sooner or later. This week in Texas, next week in Boston, let's call it what it is: a dress rehearsal for the postseason.
The Cowboys can just chill in the meantime,