The Phillies have really had a tough time against the Boston Red Sox, losing seven of the last nine games against them going back to 2006. Looking through the barrel at Jon Lester, Daisuke Matsuzaka, and Josh Beckett, the Phils knew they had their work cut out for them.
Jon Lester dominated the Phils in game one, striking out eleven in seven innings and allowing only one earned run. Ryan Howard tied the game in the bottom of the ninth with a solo home run off of fill-in closer Ramon Ramirez to send it into extra innings. Both bullpens held things down until the wheels finally came off of Kyle Kendrick in the thirteenth inning. KK allowed four singles and a walk as three Red Sox crossed the plate to go up 5-2.
The interesting part of that game, besides that it was yet another extra-inning affair — the Phillies’ fourth in six games — was that in thirteen innings, 20 Phillies and 14 Red Sox struck out. That’s right: 44% of the hitters that made outs did so by striking out.
Last night’s game didn’t appear to be worth watching when the tarp was pulled on the field after the first inning with the Red Sox up 5-0. Antonio Bastardo was shaky, and the Phillies’ defense was surprisingly inefficient. After play resumed, the Phillies tried to get back into it when Raul Ibanez hit a solo home run and Pedro Feliz hit a two-run shot in the fourth inning to bring it to 5-4, but that was as close as it’d get.
Chad Durbin pitched three solid innings of relief after the rain delay, but Jack Taschner gave up five hits and a walk, contributing to three runs, in the fifth inning and the Phillies were knocked down again, this time for good. Red Sox starter Daisuke Matsuzaka wasn’t sharp but good enough to hold the Phillies to four runs in four innings. Another Red Sox win, 11-6.
In game three, it looked like the Red Sox were going to sweep for sure when they took a 4-1 lead on the Phillies and J.A. Happ in the second inning. Happ settled down, though, and held the Sox scoreless until the sixth inning. Meanwhile, the Phillies mounted a fifth-inning rally that included a lot of hard-hit balls off of Sox starter Josh Beckett. Earlier in the game, Beckett was making the Phillies look stupid, especially Jayson Werth, inducing a lot of confused swings.
Pedro Feliz singled, Chris Coste singled, Shane Victorino singled, Chase Utley singled, and Ryan Howard doubled, accounting for the five hits in the inning. Even Jayson Werth hit a line drive for the third out of the inning. It was fun to watch as Beckett had a 3.67 career ERA against the Phillies in nearly 96 innings in his career heading into the game.
Josh Beckett led off the top of the sixth inning for the Red Sox, and there was some thought that manager Terry Francona would pinch-hit for him, but he didn’t. Beckett was noticeably agitated about his pitching effort in the previous inning, and somehow used his anger to fuel his swing at the first pitch from J.A. Happ, sending it over the left field fence. Beckett has three career home runs now, two of which have come against the Phillies, both with the Red Sox.
Beckett came out for the seventh, but promptly served up a lead-off home run to the pitifully-slumping Jimmy Rollins. It was the start of a six-run seventh inning that saw four hits, four walks, and a hit batter from Beckett and relievers Josh Bard and Takashi Saito. The Phillies bullpen closed the door, including a solid two and one-third innings of long relief from Chan Ho Park. Ryan Madson pitched the ninth with a five-run lead, which is normally a questionable move, but the Phillies have an off-day tomorrow so it doesn’t matter.
The Phillies salvage a game in the series and, coupled with the Mets’ embarrassing 15-0 loss to the Yankees today, retake a four-game lead in the NL East. The most surprising aspect of the series was the poor defense. Going into the series, the Phillies had committed 19 errors in 58 games, an average of one error every three games. In the three-game set with the Sox, they commited five errors.
With the off-day, the Phillies can rest their tired bullpen that saw three different relievers entered into the mix: Kyle Kendrick, Sergio Escalona, and Tyler Walker. On Tuesday, they welcome in the Toronto Blue Jays to whom they dropped two of three last season. In that series, however, there was a bright spot: Jayson Werth hit three home runs. In this series, the Phillies get to miss Roy Halladay on account of his groin injury, so there is some hope of a repeat performance from J-Dub.
Stay tuned for a preview-interview with a Blue Jays blogger. In case you’re wondering, I won’t be doing the totally rad hitter vs. pitcher and pitcher vs. team tables since, overall, not too many of the players have prolonged experience against each other.