If it were not for Josh Beckett the marauding post-All-Star break Yankees would have run over and trampled the mediocre post-All-Star break Red Sox. But instead, the Red Sox are still in first-place, although their lead has dwindled from 11 games to five.
Josh Beckett has proven to be the best starting pitcher in the majors this season. Yesterday against Baltimore he got his fifteenth win. Yesterday against the Oâ€™s, he pitched 8 and 2/3 innings, giving up eight hits and not allowing a run as the Red Sox beat the Birds 6- 2. On the road this season, he is 8- 1 with a 1.65 ERA and in three starts at Camden Yards, he is 3- 0 with a 1.90 ERA.
Also yesterday, closer John Papelbon recorded his 27th save, coming in to get Melvin Mora to pop out to short center.
Beckett recorded win 15 a few hours before the Angels John Lackey did the same. Hereâ€™s some of the stats on the top five pitchers in the AL.
Wins and Loses:
Josh Beckett (BOS) 15- 5, John Lackey (LAA) 15- 6, CC Sabathia (CLE) 14- 6, Tim Wakefield (BOS)13- 10
John Lackey 3.07, Josh Beckett 3.24, CC Sabathia 3.52, Tim Wakefield 4.81
CC Sabathia 154, Josh Beckett 140, John Lackey 126, Tim Wakefield 81
CC Sabathia 26, Josh Beckett 29, John Lackey 43,Tim Wakefield 51
I think Beckett, Lackey and Sabathia all have shots at the Cy Young. Wakefield, the knuckleball specialist, is putting in one of his best seasons ever, but is not in the Cy Young mix.
What will it take for Beckett to win the Cy Young? At least one more win than Lackey or perhaps the same number of wins but an ability to prove himself the difference-maker on the team. Thus far, Josh Beckett has been making a huge difference on the Red Sox and in the division as he anchors the best pitching staff in the AL.
Many have said that the Yankees, after their disastrous first-half, had set their sites on the Wild Card. Well, they now lead the Wild card race with a record of 65- 51. Detroit and Seattle are both one game behind the guys from the Bronx. If the New York pitchers can continue to offer some solid innings and the bats stay active, the Yankees could, much to my surprise, take the division. Stranger things have happened.
In the stretch, Bostonâ€™s hitting must step it up and get back to their pre-All-Star power and their pitching must remain stellar for them to take the division. The Red sox canâ€™t concern themselves with what the Yankees do except when they play them for a string of three games at Yankee Stadium from August 28- 30 and three more in a row at Fenway Park from September 14- 16. What may be more important for Boston is how they handle the nine games they have left with the lowly Devil Rays.
Watch out, weâ€™re headed toward the make or break days of late August and September.