The Start of the Second Half Was All Right

After the All Star break, the Red Sox returned to Fenway, well rested, and ready to go. With the Dodgers and Blue Jays in town for the second half of the season, you’d think that it’d have motivated this team to win both series. However, that wasn’t the case against the hot blue Dodgers. When it came to facing Toronto though, the team woke up.

There are still a lot of unanswered questions in July. The big question is, what will Davesecond half Dombrowski do before the trade deadline? Before the beginning of the season, MLB implemented new guidelines, including only having one trade deadline. The only major move so far was trading for Baltimore Orioles starter, Andrew Cashner.

Before we get into what’s going through Dombrowski and Company’s mind, let’s take a look at the last homestand.

The Highly Anticipated World Series Rematch at Fenway

When MLB released the schedule last season, I doubt that they knew what they were thinking by scheduling the rematch between the Red Sox and Dodgers. Neither team changed too much, which made for a unique series.

Eduardo Rodriguez had the ball in the first game, and absolutely dominated. His record improved to 10-4 on the season after going seven innings, allowing 5 hits and one earned run. E-Rod also struck out ten while allowing two walks. The offense was on fire as well. Rafael Devers, Christian Vasquez and Xander Bogaerts all hit home runs, which propelled the offense to score eight runs.

Game two, however, was a thing of destruction. The man who closed out the World Series, Chris Sale, only lasted 4.2 innings, allowing five runs on seven hits. Despite striking out seven batters, the offense was asleep for the better part of the game. For the Dodgers, the Fenway Faithful got a glimpse of Joe Kelly pitching on the mound in Dodger blue. Kelly pitched one inning of relief, allowing two hits, and one run. The Dodgers took this game, 11-2.

The final game of the series went into extras, and saw the bullpen blow up. In what should have been a Sunday night win for Boston turned into a loss at the hands of David Freese and company. While David Price pitched five solid innings, only allowing one run, the bullpen couldn’t keep it together, even when Boston tied it up in the bottom of the eighth, thanks to back-to-back home runs by Xander Bogaerts and J.D. Martinez. What really stung was when Joe Kelly closed out the bottom of the twelfth inning for the Dodgers.

The Blue Jays Invade Fenway in the Second Half of the Season

After a rough start, Blue Jay Nation came to town, as did Andrew Cashner, the newest member of the Boston rotation. Rick Porcello pitched against the fourth place Blue Jays in game one. Porcello threw six solid innings, only allowing four runs on eight hits. The Red Sox offense went to work early, tagging Blue Jays starter Trent Thornton for five runs in the first inning. Despite the fact that the bullpen allowed six runs in three innings, Porcello got the victory, putting his record at 7-7 on the season.

Andrew Cashner, the newest member of the Red Sox, took the ball in game two. Cashner was pitching in his first game in nine days, and it showed. He went five innings in his Red Sox debut, allowing six runs on eight hits. Despite a first inning home run by Bogaerts, the Red Sox offense was quiet. Jays rookie starter, Jacob Waguespack pitched 4.2 innings, and only allowed the one run in the first inning.

Eduardo Rodriguez, the saving grace of the rotation, took the ball in game three. In 6.1 innings, Rodriguez allowed only two runs off of three hits, while striking out four. Rafael Devers was a contributor in the win by launching his eighteenth home run of the season off of Aaron Sanchez in the third inning. Brandon Workman, who seems to be the savior in the bullpen, earned his fifth save of the season.

In a Thursday afternoon game, Chris Sale had the ball. It should be noted that the real Chris Sale is back. In six innings, Sale only allowed two hits and struck out twelve. The offense tagged Thomas Pannone for four of the five total runs. Both Rafael Devers and Mookie Betts contributed to the runs by launching home runs. Everything seemed to be clicking for Sale in this game, allowing him to get his fourth win of the season, and first at Fenway this season.

First Roadtrip of the Second Half

After going 4-3 in the homestand, the Red Sox head to Baltimore for a three game series, then off to Tropicana Field to take on the second place Tampa Bay Rays. From there, they return home to face the New York Yankees for the first time since the battle in London.

Knowing that we are about a week and a half until the trade deadline, and seeing where we are in the standings, must worry the front office a little bit. With the bullpen seesawing, and the offense slowly picking up speed, a new face in the clubhouse would be a welcoming sign.

