Red Sox vs Astros: 3 Up, 3 Down for April 25-28
The Red Sox took advantage of the Astros, who have the lowest payroll in MLB, doubling up Houston in every game of the series.
After starting off 11-14 for three straight years, the Red Sox are off to their best start since 2002.
Here is my Three Up, Three Down for the four-game series against the Astros.
Three Up: John Lackey Bounces Back
John Lackey returned to the starting rotation after the injury scare in his first start.
Fortunately, Lackey only suffered a minor setback and was able to return to the rotation in less than two weeks.
In his start against the Astros, Lackey put together a strong performance allowing one run in six innings en route to his first win of the season.
Lackey struggled with his command in the first inning and gave up three straight singles in the sixth. However, the 34-year-old was able to limit the bleeding and looks like he should be a solid bottom-of-the-rotation pitcher for the Red Sox this season.
Three Up: Starters Cruise Through Weak Astros Lineup
In addition to Lackey bouncing back from his biceps injury, the other three Red Sox starters delivered strong performances against the weak Houston lineup.
Clay Buchholz continued his hot start going 7 2/3 innings and striking out 10. The bright spot for Buchholz, aside from the 1.19 ERA, is he has pitched seven innings or more in each of his five starts.
Ryan Dempster continues to be a strikeout machine as he struck out 10 Houston hitters in six innings of work. Dempster has been a pleasant surprise and is third in the AL with 43 strikeouts in five starts.
Felix Doubront hasn’t been dominant, but he has done more than enough for a fifth starter. Doubront went 6 2/3 innings for the second straight outing, taking stress off the bullpen.
Three Up: Back End of the Bullpen
Aside from the starting rotation, the back end of the Red Sox bullpen continues to be one of the strongest pieces of the 2013 team.
Andrew Bailey, Koji Uehara and Junichi Tazawa pitched four scoreless innings against the weak Astros lineup.
With Joel Hanrahan scheduled to return this week, the bullpen will only get stronger.
If John Farrell is smart he will stick with what’s working, keeping Bailey in the closer’s role and using Hanrahan in other situations.
Three Down: Daniel Bard Struggles in His Return
Two years ago, Daniel Bard was a dominant reliever. Fast-forward to this year and Bard continues to struggle with command and doesn’t look like he is close to returning to All-Star form.
In Bard’s first appearance he got through an inning unscathed, but in his second outing against Houston the command issues resurfaced as he walked two batters on nine pitches.
Bard is on the outside looking in and was sent back to Double-A Portland to make room for Joel Hanrahan.
Three Down: Defensive Struggles
Stephen Drew has been fighting a losing battle since he came off the DL and replaced Jose Iglesias.
He hasn’t hit to his standards and his defense has been average. Against Houston, Drew missed multiple ground balls that Iglesias would have handled and also made an error when trying to backhand a ground ball.
In addition to Drew’s struggles in the field, Mike Napoli has looked stiff at first base. The bar is much lower for the former catcher, but that still doesn’t protect him from criticism.
Three Down: Strikeouts are an Issue for Red Sox Hitters
Though the Red Sox offense has been scoring runs, the one major issue that is evident is the lack of plate discipline.
In four games against one of the league’s worst pitching staffs, the Red Sox averaged more than eight strikeouts per game.
It may not seem like a major concern, but if the Red Sox are going to fight for a playoff spot, this will become a bigger problem at the end of the season and into the playoffs when moving runners over becomes more important.