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Red Sox weekly report card

By Boston.com Staff, 7/27/2004

Overall:

Saturday's brawl clearly lit a fire under this team, as it's won three straight since Alex Rodriguez and Jason Varitek threw down in the early innings of what proved to be the biggest win of the year. Despite fatigue in both the lineup and the bullpen (eight games in seven days will do that), the Red Sox were 5-3 in the last week. We give them props for last night's easy victory in Baltimore, which came after an emotionally draining series with the Yankees and an overnight flight that put them at their hotel past 3 a.m. Now that we've seen them at their best, it's hard to explain how they dropped two of three to the O's early last week. Grade: B+
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Hitting:
We've taken some shots at Kevin Millar in this space, and we'll probably take many more -- but not this week. This week we're still in awe of Millar's offensive explosion (which earned him co-AL player of the week honors) during Boston's recent homestand. Here's a sampling of the numbers: He's 15 for his last 24 with six homers and 13 RBIs and racked up 34 total bases during that span -- double the number David Ortiz (second on the team) accumulated. Against the Yankees he was even better: 10 for 13 with four homers and eight RBIs. The rest of the team had a decent week as well, as seven players hit better than .345 over the last eight games. Bill Mueller hit just .207, but we're not going to knock the guy who beat the Yankees with a ninth-inning homer off Mariano Rivera. Grade: B+
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Fielding:
It's becoming a broken record, folks, but we'll give it another spin: The Red Sox once again this week proved they're absolutely inept in the field. If the Sox had lost Saturday's wild game against the Yankees, in which they committed four errors, including three straight in the seventh inning, Red Sox Nation would have been clamoring for some changes. However, the big win overshadowed yet another example of this team's biggest problem -- poor fundamentals in the field. That ineptitude carried over to Sunday, when in the first inning Johnny Damon appeared to back away from a pop fly that was clearly catchable, appearing to let a sprinting Gabe Kapler take a shot at it instead. Boston's total of 79 errors is better than just five major league teams, only one of which has a winning record. Grade: D+
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Starting pitchers:

Pedro Martinez (11-4, 4.15 ERA): A mixed bag in back-to-back outings against the Orioles. Last week, Martinez was rocked for eight earned runs in less than seven innings as the Red Sox fell, 10-5, to Baltimore. Last night at Camden Yards, Martinez's line (seven hits, five runs, five strikeouts) does not look spectacular, but he pitched well when he needed to, earning his 11th win of the season, one less than team leader Curt Schilling.

Curt Schilling (12-4, 3.38 ERA): Schilling was on his way to grabbing a victory for the Sox in Game 1 of the Red Sox' weekend series against New York, but fell apart in the Yankees' five-run sixth inning. Schilling wound up with the no-decision after his teammates came back to tie the score, in an eventual 8-7 loss, but took his performance hard, breaking down in the Red Sox dugout after the field had cleared.

Derek Lowe (9-9, 5.56 ERA):If that's how he pitches without his bread and butter, perhaps there is hope after all. To put less weight on his finger's blister, Lowe reportedly threw virtually no sinkerballs to the Yankees on Sunday, and allowed just two earned runs in grabbing his ninth win of the season. Earlier in the week, Lowe's outing at Seattle lasted just five innings, an OK performance in which he allowed four runs.

Tim Wakefield (6-6, 4.17 ERA): Wakefield came up with his best outing in the past two weeks, helping his team salvage the finale of a three-game set against the Orioles. Wakefield pitched seven innings, allowed eight hits and no runs in winning his sixth game of the season.

Bronson Arroyo (3-7, 4.20 ERA): Arroyo is going to most be remembered this week for sparking the fracas with the Yankees by plunking A-Rod, but what will get lost will be his ineffectiveness against New York, as he allowed 10 hits and six earned runs over 5 2/3 innings.

Abe Alvarez (0-1, 9.00 ERA): For a control pitcher, Alvarez couldn't find any in his major league debut, and topped out only in the high-80s as he gave up five runs in his five innings of work. Not terrible, but not great either.

(Record and ERA are through Monday.)

Grade: C
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Bullpen:
What seems like a year ago, the week began with a bullpen resurgence. Keith Foulke rebounded from a critical loss in Seattle to strike out the last three batters in a wild game that ended a road trip in Seattle. But the watershed moment for the 'pen this week came when Foulke failed to hold the line again in the critical opener against New York after the team battled back from Curt Schilling's uncharacteristic implosion. After the Sox battled back to tie the Friday night thriller 7-7, Foulke sounded like he was blaming the Fenway dimensions after he gave up a game-winning double to Alex Rodriguez.

Ramiro Mendoza continued to pitch brilliantly last night, logging another two innings of perfect relief while maintaining a 2.08 ERA since returning from his long rehab assignment. The embattled pitcher, coined by Bob Lobel as "The Embedded Yankee," continued to fly under the radar while performing well in critical innings. Will the "Sign Ramiro Now" battle cry begin soon?

Joe Nelson and Jimmy Anderson (designated for assignment) were mercifully sent down while Mendoza held the line against the Orioles for three innings in the first game of last week's doubleheader. And in the turning-point game on Saturday, Mendoza was an unsung hero again by going two innings for the win after Curtis Leskanic (walks) and Mark Malaska (home run) allowed the Yankees to pull away after the bench-clearing brawl. Alan Embree held his own in the epic battle on Saturday -- as he did for three games last week -- by not giving up any earned runs. Malaska, meanwhile, maintains a pace of giving up a run per inning of work.

Mike Timlin (6.75 ERA for the week), who was a clear mismatch against Hideki Matsui Sunday night, gave up a home run to turn a laugher into a tight game. But Foulke came on to get a clean five-out save, preserving the 9-6 win. Reliever Terry Adams was acquired to help out a burnt out pitching staff, but the jury is still out as to whether he will be able to help as he only has an inning under his belt to date. Grade: B+
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Coaching:

Terry Francona earned the bulk of his grade this week for making the brave decision to stick with Kevin Millar while the rest of Red Sox Nation was calling for Kevin's head. The move paid off big time as Millar was named co-player of the week for his offensive assault that led the Sox to key wins over the Yankees. Tito's lone low point for the week was the critical decision to let Alex Rodriguez beat the Sox last Friday instead of taking his chances with weak-hitting sub Tony Clark, even though the numbers dictated that was the right move. But sometimes you have to look past the numbers and get a read on the situation at hand. In the game of the year against the Yankees on Saturday, Francona fed off the fire of his club, getting tossed in the fifth inning for arguing a close play at second.

Tito also came through on his promise to "find a way to win" the final game of the road trip in Seattle last Tuesday. The Sox beat the M's using a gassed-out bullpen and full roster of players to come home with some hope. Grade: A-
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