5. Jason Varitek's re-emergence as a useful offensive player. In the 45 games he has played this season, Varitek has 10 homers and 24 RBIs -- or three fewer homers and 19 fewer RBIs than he produced in nearly 300 more at-bats last season. While he has cooled off lately -- he's batting .179 without a homer over his last nine games -- his resurgence is practically unheard of for a 37-year-old catcher. While he's apparently intent on having the last word with his skeptics -- hi there -- my willing suspension of disbelief calls it quits at his ESPN projections of 33 homers and 78 RBIs.
6. Mike Lowell's good health. With the Sox losing the designated hitter because of interleague play, Lowell is out of the lineup tonight as Ortiz takes a spin at first base. Should Lowell sit out the entire game, it will be only the third he has missed this season, which is truly remarkable given the concerns about the condition of his surgically repaired hip in spring training. While Lowell moves nowhere near as well at third base as he did in his prime, he's been his usual productive self offensively (.292, 10 homers, 40 RBIs) and a steady presence in the lineup. The man is nothing if not dependable.
7. The dominance of the organization's top pitching prospects. Clay Buchholz is 4-0 with a 1.75 ERA at Pawtucket and would be among the top three starters on several major league staffs. Michael Bowden has a 2.47 ERA for the PawSox. Justin Masterson is already established as a valuable, versatile member of the big-league club. Closer-of-the-future Daniel Bard has a breathtaking repertoire. Junichi Tazawa is the anti-Dice-K, a strike-throwing machine at Portland. Casey Kelly is thriving . . . Nick Hagadone is coming back. . . yes, someone on the Red Sox development staff has a knack for finding and developing young pitching.
8. Winning the first eight matchups of the season with the Yankees. What, you think we picked eight by coincidence?
About Touching All The Bases
Irreverence and insight from Chad Finn, a Globe/Boston.com sports writer and media columnist. A winner of several national and regional writing awards, he is the founder and sole contributor to the TATB blog, which launched in December 2004. Yes, he realizes how lucky he is.