The Red Sox look to win their third game in a row against the Indians today at 1:30 on NESN. If they do they will win the 4 game series against the Indians. If the Indians win it will be a split of the 4 game series. Daniel Bard (RHP, 2-4) takes the mound for the Sox while old friend Justin Masterson (RHP, 1-2) will start for Cleveland. Bard deserves a better W-L record because he has been perhaps our best starter early in the season. Bard has been doing a good job being efficient with his pitches and going deep into games. He has been kept in a couple of games too long which has hurt his overall statistics, but he has pitched well.
Things seem to be a little more optimistic in the Nation this morning. Two wins in a row will do a lot for a baseball team and it's fans. This is not the first time we have won two in a row this year, but I think last night was really encouraging because it was in my opinion their best pitching performance from inning 1 to 9 of the season. Cleveland only had 5 baserunners all night. Adding to that optimism is word that several injured players are getting closer to returning. Pete Abraham covered it well in his notebook on boston.com this morning:
Here's my take on a few of the walking wounded. Jacoby Ellsbury seems to be close to returning, but it's hard to tell because the Sox are keeping the information about his injury a mystery. They are doing a better job than the Pentagon. This is likely because of the fiasco that happened in '10 with his rib(s) injury.
Andrew Bailey is hoping to be cleared to start throwing when he visits the doctor later this week. Once he gets clearance to throw we are probably looking at at least 4 weeks for him to get ready to pitch in big league games. His return to the bullpen could really take the bullpen from above average to the strongest part of the team. Getting Melancon back and getting what you expect out of him would be huge too. The tough part will be figuring out who goes. Atchison has pitched great. The three lefties Hill, Miller and Morales aren't going anywhere. Miller appears to be setting himself up to pitch important innings for this team and maybe that will finally get his career to click. Aceves and Padilla aren't going anywhere, so that leaves Matt Albers who has been up and down like Jekyll and Hyde. It looks like Melancon will have to wait for an injury or for one of the relievers to become ineffective before getting recalled.
Kevin Youkilis has been playing catch and seems to be getting close to playing baseball. The question is where is he gonna play. He has scoffed at rehab assignments in the past, but I believe he needs to go down and play 5-7 games to make sure he is really healthy before they activate him.
Carl Crawford hopes that he can resume hitting in a week or so, but won't be able to start throwing that soon. I think he's still a long way from coming back. The outfield situation without him and Ellsbury seems to have finally clicked a little bit in the last two games with Sweeney in CF, Ross in RF and Nava in LF. Nava has played great defense and he is having good AB's. Will his defense in LF become a liability when they go on the road Wednesday? I don't know, but his call up was a surprise to myself and many others. Wouldn't it be something if it was that decision to call him up that ended up stabilizing the outfield and the team.
Look for the lineup to be the same today as it has been the last two days. Feel free to leave comments and check back here for updates throughout the day.