Commentary

Red Sox can find bright spots in loss

Updated: June 1, 2011, 2:18 AM ET
By Steven Krasner | Special to ESPNBoston.com

BOSTON -- On a blah night at Fenway Park on Tuesday, with Boston falling into a 10-1 sixth-inning hole en route to dropping a 10-7 decision to the Chicago White Sox, there were a few positives and a few negatives.

On the plus side:

The Continued Rejuvenation of David Ortiz

In the offseason, the Red Sox decided not to lavish a new long-term contract on Ortiz, who is 35 and in his 13th big league season. He started each of the past two seasons very slowly before winding up with solid numbers.

[+] EnlargeDavid Ortiz
Mark L. Baer/US PresswireDavid Ortiz's 38th hit of May left the yard as Big Papi hit his 10th home run of the month.

This season, Ortiz started better, and the Sox's designated hitter, who is making $12.5 million in the final year of his contract, had an especially torrid May. He concluded the month in style Tuesday night, bashing a three-run homer over the Monster in fueling a late Boston comeback that fell short.

Ortiz batted .342 (38-for-111) in May, with 10 homers. The 38 hits matched the most he has ever had in one month in his career. He also banged out 38 hits in June 2004. Ortiz, who also clubbed 10 homers last May, has boosted his average to .310 for the season.

Tuesday's home run was his team-leading 12th of the year, and it came off a left-hander, Will Ohman. Ortiz has had trouble hitting lefties the last few years, but not this season. He is batting .291 with three homers against left-handers.

It also was Ortiz's143rd home run at Fenway, moving him past Manny Ramirez and into sixth place on the Sox's all-time list.

The Captain's Contributions

Jason Varitek's days in Boston likely would have been numbered if Victor Martinez had re-signed with Boston. But Martinez moved on to Detroit, and the Sox didn't have a whole lot of options, so Varitek was re-signed, not for his offensive skills, but for his ability to work with the pitching staff.

Varitek's offensive numbers have been tailing off badly in recent years, but lately he has begun to show signs of life at the plate. Tuesday night he went 3-for-4, including his second homer of the year, a blast over the White Sox bullpen.

Varitek now boasts an eight-game hitting streak, his longest since a nine-gamer from April 21 to May 4, 2006. Varitek is batting .379 (11-for-29) over his last eight games, and has hit safely in 12 of his past 13 starts at a .340 (16-for-47) clip.

The Return of Bobby Jenks

The right-handed reliever, who missed most of May because of a right biceps strain, was taken off the disabled list and worked a scoreless inning Tuesday night against his former team. He gave up two hits, but emerged unscathed when he snared Paul Konerko's liner and turned it into a double play.

"He stayed in his delivery and threw all his pitches for strikes," Francona said.

And on the negative side:

Another error for Jed Lowrie

With the bases loaded and one out in the second inning, and one run already in, the White Sox's Brent Morel hit a bouncer into the shortstop hole.

Lowrie didn't seem to have a play on Morel at first, but a forceout at third, especially with lumbering Adam Dunn running from second, looked to be an easy play.

But Lowrie mishandled the ball for an error, prolonging the inning, which eventually ended with Chicago ahead 4-0.

The Sox have to be concerned with Lowrie's defense at shortstop. He doesn't have the greatest range -- he's probably more suited to playing third -- and he already has made a team-leading eight errors. Living with a shortstop who doesn't have great range is OK if he is sure-handed and makes all the plays he can get to, but Lowrie hasn't been automatic. His plus is that he can swing the bat. He went 1-for-3 Tuesday, and is hitting .306.

Poor start for Alfredo Aceves

If Aceves was in competition with Tim Wakefield to remain in the rotation with John Lackey's return slated for Sunday, he didn't help himself Tuesday night.

Aceves was nicked for some cheap hits and some that were drilled, and it all added up to eight runs, six earned, on eight hits in only five-plus innings. Along with Scott Atchison, Aceves helped put Boston in its 10-1 hole.

"It was a bad day for me," said Aceves, whose 12-game winning streak and 16-1 career record took a hit.

"It was one of those games you feel really good and things don't happen. I have to swallow [the poor outing] and prepare for my next start," he said.

And when did he think he'd be pitching again?

"Every five days," Aceves said quickly.

That's not likely. Lackey threw 5 2/3 innings and gave up three hits, including a solo homer, in a rehab start for Pawtucket on Tuesday night. Francona said Lackey would start Sunday at home against Oakland.

"He was efficient," Francona said of his report on Lackey's performance. "It seemed like everything went well. He felt good. He threw all his pitches."

That would seem to make Aceves a prime candidate for a shift back to the bullpen. He was asked if he was prepared for that.

"I've been saying all season I am a pitcher," Aceves said. "It doesn't matter your spot or role. You're going to pitch. You've got to get outs."

Steven Krasner is a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

EDITORS' PICKS

ALSO SEE

MORE MLB HEADLINES