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Clear sky up ahead


Clear sky up ahead
RED SOX 2, Orioles 1

All the Red Sox need now is David Ortiz to get going, and order will be completely restored in the Baseball universe.

Following a 2-1 victory over the Orioles yesterday, the Sox have reached .500 after a 2-6 start. They'll look to make it five in a row this morning when Justin Masterson takes the hill for the annual Patriots Day matinee. Encouraging signs abounded yesterday. Jon Lester submitted his best start of the season after two clunkers. Jacoby Ellsbury stroked two hits and ripped the ball with authority. Kevin Youkilis stayed hot and the bullpen stayed nearly perfect.

The only downer was Ortiz' 0-for-4 with a pair of strikeouts that dropped his average to .170.

But otherwise the Red Sox have righted the ship since a marathon, 6-5 loss to the A's on Tuesday.

``This gets the monkey off our backs of being behind early,'' said Jason Bay. ``We were three games back trying to go from 2-6 to .500 or five games over all at once, and everyone was pressing. Now that we're back to even, it's like everything else - once you get on that roll, it's a little easier to keep it going.''

If that's the case, then this could be the start of something good for Lester (1-2). He insisted for two poor starts he was pitching better than his results, and yesterday supported that claim.

He set the tone for the afternoon by striking out Brian Roberts with a 96 mph fastball to lead off the game and shut down the Orioles thereafter, allowing just four hits over seven innings and striking out nine. In the process, he lowered his ERA from 9.00 to 5.50.

``If you look at the results of previous starts, I kept saying I thought I threw the ball better than the linescore showed,'' Lester said. ``It's nice to go out today and throw the ball well and get the results I wanted. It just reiterates in the back of your mind that `OK, nothing is wrong.' ''

They needed him, because on a 49-degree day that began with 17 mph winds blowing in from seemingly every direction, the Red Sox couldn't do much with Orioles starter Koji Uehara. The Japanese import limited the Sox to five hits and two runs in seven innings of his own.

One of those hits naturally belonged to Youkilis, who doubled in the second and scored on Mike Lowell's bloop single. The Red Sox' other run came in the fifth, when Nick Green doubled and scored on Dustin Pedroia's single.

With closer Jonathan Papelbon unavailable after saving consecutive games, the Sox turned to Takashi Saito, who nailed it down with a one-run ninth.

Things would have gone perfectly, except for the struggles of Ortiz. He swung through 88 mph fastballs on his two strikeouts and appeared overmatched.

``I'm feeling good,'' the subdued slugger said. ``I'll be fine, bro. That's it.''

Hitting coach Dave Magadan said Ortiz made a recent mechanical adjustment that he expects will pay dividends. Magadan wouldn't specify exactly what the change was, except to say that Ortiz has spent the last couple of days studying video and even still photos of his swing from years past.

Magadan believes Ortiz is only slightly off.

``When you're a little bit late getting to your load and getting to the spot where you need to put a swing on the ball, then all of a sudden 87 (mph) looks like 97,'' Magadan said. ``When he gets to that point where he's on time and in a good position to put a swing on a ball at the right time and in the right location, then that 97's going to look like 87.''

And then the surging Sox will really be in business.

- jtomase@bostonherald.com


Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: April 21, 2009

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