BOSTON -- Things to ponder about Tuesday night's 5-1 Red Sox win over the Toronto Blue Jays while the presidential candidates joust about the propriety of the commander in chief cracking Kevin Youkilis jokes in the town where he no longer plays:
Danke, Daisuke? Bobby Valentine said after Tuesday night's win, the team's eighth in 10 games, that Josh Beckett will be activated to pitch Saturday night in Seattle in the third game of a four-game set against the Mariners. Many happy returns for a guy who has been on the disabled list with what the team is calling right shoulder inflammation.
But consider how the rotation has performed in the 13 games since Beckett went down. In 11 of those games, the starters have pitched into the sixth inning. Only one starter, Daisuke Matsuzaka, has walked as many as three batters in a game, and that was in his second big league start since coming off Tommy John surgery, so we can cut him some slack.
In 11 of those 13 games, Red Sox starters have walked one or fewer, including Tuesday night, when Matsuzaka did not walk a Blue Jays batter until his last inning, the sixth. The ratio of strikeouts to walks in that time: 69 whiffs, 13 walks.
So the ERA is a relatively modest 4.23, but in nine of those starts, the opponent scored three or fewer runs. Remember, this was with no Beckett, Daniel Bard back in the minors, and Clay Buchholz also going on the DL and making just two starts in this span. The rotation could have cracked apart; instead, with Matsuzaka and Felix Doubront making three starts apiece, Jon Lester and Franklin Morales two, and Aaron Cook pitching in with one, the Sox have gone 10-3.
Matsuzaka was touched up Tuesday night for a run in the game's first four batters, then gave up four singles after an early visit from Valentine.
"There weren't any magic words,'' Valentine said. "I asked him if he believed in himself, and was he ready to forget about the stuff that just happened. He said, 'Yes, yes, yes.'
"One run in that inning was good pitching. This was his best effort yet.''
Matsuzaka could yet write a happy ending to his six-year run in Boston. His wife, friends say, loves this place and wouldn't mind staying here, whether or not he re-signs with the Red Sox.
With Buchholz expected to be out at least until after the All-Star break, the Sox need these kinds of nights out of Matsuzaka. Does he have them in him? Bobby V. hopes the answer is "Yes, yes, yes."
Pedroia packin' again: Dustin Pedroia has seven hits in 14 at-bats over his past four games, including a bases-loaded, two-run single with two out in the seventh that broke a 1-all tie. Must have done wonders for the old confidence, right?
"Pedey?'' David Ortiz said. "Pedey always feels great about himself. He's one of the most confident [expletives] I've ever seen. Pedey has no problems, man.''
Well, but he did, that torn muscle in his right thumb that had him mired in a hellacious slump for the better part of three weeks, one that had him batting .145 (9-for-62) in his first 15 games back.
Ancient history, he says.
"My thumb feels good,'' he said. "I was switching bats trying to find something that was comfortable for me. I think over the last three and a half to four weeks, it kind of healed up, and I feel normal. I took my lumps there for a while and now I feel good, so I can produce runs for our team.''
No vacancies in this outfield: Valentine mentioned before the game that Jacoby Ellsbury was going out on a rehab assignment to Fort Myers, Fla., on Friday. That would start the 20-day clock toward his return, which projects out to just after the All-Star break. In Fort Myers, Ellsbury will rejoin another rehabbing All-Star, Carl Crawford, who was scheduled to start in left field Tuesday in the Fort until Tropical Storm Debby had other ideas.
Naturally, reporters lined up to hear what Ellsbury had to say about his impending return, although only one violated the usual protocol of waiting until a guy had made the transition from towel to street clothes before closing in to ask questions. Ellsbury, however, made a quick dash toward the trainers' room, saying something about having to go wipe off some sweat first.
Must have been some kind of misunderstanding -- or he'd suddenly imported Youk's sweat pores -- because Ellsbury never came back. No way that Ellsbury, as well-mannered as they come when he first arrived here, could have added such a rude move to his repertoire, not when the media has cut him such a wide swath during the long weeks of his rehab. Oh well, maybe he'll be more inclined to talk Wednesday, unless he boards a plane for Florida.
But while the Red Sox await the return of their perceived megastars, which is obviously a positive development, consider anew the good times wrought by the guys who wouldn't have been here without the injuries that have sidelined the equivalent of three outfields.
Guys such as Ryan Kalish and Daniel Nava, who both pinch hit Tuesday night and scored in the three-run rally in the seventh, all with two out, starting with Jarrod Saltalamacchia's opposite-field home run off relieverJason Frasor.
When Valentine sent Kalish up to hit, he knew Jays manager John Farrell would counter with a lefty, in this case Luis Perez. Kalish responded with a double down the right-field line.
"I faced Perez a lot in Double-A,'' Kalish said. "He's always gotten me out, too. He had a good slider working; he shouldn't have thrown it right down the middle. He had me going; I was in swing mode.
"I like facing lefties. It's not something I'm afraid of. I calmed down after 0-and-2. Before that, you want to do something to help the team, so you get a little anxious.''
Farrell brought in right-hander David Pauley, Nava was hit by a pitch and then Mike Aviles drew only his 10th walk of the season to load the bases for Pedroia.
Kalish and Nava both scored on Pedroia's hit, and once again, the kids were in the middle of winning time. Doubles by Ortiz and Adrian Gonzalez, sandwiched around a single by Cody Ross, brought in another run in the eighth before another kid, Will Middlebrooks, delivered a sacrifice fly for the final run of the night.
Three and two-thirds scoreless innings from the Red Sox bullpen made all that late action stand up.
Kalish knows how crowded the outfield is about to come. Ryan Sweeney (inflamed toe) is being fitted with a new device in his shoe. Scott Podsednik (groin) is getting close. The Sox just added a right-handed outfield bat in Brent Lillibridge, who started in center Tuesday. Then there's Crawford and Ellsbury.
"I don't have any expectations, man,'' Kalish said. "I'm still so fresh into playing. This is all process still for me. I'm trying to help the team win games. I think I have. I feel I can.
"I also know that nothing is guaranteed. Who knows what's going to happen? I'm just here for the ride. If I get sent down, I'll get sent down. I'll continue to work to get better, and the only thing that will help me get better now is playing. Stay healthy and being on the field.''