Pumpsie Green Leaves Lasting Legacy

 Elijah “Pumpsie” Green’s Baseball-reference page won’t garner any special attention. He won’t ever have his number on the right field facade at Fenway Park or a plaque in Cooperstown. After his death on Wednesday, however, there is something Green will always have. Pumpsie Green leaves a lasting legacy with the Boston Red Sox. 

This Sunday, July 21, will mark the 60th anniversary of Green’s major league debut. Likepumpsie green leaves the rest of his career, it was nothing special on the field. He came in to run for Vic Wertz in the eighth inning and finished the game at shortstop in a 2-1 loss to the eventual American League champion White Sox. Green had made his mark, however, as the first black player ever to play for the Red Sox.

Now often the answer to a trivia question Red Sox fans might like to forget, Green helped the Red Sox become the final MLB team to integrate. The Red Sox obviously didn’t have the most polished past when it comes to race relations. They did, in fact, pass up on Hall of Famers Willie Mays and Jackie Robinson over a decade earlier. I don’t think it’s because they weren’t good enough. While Green’s debut came 18 months after Willie O’Ree broke the NHL color barrier for the Bruins, two other MLB teams integrated over 10 years after Jackie Robinson debuted for the Dodgers. 

Green’s contributions to the sports landscape of Boston could not have come at a better time. The aforementioned O’Ree was a pioneer with the Bruins and the Celtics were beginning to spark a dynasty with notable black stars Sam Jones and Bill Russell. With the “old town team” being the last in the city to have a black player, it represented a crucial point for Boston to move forward in race relations, although it would take some time. Suddenly, pictures in the paper of the young shortstop talking with the great Ted Williams were easing the minds of Boston baseball fans.

Pumpsie Green After Baseball

After his brief career, he served as a baseball coach and teacher in Berkeley, California for 20 years. The Red Sox honored him by having him throwing out a first pitch in 2009 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of breaking the team’s color barrier. He threw out another first pitch on Jackie Robinson Day in 2012. To commemorate his achievement, the Red Sox enshrined him in their Hall of Fame last May. He was also honored in his adopted home of El Cerrito, California, for “distinguished stature in baseball history.”

Considering the love and adoration black sports stars in the city get today, it seems odd that a player such as Green would be the trailblazer. He played just four years in his major league career and hit a mere .246. In fact, his baseball-reference similarity score is akin to that of Blake Swihart’s. There would have still been a Jim Rice, a Pedro Martinez and a David Ortiz in a Red Sox uniform, but someone had to be the first.

What Green did was forage a relationship between black Bostonians and the city’s favorite team. Was he the greatest Red Sock of all time? No. Was he one of the most important? Yes. Even now that he is gone, the Green family and the Red Sox family can forever look back on that July afternoon at Comiskey Park and be proud. He was 85.

Xander Bogaerts MVP case grows by the day

Before we get to the Xander Bogaerts MVP case, let’s give credit it where it’s due. Mike Trout continues to show us all why he may go down as one of the most talented baseball players of all time. Nobody in the league has been able to string together so many Top-2 MVP finishes before turning 30, let alone in their careers.

But the pool of talent in the majors doesn’t just end at Trout. In fact, the crop of Xander Bogaerts MVP caseshortstops currently roaming the middle infields across the show is arguably the most talented group the league has seen in decades. Francisco Lindor, Carlos Correa, Andrelton Simmons, Trevor Story, and Javier Baez are big names that come to mind.

But the one player that has stood up against them all- and might be coming for Trout- is Xander Bogaerts.

Bogaerts has surged ahead of other AL infielders

The Xander Bogaerts MVP case is a movement that has really gained steam over the last two months. With the aforementioned deep talent pool, there’s an awful lot of competition for the league’s top shortstop each year. Perhaps unbelievably, it could be argued that Bogaerts quietly ascended to the top spot, as flashy seasons by Lindor and Correa often stole the spotlight from Boston’s recently extended star. That’s no longer the case.

Understanding the Xander Bogaerts MVP case can be as simple as looking at his eye popping numbers. Just this last week, he came off a stretch in which he recorded at least 1 hit, 1 run, and 1 RBI in a historical 8 straight games. The only other Red Sox in club history to achieve that? Ted Williams. Yes, the Splendid Splinter. Ted accomplished the feat twice, with separate streaks of 8 and 11 games. Certainly nothing to sneer at.

