So this is what an offense looks like.
Despite John Danks not having his command and somehow managing to throw almost 120 pitches in 5 innings that weren't terrible, Scott Linebrink re-emerging as that useless guy we can never trust, and Randy Williams entering the game, the Sox offense manage to not roll over and die in response. While Gordon Beckham went 0-5 with three strikeouts in an extremely troubling game, he was also the only hitter who didn't reach base for the Pale Hose.
Most importantly, after a disastrous sixth inning that saw the Yankees launch a back-breaking comeback that eerily mirrored last night, the Sox showed some mettle in rallying from behind on the road and shutting the door on a good offense down the stretch.
I'd be weeping with pride if their record wasn't 10-14.
If it wasn't for all the horrible things that happened, I would say that this is easily the best win of the year so far. John Danks, while I'm not saying he's just going to fall off a cliff for the forseeable future, definitely saw his string of masterful starts come to an ugly close. I don't know if anyone will ever be able to look at his box score, see that he threw 53 balls in 5 innings, yet only walked three people and figure out how, but there's little chance he'll ever get away with that again. It was almost a bizarro version of Danks' last start, where he went into the 8th innings still in the 80's with his pitch count. Johnny, you and Don Cooper need to sit down and have a chat sometime in the next five days.
Scott Linebrink, after enjoying a weird period of resurgence, made a return to the pitcher who makes me stress-eat. Well, that's not true, Linebrink has never made me stress eat. A pitcher that stresses you out is someone more like Jenks, who continually gets himself into trouble by issuing walks, or fielding his position about as well as a dead dolphin would. Linebrink just walks in and gets tagged. There's an episode of the 90's cartoon Doug, where all the parents of the town get way too much influence on the school baseball team, and they all demand that their child get to pitch (because they're charlatans who don't understand the nuances of the game). What results is the town replacing team ace Patty Mayonnaise with a rotation of every loser kid on the roster pitching an inning. When Doug's best friend Skeeter Valentine is put in, he's absolutely mortified and has no idea what to do or how to approach pitching. His father tries to assure him by giving him simple advice, and instructs Skeeter to throw "Nice, soft strikes". Skeeter begins muttering these instructions to himself repeatedly, then proceeds to throw soft tosses right down the heart of the plate, resulting in about 8 gajillion home runs in a row. And this, is what I think about when Linebrink struggles.
So how could this have been the best win? Well first, it came on the road against the Yankees; who are despicable. (I have a pent-up resentment toward New Yorkers and their unfounded sense of superiority, their feeling that everything that happens in their city is sacred, and their assertion that every hole in the wall, piece of crap pizza place in entire five boroughs is a local institution). But seriously, taking games on the road against the odds-on favorite to repeat as World Series champs is not a light accomplishment. For example, should the Sox take two of three from the Yanks on the road, is that more valuable than coming home and sweeping the Royals?
Second, the Sox offense really shined. 7 runs isn't quite an explosion, but they were aggressive early in the game for the second straight day, instead of their previous habit of allowing even mediocre pitchers to get into a rhythm against them. Vazquez obviously helped by being dreadful, but the Sox driving him out early was of the utmost importance given the Yankees' ability to shorten the game to 7 innings with Joba and Mariano in their pen. Given that 4 runs came on homers, with two of those being solo shots by Andruw Jones, this team still relies on power more than they were built to, and has nothing at all in the way of a leadoff man. But maybe with guys like Quentin, and Pierzynski rounding into shape, the offense can simply be mediocre as opposed to being the reason we lose every night. As for Pierzynski, he is back. After a 3-4 day that featured the go-ahead 2 run double in the 7th, I think we can say that he is all the way back. And it's all started since I wrote that long article about him. I don't like to affect the play myself if I can help it, but this seems to just have occurred organically. Nothing could have possibly motivated A.J. to turn it around except for me. Me or the trade rumors...it was probably the trade rumors.
Finally, the Sox came back from a deficit, showed grit in their late-inning pitching, and got a little testy. Rallying from behind after the Yankees erased a three-run lead in the sixth inning took some determination, especially given that it was a stomach-turning retread of the night before. J.J. Putz further cemented his status (at least to me) as the go-to late inning right-hander out of the pen for the team, and deserves special credit for fanning Derek Jeter to get out of the 8th. Jeter has been not so much a dominant player in this series, as much as he's been a pathological Sox-murderer. Jenks got through the 9th without a real threat and without issuing a walk; both positive steps, and Randy Williams gave his best game of the season in the sense that he faced two batters and only walked one of them. Good job, Randy (I'm being sarcastic, Randy. You were terrible; gather all your possessions and wander off into the desert, please).
What I enjoyed most is the testiness and umbrage that Pierzynski showed in his response to Nick Swisher (who's a bit of a tool) and his celebratory fist pump after his sixth inning home run to put the Yankees up. For Pierzynski to respond to that gesture with a go-ahead double and a mocking fist pump of his own shows two things; that A.J. is fully confident in his abilities again and no longer wallowing in self-pity, and that this team has some pride. No one wants to spend their life being subjected to the tomfoolery of Nick Swisher; not me, not Ozzie Guillen, and probably not Mrs. Swisher. But most teams probably accept that the Yankees will have their way because they are simply better. For the Sox to decide that they won't be shown up, not even by the best team in the league, reveals that they still have high expectations (not just hopes) for themselves and what their team is capable of. It's the type of spirit that gives someone like me that still has tickets to 12 more games this season, just a little bit less buyer's remorse.