The Boston Red Sox are one team in baseball that didn't want the calendar to keep moving forward. Despite the team struggling to get going in April, the Boston Red Sox really started to hit their stride in May, running off a strong 8-2 streak against the Yankees, Twins, Phillies, and Rays. This stretch of play brought them back into the AL East race, where they sit 5 games back of the AL East leading Rays, and 2.5 games out of the Wild Card race.
Strong starting pitching has been the key to the team's resurgence. Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz have led the way, and both have been two of the best pitchers in the AL this season. However, there still is too much inconsistency from the other three starters. The Red Sox need Daisuke Matsuzaka and Tim Wakefield to step up and pitch better. Both are sporting ERA's just south of 6.00.
Wakefield is filling in for the injured Josh Beckett for now, and the Red Sox are fortunate to have six legitimate starting pitchers. Wakefield may not like being in the swingman role, but he's made for it, particularly at age 43, where his body has shown over the last several seasons that it can't hold up for 30 starts. Due to the flexibility that Wakefield brings to the staff, the Sox are wisely proceeding slowly with Beckett's back injury. Beckett has pitched poorly so far this year, and despite his desire to get back quickly and get rolling again, he's a key component to the pitching staff. Rushing him back and having him re-aggravate his injury is not the way to go. The best thing for Beckett, when he's ready to pitch again, is to go to Portland and Pawtucket and pitch one rehab start in each location. That will allow him to test out his back, as well as work on a few things with his delivery that have contributed to his poor start this season.
The one concern with the team is its bullpen. Other than Bard and Papelbon, no one has proven to be reliable. Manny Delcarmen's numbers look good, but he's gotten himself into some jams that he's managed to escape.
On offense, the story of May was the return to form of David Ortiz. After a hideous April, where there were whispers of a possible release of Ortiz, Big Papi batted .363 with 10 HR and 27 RBI. . When Ortiz is rolling, that's when the offense goes from being mediocre, to above average.
Unfortunately, the Red Sox are missing the element of speed with the continued inability of Jacoby Ellsbury to get on the field. I think the team's being a little unfair with their frustration of Ellsbury's injury to heal. He fractured ribs, it's going to take time for him to return to his play with abandon style. I don't doubt that it's really bothering him and with a rib injury, he'll hesitate when it comes to diving for balls in the outfield and sliding head first. He obviously came back to early from the injury, because he didn't look good at the plate, either.
The team has a stretch of games coming up in which they should really put the pedal to the floor. Games against Oakland, Cleveland, and Baltimore are the games the Sox need to win and keep putting pressure on the Wild Card leading Yankees and Rays.