Need more convincing? Let’s take a peak at his numbers as a whole. The 26-year-old was slashing .312/.399/.575 entering play on July 17, with 21 HR and 74 RBI. He had homered in 4 of his last 5 games, and in 5 of 7. He joins Trout as the only players in the AL batting .300 or higher with 20+ HR.

Is that enough yet? How about WAR? WAR’s value can vary based on metrics, but according to Fangraphs, Bogaerts’ 4.1 WAR trails only Trout (6.5), Cody Bellinger (5.7) and Christian Yelich (5.2) for tops in the majors. All three of them are MVP candidates that are putting up out-of-this-world numbers. But so is Bogaerts, and that shows that he belongs.

Bogaerts sits just behind Trout in most AL offensive categories

Still have not been told enough in the Xander Bogaerts MVP case? Let’s look at where he places among league leaders across other offensive categories.

He’s T-1st in the AL with Trout in XBH (51), 2nd to Trout in SLG (.575) and OPS (.974), T-2nd with Trout in runs (74), 2nd in the AL in 2B (30), 3rd in total bases (203), and 4th in OBP (.399). Pretty great, right?

The crazy thing is, it seems like most baseball fans needed convincing to even make Bogaerts an All-Star this season. He did eventually make it in after injuries knocked out other stars, but he didn’t even finish in the the Top 3 in voting at the position. The best shortstop in the American League, by a healthy margin, didn’t get voted in to the mid-summer classic.

Trout holds a comfy lead across most offensive categories, and might even be putting together his best season yet. But there’s no doubt that Bogaerts has cemented himself as a superstar in this league. For him, it’s time to start stealing some of the spotlight away from L.A. and bringing it back to Beantown, where one of the hottest shows in town is here to stay.

UK Red Sox Fans Bask in Glory of London Series

The Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees kicked off the inaugural London Series on June 29th in London, England. In what the MLB plans to be an annual event, the Red Sox and Yankees enthralled almost 60,000 fans at Queen Elizabeth Stadium in London that saw the Yankees win both games. Many American baseball fans made the epic trek across the pond for the series while a large number of UK Red Sox fans came to root for their favorite baseball team.

Little did I know that in the United Kingdom (UK) exists a large UK Red Sox fanbase. They haveUK Red Sox their own Facebook page, and their fans’ love for the Red Sox know no bounds. I spoke with Adam Perry, the moderator of the Boston Red Sox Fans of the UK Facebook page, to learn more about his, and other UK fans’, love for the Red Sox.

“I was a Red Sox fan rather than a baseball fan,” Perry told me in a July 8th Skype interview. “And because of that you kind of get to know the game, the intricacies, the players, the history. So that was the start of it for me. I mean everybody has different reasons for doing it. And when [UK fan club] did start gathering, which was about 20 years ago before the advent of social media, we used to just gather together in a sports bar in London and used to watch the games. We were one of the first sort of supporters or fans of any US sports team that were doing this, which is quite unique.”

Perry wasn’t the only fan that I got to speak with about their love for the Red Sox. After posting a message to their Facebook group asking other fans to talk about how they became fans, I was inundated with dozens of messages, notes, and postings from UK Red Sox fans detailing their love for baseball.

UK Red Sox Fans Love the Game As Much As Americans Do

Janine Pipe stated, “I became a fan after honeymooning in Boston during the famous ALCS in 2004.”

Philip Harris’ love for the Red Sox started with a teacher. “[It was] 1965. I had an American exchange teacher (I was 7-8 years old) who came from Boston and taught me about the Celtics, Bruins, and Sox. Been a fan ever since.”

Sam “Mulldog” Mullan’s love for the Red Sox came from a G.I. his aunt married. “My aunt married a US G.I. after WW2 and moved to Boston. Every time they visited they’d bring something Sox related. One of my baby photos was me in a Red Sox baby grow. Played baseball on the UK for Plymouth Mariners and loved the game! Saw my first game in 2004 and every season I have seen a game at Fenway they have won the World Series.”

Ceri Lewis said, “I’m Welsh. A Celt. So took an interest in the Celtics. Then came the Patriots in 1984. Seemed logical. I was 12 years old. The Red Sox sort of followed but it was baseball I truly fell for. My 25th birthday surprise from my wife was a trip to Fenway. I shook at the sight of the Green Monster. From the outside! I cried. It was wonderful. That was 1997. My fascination became a full blown love affair.”

