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The Baseball Notebook


July 27, 2010 7:21 AM

Boston's Middle Muscles Up

Ortiz.jpgWith ten weeks left in the season and August looming, the Red Sox are in the rare position of needing to win or risk ceding the headlines in New England to Tom Brady and the Patriots when the NFL preseason starts. Already trailing by five games in the wild-card race and knowing Tampa Bay's Matt Garza had pitched a no-hitter by the time they took the field in Anaheim, Boston's heavy hitters stepped it up and delivered a big win.

David Ortiz hit two home runs, but he was just part of the #2 thru #5 spots in the order that produced and spoiled Dan Haren's Angels' debut. J. D. Drew and Adrian Beltre had two hits apiece and Kevin Youkilis had three. Haren would leave the game in the fifth, having hit by a line drive. Early reports are that the injury is not serious. Clay Bucholz pitched seven strong innings and Boston won 6-3.

Garza's heroics against the Tiger marked the fifth no-hitter of the season and was a welcome bounce-back from his previous outing. He'd been rocked in Baltimore in an 11-10 loss and he's been up and down a lot this year. This outing was just a very vivid example of what he can do when he's on. Of more practical relevance is his 2008 ALCS MVP showing when he pitched brilliantly in winning two games. Garza hasn't been bad this year--a 4.06 ERA is respectable in the AL East. But Tampa Bay has World Series aspiration and they need more than respectability from one of their big-time pitchers, especially in October. Garza's done it in the past. He showed his mettle again last night.

A lot of the contenders in the National League were off last night, but Milwaukee spoiled the evening for one of them. Jim Edmonds' homered off Cincinnati's Bronson Arroyo in the eighth to break up a 2-2 tie and give the Brewers a win. One of the mostly unnoticed stories this year has been the emergence of closer John Axelrod in the Milwaukee bullpen. Since Trevor Hoffman sent clear notice earlier in the year that his career was clearly at the end, Axelrod got his chance and last night got his 15th save with a 2.73 ERA. Just getting reliable ninth-inning work has made Milwaukee a threat to have a winning season and cause problems for the Cardinals & Reds in head-to-head play down the stretch.

Trade talk...

The big names are off the pitching market, but functionable pieces still remain. The Cubs' Ted Lilly is one of them. He's the classic kind of pitcher that can be a reliable mid-rotation guy for a team in a tough fight. He's also the kind of guy that someone will overrate in the heat of a playoff push and pay more for than they would in December. If a team is confident of its playoff position, I don't know that he's a good pickup. He wouldn't make sense anywhere like the Yankees, Braves or Rays. But if you're in a dogfight and don't like your back-end guys, Lilly could be a difference-maker. Cincinnati would make sense, as would Philadelphia. It's just a question of asking price.

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