Behind the Mystery

JIM HURLEY'S HANDICAPPING NOTEBOOK

DIGGING THROUGH THE BOXSCORES UNCOVERS KEYS TO BOSOX MINI-SLIDE

Yesterday we talked about how the Red Sox were reeling, and how a recent mini-slump against the likes of San Diego and Pittsburgh had tightened up the always entertaining American League East race.

Today, as you prepare to watch tonight's nationally televised Boston-Philadelphia showdown on ESPN that could well be a World Series preview, we wanted to dig a little deeper to explain what was going on with the Boston offense.

You probably know that Carl Crawford has been out for several games because of an injury. Some may blame that for a run scoring sequence of 4-1-1-4-4 against pitchers that a team like Boston should bang like a drum. But, Crawford has been having a lousy season this year. Boston had been turning scoreboards into pinball machines most of the year without getting much contribution from Crawford.

What happened? We looked at the 2-3-4 hitters Dustin Pedroia, Adrian Gonzalez, and Kevin Youkilis for answers. 

5-4 LOSS TO SAN DIEGO
The threesome actually had a great game here. Pedroia, Gonzalez, and Youkilis were 6 of 12 hitting (a stellar .500 batting average for the game), and also drew three additional walks. That's getting on base NINE times in just 15 plat appearances. You sure can't blame those guys here. The had a fantastic game but the team lost anyway.

5-1 LOSS TO SAN DIEGO
This one is almost impossible to believe. Pedroia, Gonazlez, and Youkilis were 8 of 11 hitting in this game, and also drew a walk. How can a team score just one run when the most important bats in the order go 8 of 11??!! These guys couldn't get anyone across with their production, and the rest of the team was dead weight behind them. Other Red Sox were just 2 of 17 batting.

3-1 LOSS TO PITTSBURGH
A 3-10 game for your top hitters isn't bad. That's .300 after all. And, the picture gets brighter because the threesome drew three walks as well. So, that's 6 guys on base in 13 plate appearances. It wouldn't be odd for the Red Sox to score 3-4 just off of that level of production at the top. But, just one run again on the board in a game where the rest of the team went 6 of 23 at the plate.

6-4 LOSS TO PITTSBURGH
The weakest performance we'll study in this group. The big three (in this lineup right now anyway) were 3 of 12 at the plate, and added only two walks. Still, note how that was enough to get the team to four runs instead of just one. The rest of the team was 6 of 24 at the plate, virtually matching the day before. Clearly, WHEN you get hits is a very important part of run production.

4-2 WIN AT PITTSBURGH
Not exactly an explosion, but the Red Sox did end their four-game losing streak with a victory. Pedroia, Gonzalez, and Youkilis were 4 of 11 which is enough to get the job done. They added three drawn walks, meaning 7 of 14 plate appearances put somebody on base. The rest of the team was a woeful 2 of 21, their worst performance of the week.

Add it up through five games, and you get this:

Pedroia, Gonzalez, Youkilis: .429 batting average and 12 walks in 56 at bats
Everyone Else on the Team: .209 batting average and 8 walks in 110 at bats

Carl Crawford is only hitting .243 for the season. That suddenly jumps out as important when you realize how dead the rest of the lineup can be during certain stretches of the season!

Opposing pitchers have to feel good knowing that they can basically shut Boston down even if the big three are hitting as long as nobody else can move runners around. On the other hand, you can see why Boston puts up such big numbers when the rest of the lineup is getting the job done. Lesser pitchers are in deep trouble when trying to survive a battle with the Bosox.

Maybe the ESPN guys will talk about this tonight. Maybe they'll read this article and be sure to talk about it! You can add it whatever happened in Tuesday Night's game to the mix (it will finish after publication deadlines). If you're a baseball fan, you'll be watching Red Sox/Phillies tonight. And, if you have the Extra Innings cable package, you'll probably watch Thursday afternoon's game as well once you see the pitching matchup.

TONIGHT ON ESPN
Boston: John Lackey 5-6, 7.36 ERA
Philadelphia: Vance Worley 2-1, 2.83 ERA

Worley had a very good start vs. Oakland the last time out. This is obviously a huge upgrade. We'll have a much better read on Worley after seeing what he does tonight vs. Boston. Lackey has been a disaster this year. Things were looking up after a stint on the Disabled List. That was until a loss to San Diego last time out.

THURSDAY
Boston: Jon Lester 9-4, 3.66 ERA
Philadelphia: Cole Hamels 9-4, 2.49 ERA

Tuesday's Beckett-Lee showdown drew a lot of attention. Lester-Hamels is a classic matchup as well. This series finale should have a postseason feel to it given the quality of arms on the hill, and the knowledge that this could be a World Series preview. It's not like the Phils are going to get caught looking ahead to Toronto on Friday, nor will the Red Sox be focused on Houston. (Though, Crawford may be able to return this weekend in that Houston series).

JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK may or may not have a big play in one or both of those games. We know how much you love watching yourself win money on TV. But, we want to make sure you get the best games on the board. We don't offer the "TV Lean Club."

Games of interest for us Wednesday:
DAY: Cincinnati at Tampa Bay, Atlanta at Seattle
NIGHT: Boston/Philadelphia, Milwaukee/NY Yankees, NY Mets/Detroit

Games of interest for us Thursday:
DAY: Boston/Philadelphia, Milwaukee/NY Yankees, San Francisco/Chicago Cubs
NIGHT: St. Louis at Baltimore, Texas at Houston

Our top plays can always be purchased here at the website with your credit card. Be sure you take advantage of the money management potential from split sessions Wednesday and Thursday. There are FIVE day games today (which we'll review for you tomorrow in the NOTEBOOK), and then SIX on Thursday (including Brewers/Yankees). Take care of business EARLY on both days!

Don't forget that we have great rates for the rest of the season. You can also sign up now for early bird football by calling 1-800-323-4453. The earlier you sign up, the more you save! Be on the lookout for our college football conference previews that start to turn here in the NOTEBOOK every July. July starts Friday!

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