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Red Sox Notebook: Carl Crawford Is Back, Red Sox Reach Milestones

This week: a successful return for Carl Crawford, some big games for Terry Francona and Tim Wakefield, and the increasing certainty of a Boston Red Sox postseason run.

BOSTON, MA  - JULY 24:  Carl Crawford #13 of the Boston Red Sox knocks in a run with a double against Seattle Mariners at Fenway Park on July 24, 2011 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - JULY 24: Carl Crawford #13 of the Boston Red Sox knocks in a run with a double against Seattle Mariners at Fenway Park on July 24, 2011 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
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Red Sox' Cushion Growing

It's been a nearly perfect week for the Red Sox, who have gone 5-1 since leaving St. Petersburg Sunday (or, really, Monday). The result is a small, but relatively comfortable three-game lead over the New York Yankees in the American League East, as well as a very healthy lead over the first-place Wild Card team. At this point, the Sox would have to fall pretty hard to have their playoff hopes threatened.

At 62-37 through the first 99 games, the Red Sox are, amazingly, on pace to finish with 101 wins. This would rank third in the history of the team, tied with the World Series Champion 1915 team, and trailing only the teams from 1912 (another World Series winner) and 1946 (when the Sox fell to the Cardinals in Game 7). Of course, they played fewer games in those years.

All of this all comes after a 2-10 start. Since that point, the Sox are 60-27, which would be a 111-win pace over the course of the season. If they continue to win games at that pace, they should finish around 105-57, which would leave them with the best record since the 2004 St. Louis Cardinals won 105 games. All-in-all, an impressive showing.

 

Carl Crawford Returns Hot

After Carl Crawford's terrible start to the year, there must have been some concern that it would be right back to the same-old for a rusty left fielder following a month on the disabled list. Through his first six games, though, there's no cause for concern. Crawford picked up two hits in his return game, and after going without in the Sox' 2-6 loss to the Orioles, has now collected seven hits in his last four games to go with two walks and a pair of stolen bases. So far, he's hit .375/.423/.458 since his return.

What's more, Crawford hasn't just made do with his speed on his short hitting streak. He's been putting the ball on a line more often, or at least hitting it sharply and to all parts of the infield. Sox fans wouldn't mind it if they never saw another weak grounder to second, regardless of whether or not it goes for a hit or not.

 

Red Sox Bats Beat The Best

A phenomenon that Sox fans have become increasingly used to was once again on display against Seattle. Up against perennial Cy Young candidate Felix Hernandez, rookie phenom Michael Pineda, and guy-you've-never-heard-of Blake Beavan, the Sox should have been in for a couple tough contests, and one pushover.

Instead, the Boston bats scored six off of Felix, seven off of Pineda, and that guy you've never heard of? He very nearly escaped the seventh with a shutout intact.

The Sox have done some serious damage to the best teams have to offer on the mound not just this year, but in recent seasons past as well. Then they seem to get shut down by the oddest of opponents; their tendency to struggle against recent call-ups has been especially frustrating.

The good news is: this isn't a problem they're likely to struggle with come playoff time.

 

Milestones

A couple of the oldest Red Sox reached some milestones against the Mariners over the weekend. First there was Terry Francona, who picked up his thousandth win as a Major League manager with Saturday's win, bringing him to 1,000-880 overall. And while Tim Wakefield didn't have the best of days on the whole, he did end up recording strikeout number 2000 with the Red Sox, joining Roger Clemens as the only Boston pitchers to ever record that many whiffs with the team.

 

Lackey's Stock Rises, Miller's Dips

Last week's trends continued, with John Lackey tossing another gem Friday night. It came against the Mariners, to be sure, but Lackey completely controlled the strike zone, striking out four batters, giving up no walks, and allowing just one earned run over his seven strong innings.

Andrew Miller did throw 5.2 scoreless innings against the Orioles, but it's hard to look at them favorably. After all, Miller actually loaded the bases while he still had a no-hitter going in the second! He did tighten up some as the night went on, but left the game with six walks and all the same sorts of problems that led to his exile from Florida. It's now been three starts since Miller struck out more batters than he walked.

 

Jon Lester Returns

Let's end on some simple, excellent news: Jon Lester feels terrific, and is going to pitch Monday night against the Royals. It's been 20 days since the lefty last pitched, and while he was looking absolutely incredible then, it's hard to say for sure what the layoff will have done to him. Still, it won't be long until the Sox have their lefty ace back in mid-season form, so it's best to get started against a team the Sox can expect to beat: the Kansas City Royals.

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