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Updated: May 31, 2010, 12:22 AM ET

Red Sox simply hard to figure out

By Steve Berthiaume
ESPN
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The calendar is once again about to turn, and in Boston that means something. It's impossible to tell exactly what, but through the season's first two months, we've certainly learned that this Red Sox team is more like a tenant than a resident; they go month-to-month. It's hard to know what to expect as June arrives.

Jon Lester doesn't really "do" April. Last season, Lester was 1-2 with a 5.40 ERA in the season's first month. In April this season, he went 1-2 with a 4.74. Lester, however, is now rolling. He's 6-0 with a 1.43 over his past seven starts and ranks among the top 10 pitchers in the American League in wins, ERA, WHIP, strikeouts and innings pitched. Lester's cutter was a dominant out pitch as he shut down the Royals on Sunday, while David Ortiz homered in Boston's 8-1 win. Lester then reminded reporters after the game that both he and Ortiz had slow Aprils last year before salvaging productive seasons. In Big Papi's case, he's completed his turnaround one month sooner than last year.

[+] EnlargeJon Lester
Michael Ivins/Boston Red Sox/Getty ImagesJon Lester is 6-0 over his past seven starts and just finished off a 5-0 May.

This was Ortiz's now-infamous stat line on May 31 a year ago: .185 average, one homer and 18 RBIs in 178 at-bats. Compare that line to Ortiz's numbers today: .272 average, 11 homers and 31 RBIs in 136 at-bats. Impressive considering that Big Papi hit only .143 this April with one home run. It took exactly two whole days into this season before "The Nation" reopened its collective angst regarding Ortiz's early-season struggles and worried that his finish to last season, with 28 homers and 99 RBIs, was really just a deep breath before the big plunge. Ortiz, however, sizzled this May, hitting .363 with 10 homers and 27 RBIs.

There have been a few other pleasant surprises for a Red Sox team that went 11-12 in April, but 18-11 in May. Adrian Beltre's defense seems like it was somewhat oversold, but he's hitting .335. Kevin Youkilis has 10 homers and a 1.019 OPS. Catching just a few times a week seems as if it could add years to Jason Varitek's career. The Captain will head to June with a solid .286 average from both sides of the plate and seven home runs. Clay Buchholz always has looked like he needed therapy and a hug every time a batter reached first base against him, as if the very idea of a baserunner would render him completely unglued. Buchholz, however, is arriving. He's 4-0 over his past four starts with a 1.32 ERA and is tied with David Price for the American League lead with seven victories, just one ahead of Lester.

So what about June? There are more than a few concerns. Dustin Pedroia, hitless in his last 13 at-bats, sat out Sunday's game. Pedroia is mired in a 5-for-40 slump and his average is down to .255. Jacoby Ellsbury suffered a hairline fracture in four ribs on April 11 and missed 37 games. He came back, but went just 1-for-14 before sitting out and is now back on the disabled list. Josh Beckett has been out with a lower back strain, and there is now concern that Beckett may be creating mechanical problems with his delivery by trying to compensate for the back pain during throwing sessions. Beckett is eligible to return June 3, but keeping in mind that Beckett fell into this same trap with the same injury in 2008, the Red Sox are now saying they will slow Beckett's recovery process and possibly his return.

You've heard the term "effectively wild"? Daisuke Matsuzaka was so erratic against the Phillies on May 22 he came within four outs of throwing a no-hitter, all while rarely throwing to the spot where Varitek had placed his catcher's mitt. Just five days later, Matsuzaka walked eight batters in 4 1/3 innings in a loss to the Royals. Through April and May, Dice-K has issued 21 walks in 34 1/3 innings. While it's impossible to say for sure who Boston's everyday catcher will be next season, it's become pretty clear that it should not be Victor Martinez.

The schedule isn't providing too many clues as to what to expect from the Red Sox in June, either. Ever wonder how Boston would fare in the National League West? We're about to find out. With the return of interleague play, Boston will close June with series against the Diamondbacks, Dodgers, Rockies and Giants. We're through two months and perhaps the biggest surprise is this: The Red Sox begin June as a fourth-place team.

Steve Berthiaume is a host for "Baseball Tonight."

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Monday's Best Matchups

Phillies at Braves, 1:10 p.m. ET

Will a change in location help the Phillies' offense? Philadelphia has been shut out four times in six games. One of the games in which they were not shut out they won 1-0 and needed a perfect game from Roy Halladay to sneak out with a victory against the Marlins.


Rockies at Giants, 4:05 p.m. ET

Perhaps the best pitching matchup of the season. The seemingly unhittable Ubaldo Jimenez goes up against back-to-back NL Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum. Both have one loss, but Jimenez (8-1, 0.88 ERA) has been flawless while Lincecum (5-1, 3.00) has struggled a bit his past two starts, giving up 11 runs in 9 2/3 innings over those two starts.


Reds at Cardinals, 4:15 p.m. ET

The Reds enter with a one-game lead in the NL Central. Opponents are hitting .197 against the Cardinals' Jaime Garcia, which helps explain why he is carrying around a 1.14 ERA. Bronson Arroyo comes in on a roll. He's 5-0 over his past six starts and has won each of his last four. In his most recent outing, he tossed 7 2/3 shutout innings in a 4-0 win over Pittsburgh.

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