Christopher Pease’s love began with a baseball movie. “My journey into becoming Sox fan began after seeing The Natural in 1984. It was my first experience of anything baseball and I fell in love with the game at that moment. Following the game was very difficult back then. Two week old copies of USA Today from stores near the American Embassy in London and late night radio broadcasts on Armed Forces Network had to satisfy my growing interest. Luckily British Television broadcast the 1986 [World Series] and I found my team.”

So how did these fans feel about the London Series?

“My Red Sox came to my home town,” Lewis added. “I am still buzzing now. I just wished they brought a feckin bullpen too.”

UK Red Sox Fans A Little Miffed With Team Snub

While most UK Fans were more than thrilled to see the Red Sox come to London, some were disappointed that the Red Sox organization didn’t do more to reach out to its UK Red Sox fans.

“The Yankees came and they did some community stuff,” Perry added. “They brought [some] legends over. But the Red Sox didn’t do anything. We tried to engage and the numbers that we had, I asked if they could send somebody over…to come to our meets on a Saturday.”

It was Major League Baseball, not the Red Sox or Yankees, that oversaw all the operations for the London Series. That fact may explain why the Red Sox did not take on a larger role in reaching out to its UK fanbase; the MLB planned everything. Regardless, Perry thinks the Red Sox could have shown a little more attention to UK Red Sox fans.

“They missed a big opportunity…that’s the one real disappointing thing I think of the whole weekend and beforehand. And I don’t know why that is. I think the Yankees, believe it or not, we’re better at it. They don’t have many fans that they invited some of their fans to meet some of the players on the flight.”

While Pease loved the series, he echoed Perry’s views. “My only gripe was the lack of Red Sox interaction with fans here. Alex Cora did not seem happy to be here either. The Yankees, however, brought over several alumni including Nick Swisher who really had fun meeting fans and young players during the weekend.”

That doesn’t mean, however, that he didn’t have fun.

“We spent several years looking forward to the London Series and it was so amazing, almost dream like,” Pease added. “Next year just isn’t going to be the same even though I will be rooting for Theo’s boys!”

The Dodgers Return to Fenway for a World Series Rematch

The last time we saw the Dodgers was game five of the World Series in Los Angeles. It is a game many in Red Sox Nation will never forget. From the stellar performance by David Price, to Steve Pearce’s home run, one of many. Oh, and my personal favorite, when Chris Sale struck out Manny Machado to win it all. Now, here we are, nine months later for the World Series rematch.

While Boston is looking to climb higher in the American League East, the Dodgers areworld series rematch looking to continue their success this season. The Dodgers, who are 60-32 in the National League West, are looking to not only seek revenge on the Red Sox, but look to return to the spotlight in October.

A Highly Anticipated World Series Rematch

As mentioned above, the last time we saw the Dodgers was back in the World Series. October 28th to be exact. While the Red Sox ultimately won it all on the West Coast in game five, you would have thought that they were playing in Boston. The Fenway Faithful came out in full support of the Red Sox that night, and for the parade that followed.

The match up was perfect in every sense. From Alex Cora managing a team in his rookie year, to Dave Roberts managing in Dodger blue, every game was critical. Now, here we are, about to embark on a three game set at Fenway Park. Though it’s not October, it will have an October feel like never before.

Game one will feature Eduardo Rodriguez going up against Kenta Maeda. Rodriguez will be looking for win number ten on the season. The last time Rodriguez faced the Dodgers was at Dodger Stadium in game four. In that start, he went 5.2 innings, allowing four runs, including a home run to Yasiel Puig. Maeda also pitched in that game, going 1/3 of an inning allowing one run on two hits.

Game two will feature Chris Sale vs Ross Stripling, while the finale will feature David Price vs Hyun-Jin Ryu. All three of these games are critical to the Red Sox as they get closer and closer to the trade deadline. Also, after the series against Los Angeles, they will face Toronto for four games before heading to Baltimore.

The Return of Joe Kelly and Rich Hill

Last time we saw Joe Kelly he was in a Red Sox uniform, surrounded by his teammates after winning the World Series. The next time we saw him was on a duck boat in Boston with the World Series trophy. Now, he will be returning to Boston in Dodger blue for a World Series rematch, and receiving his well deserved World Series ring.

