By Bob Hurst

Wasn’t it just a matter of time before the Boston Red Sox took over the lead in the AL East and started to live up to preseason expectations?

Boston had a day off on Monday after ripping off nine straight wins and taking a two-game lead over the New York Yankees. The Red Sox were 39-26 before beginning a three-game trip to Tampa Bay this week.

It seems like light years since they started the season 0-6, Boston’s worst start since 1945.

The Red Sox clobbered Toronto last weekend, outscoring the Blue Jays on the road 30-5 in the last two games of the series. It was the ninth consecutive game Boston had scored at least five runs.

Offensively, the team has exploded to lead the majors in every major category except home runs. The Red Sox were first in hits (635), batting average (.276), runs (350), on-base percentage (.349) and slugging (.450) going into Tuesday’s game.

“That’s why everybody was going crazy when we were losing all those games at the beginning of the season,” designated hitter David Ortiz said after Sunday’s 14-1 blowout. “Because you go position by position, this team can match against anybody.”

The streak started after a four-game losing skid, including three straight at home to the Chicago White Sox. Boston then swept Oakland, the Yankees and Blue Jays.

The Red Sox outscored those three clubs 83-36. Against the Yankees, they had a 25-13 advantage.

“I don’t think I’ve ever really seen a stretch like these past nine games that we’ve been playing as far as scoring runs and the way our pitchers have been throwing the ball,” said Jon Lester, who leads the AL with nine wins.

Josh Beckett, who led the AL with a 2.06 ERA, has five wins along with Clay Buchholz.

But it’s Boston’s blazing bats that’s gotten everyone’s attention.

Adrian Gonzalez topped the big leagues with a .341 average and 60 RBIs. He drove in at least one run in each game of the nine-game streak.

David Ortiz, who is batting 42 points above his career average at .325, slugged two homers with seven RBIs in the final two contests of the series with Toronto. He had a pair of home runs and knocked in six runs in the Yankees series.

 

Carl Crawford was hitting .338 in 17 games since moving to the sixth spot in the order on May 25. And Jacoby Ellsbury, who missed most of last season with broken ribs, was the third straight Red Sox player to win AL Player of the Week honors.

Ellsbury hit .467 (14-for-30) with three doubles, a home run, four RBIs and 10 runs scored in six games. He followed Ortiz and Crawford, who won the award the previous two weeks.

The Red Sox are right where everyone thought they would be.

Rest does wonders for Suzuki: Seattle Mariners right-fielder Ichiro Suzuki was not in the lineup last Friday, snapping a streak of 255 consecutive starts.

Suzuki was hitting just .149 since May 19, and his batting average was down to .252, the lowest it’s been that far into the season in his 11 years in the major leagues.

But the rest seemed to be the fix for Suzuki, who collected two hits in each of his next three games.

“He’s headed in the right direction,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. “I think we have to be pleased with what we’re seeing the last three or four games with Ichiro.”

Suzuki was batting .262 going into Tuesday’s game. He has never finished a season hitting lower than .303 in the majors, and has a lifetime .328 average.

StatsWatch: Recent milestones in the major leagues –

 

  • Orlando Cabrera, Indians SS, got his 2,000th career hit on Sunday, becoming the 262nd player in major league history to do so.
  • Roy Oswalt, Phillies SP, reached 1,700 career strikeouts, the seventh active pitcher to reach the mark.
  • Coco Crisp, A’s OF, got his 1,000th career hit.
  • Johnny Damon, Rays OF, set team record by reaching base for the 38th consecutive game.
  • Tony La Russa, Cardinals manager, managed the 5,000th game of his career, joining Connie Mack as the only managers or coaches in American pro sports to achieve that milestone.

Diamond Notes: Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter got his 2,994th career hit on Monday night, but left the game with a strained calf…The Dodgers owe recently retired outfielder Manny Ramirez $8.33 million by June 30. Ramirez is owed the same amount in each of the next two years as part of deferred money from the $42 million contract he signed before the 2009 season…San Diego has placed pitcher Aaron Harang on the disabled list with a sore right foot…The Giants activated 3B Pablo Sandoval on Monday, a day after 2B Freddy Sanchez went on the DL with a dislocated right shoulder. They also signed infielder Bill Hall, who had been released by Houston…Blue Jays OF Jose Bautista ended a 13-game homerless streak with his major league-leading 21st of the season in Sunday’s loss to Boston.

Copyright © 2011  Bob Hurst. All Rights Reserved. Distributed by Hurst Sports Media.

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