When Cody Ross’ third three-run home run in two days landed in the Green Monster seats, ending Thursday's game in thrilling fashion, the Boston Red Sox showed they are ready to seriously contend for the AL Wild Card, and possibly AL East title.
An overwhelming number of positives emerged from the Red Sox’s 3-1 series win over the Chicago White Sox, chiefly that this Red Sox team does indeed have a pulse (unlike some previous reports have suggested). They showed tremendous character in bookending the series with come from behind wins, scoring the game-winning runs in the eighth inning Monday and the ninth on Thursday.
The team rode stellar individual performances in all three of their wins, with both the offense and pitching staff coming through in a big way.
Red Sox starters Aaron Cook, Felix Doubront and Clay Buchholz combined to allow just two earned runs in 21.0 innings of work. Cook and Doubront have both performed admirably of late and have stabilized the back end of the Sox rotation, perhaps stifling the cries for the Sox to trade for another starter.
After a series of horrific struggles to start the season, Buchholz has been the team’s best pitcher for the better part of the last two months, going 4-1 with a 2.63 ERA over seven starts. He has lowered his season ERA from its high of 9.09 on May 6 all the way down to 5.19 after last night’s 8.0 inning, one-run performance.
The "Cody Ross Phenomenon" has begun to take on a life of its own in Boston. Originally slated to be a platoon player when he was signed to a one year, $3 million deal in the offseason, Ross has instead become a reliable force in the middle of the Sox lineup.
When healthy, Ross has been a devastating power hitter; in fact, his HR/AB ratio is exactly the same (13.9) as his more heralded teammate, David Ortiz. More than that, though, has been his ability to time and again come through in the clutch.
In “high leverage” situations, Ross is slugging .612 and has driven in 23 runs in just 49 at bats. He averages a home run every 12.25 at bats as well, besting his season averages in most categories.
Another player who shined in the clutch this series was Adrian Gonzalez. Much-maligned all season due to his shortage of power, Gonzalez has begun to find his stroke at the plate. His majestic opposite-field home run spurred the Sox to a win Monday, and for good measure he then added another opposite field bomb in Wednesday’s blowout win.
Since the All-Star break, Gonzalez has been on fire. He is hitting .550 with two home runs and 11 RBI in just five games since the break, having multiple hits in each contest. With Ortiz out for at least another week and a half, Gonzalez picked a great time to heat up.
The return of Carl Crawford has been a revelation as well. Despite the trade rumors, Crawford has appeared more at ease on the field than he did at any point last season. This more relaxed approach has translated into phenomenal results: a 6-for-14 start with three stolen bases.
The contributions of Pedro Ciriaco (still hitting .395), the return of Dustin Pedroia (a clutch hit to start the rally last night) and a remarkable effort by Alfredo Aceves (17 consecutive strikes to start his outing last night) are a few of the other highlights from what was a very productive series for the Sox.
With the team now almost healthy and a wave of positive energy overtaking Fenway Park, the Red Sox are now poised to launch themselves into the thick of the American League pennant race.