Not only did he trade in the red for the blue, but he traded in the number 56 for the number 17. Since signing a three year deal with Los Angeles back in December, Kelly has pitched in 30 games, going 3-3 with a 5.28 ERA. He has pitched in 30.2 innings while striking out 37 batters. The former Red Sox and Cardinal pitcher last pitched on July 6th against the San Diego Padres, pitching one inning and striking out two batters. Unfortunately, neither strikeout was to Manny Machado. Sorry Red Sox fans.

Another familiar face is Rich Hill. The Milton, MA native will be returning to Fenway Park in Dodger blue as well. Hill pitched for his hometown team from 2010-2012, and in 2015. Right now, he is in his fourth season with Los Angeles. Although he isn’t with the Red Sox organization anymore, Hill and his wife are in the process of raising one million dollars for Mass General Hospital to support research for a rare genetic disease that claimed the life of their young son. During the series, the Red Sox organization will be assisting the Hill family with their campaign.

First Homestand of the Second Half

This homestand is crucial for the Red Sox. With the Yankees and Rays tearing it up in the American League East, the Red Sox need to keep their heads above water. Also, we are a few short weeks away from the trade deadline. Last time the Red Sox won the World Series, 2014 saw the team sell most of their rotation. Pitchers such as Jake Peavy and Jon Lester were traded off. From there, the front office kept selling, causing many in Red Sox Nation to panic. Will we see that again this July 31st? Only time can tell.

Red Sox trade targets to look out for

A seemingly taxed bullpen and what’s been a thin starting rotation for a while now are problems forcing the Red Sox into considering outside options for their pitching staff. With Alex Cora confirming that Nathan Eovaldi will assume the closer role upon returning from the Injured List, a spot will remain open in the rotation. Red Sox trade targets have generally been bullpen arms the last few years, but that tune might be changing in 2019.

With a largely competitive field of teams still vying for wild card contention, the market is aRed Sox trade targets bit thinner than it has been in recent seasons. That being said, there are indeed arms that are reportedly being shopped, as sellers like the Mets, Blue Jays, and others will be looking to unload and rebuild.

If the plan for the Sox is to add a man in the rotation, there are some options on the market that might come a bit cheaper than relievers with multiple years before free agency. Let’s take a look at who some of these Red Sox trade targets might be.

RHP Zack Wheeler, New York Mets

Ken Rosenthal recently reported that the Red Sox were spotted scouting a recent start of Wheeler’s (and Matthew Boyd’s). With the Mets coming undone in another lost season, a move would make sense. While the ERA is an unimpressive 4.69, Wheeler has been able to eat up innings in New York. He has managed to work 6.0+ IP in 15 of his 19 starts, including 7.0+ IP in 9 of those starts. He has worked fewer than five innings just a pair of times, going 4.2 in each. For a Red Sox team starved for an innings eater, a low-cost soon-to-be free agent represents an excellent fit.

LHP Matthew Boyd, Detroit Tigers

Boyd has put together a career year, posting a very solid 3.87 ERA through 18 starts. He’s been the best pitcher on a poor Tigers team, but has done well in a division that features a number of solid teams like the juggernaut Twins, competitive Indians, and rising White Sox. There are two concerns, however: for one thing, he is still a few years away from free agency. With how much clubs value team control these days, Boyd will come at a high price. Not just that, but after being one of the AL’s best through mid-June, Boyd has regressed a bit. The southpaw has allowed 4 or 5 ER in each of his last 4 starts, after allowing more than 4 ER just twice through his first 14. Boyd would make another quality addition, but the fit might not be as strong.

RHP Marcus Stroman, Toronto Blue Jays

Red Sox fans might not jump all over this idea. But Stroman is having an excellent season, has always proven a tough out, and brings a swagger to the mound, which makes him a Red Sox trade target. A swagger that might energize the group. Stroman is one of the league’s best at producing high ground ball rates. In two starts against Boston this season, Stroman has allowed just 1 ER over 11 IP. His 3.18 ERA would automatically be the lowest among fellow Sox starting pitchers. What makes this deal difficult is that Toronto won’t trade a key player to a divisional rival for nothing. Like with Boyd, the Red Sox might be priced out of their comfort zone.