Concerns for the Second Half

concerns

The season is 85 games old and Boston’s socks are soaked red with the blood of the rest of the American League. The only team with 50+ wins and the only team with a winning percentage above .600 are two titles that this year’s team can claim as of today.

However this doesn’t mean things are all rosy in Beantown. In fact, two of my biggest concerns for the second half are with two of the biggest hitters in the Sox lineup. David Ortiz, who carried most of the offense, has slipped a bit in his power production since the beginning of the season. He only has two home runs in his last 17 games, compared to three home runs in the 4 games before that 17 game stretch.

Another struggling star is Mike Napoli. We all remember getting Napoli to sign a discounted deal because of a mysterious hip ailment, however he showed no ill effects as he demolished April pitching like it was a breakfast buffet table. Now he has turned into a glorified singles hitter, having seen his slugging percentage drop from .500 on June 1st to .434 on June 30th, racking up only 1 home run and 1 double during that span. It would be a tough blow to the Red Sox if this is due to his hip flaring up again.

In other news, I just wrote a pessimistic article about the Red Sox and didn’t mention the word “bullpen” once! That’s a new record.

Leading By Example: Pedroia and Ortiz

ortiz pedroia

BOS DH David Ortiz (www.espn.com)

The Sox began the season red hot. “Red hot” is not the optimal term to describe their play as of late though. After squandering a few series’ and putting up dismal numbers at the plate, the Red Sox have found themselves back amongst the log jam of other competitive AL East teams.

If the Red Sox are to persevere and break through these midseason doldrums, they will have to do it on the back of their superstars, Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz. Lately, the Red Sox have put together a nice little four game winning streak, with two of the three coming in the ninth and the tenth innings respectively.

Against the Tampa Bay Rays in Thursday’s series finale, the Sox entered the ninth inning trailing 3 to 1. The first two batters up were Pedroia and Ortiz. They both ended up drawing walks from the prolific closer Fernando Rodney. Those two base runners ended up scoring the second and third Boston run of the game, tying the score at 3. The Red Sox would win 4-3.

The next night, the Sox entered the tenth inning against the Minnesota Twins tied at 2. Dustin Pedroia led off the inning with a single and Ortiz followed it up with another walk. The Red Sox would go on to win the game in the inning 3-2.

When the superstars on a team can demonstrate abilities such as clutch hitting and patience at the plate, it is infectious in a locker room. If Pedroia and Ortiz can keep this up, this four game winning streak could be adding a few more notches to its belt.

Red Sox vs. Rangers Review

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BOS RP Clayton Mortensen (www.espn.com)

The Boston Red Sox spent the Cinco de Mayo weekend getting swept by the Rangers in Arlington. Here are my takeaways from the series.

1. If the Red Sox want to be the best then the Red Sox have to beat the best. Boston continued its hot start with eight wins over their last ten games going into the Texas series. However it should be noted that those eight wins came against the Athletics, Blue Jays, and Astros. Oakland has an “okay” ball club, but Toronto and Houston are both perennial cellar dwellers. The Rangers were the first real test for the Sox this season. Test failed. Lucky for us though, another poor team, Minnesota, will take the field at Fenway tonight against our ace, Clay Buchholz.

2. What happened to stringing hits together? The Red Sox were one of the last teams in the MLB to record a team home run this year. They were winning their first games by stringing hits together, working pitchers with walks, and caring more about on base percentage then home runs and RBI’s. However the Red Sox had very few clutch hits and many men left on base over the weekend, and three of the four runs scored all series came via a HR. If the Sox want to get back to their winning ways, they must return to their “patient at the plate” ways.

3. I don’t think Clayton Mortensen is very good. It seems that Farrell likes to use Mortensen because he gets a lot of runs compared to other relief pitchers. On Sunday he gave up 2 singles, a walk, and a wild pitch which all culminated in the Red Sox losing in the ninth inning. In 14.1 IP this year he has a 4.40 ERA. Yeah that is a little high for my liking. He’s given up at least one walk in his last three appearances, a cardinal sin for relief pitchers, and he sports a 0-2 record on the year. However it is still May and he could just be settling in, but the clock is ticking on Clayton Mortensen.

Sox Open Up 4 Game Series vs. Houston

red sox

(courtesy of ESPN.com)

The Red Sox open up a four game series against the Houston Astros tonight. Growing up Irish and in New England, I naturally anticipate that the Red Sox are going to lose every single time they take the field. Pessimism was never lost on my people.

However, there is no way this team is losing to the Astros. All four games, Thursday through Sunday, are going to be wins for Boston’s team. Don’t bother turning on the TV or going to the game.

Why am I so confident? Let’s check the facts.

Today’s Starters:

BOS Clay Buchholz, record: 4-0

HOU Philip Humber, record: 0-4

Standings:

BOS 1st in American League: 14-7

HOU Last in American League: 7-14

Run Differential:

BOS 22 more runs scored than allowed

HOU 32 less runs scored than allowed

Last 10 games:

BOS 7 wins, 3 losses

HOU 3 wins, 7 losses

Home/Away:

BOS 7-5 record at home

HOU 3-6 record away from Houston

History against each other:

BOS 7 wins 2 losses all time vs. Astros

HOU 2 wins 7 losses all time vs. Red Sox

History at Fenway:

3 game series June 13-15, 2003 at Fenway Park

Red Sox 3 wins, Astros 0 wins

As you can see, the odds are in Boston’s favor for tonight and the rest of the weekend. I take back what I said earlier about not bothering to go to the game; you should go, as you are bound to see some fireworks courtesy of Boston’s bats. As Dustin Pedroia would say, it’s going to be a “Laser Show… relax.” By the way, while you are there, pick up a copy of Yawkey Way Report!

Allen Webster makes Red Sox, MLB Debut

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Allen Webster- BOS SP
(Associated Press)

Allen Webster, one of the prized prospects acquired in the major trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers last summer, made his Red Sox debut last night. In fact, it was his first professional game in the 23 year olds young career.

For all intents and purposes, it was a pretty impressive start. Webster pitched six innings, gave up five hits, struck out five, and surrendered three runs, two of them earned. John Farrell was able to get 18 outs of the righty with only having him throw 84 pitches.

There were a few things that impressed me about Webster’s debut. First of all, in the 24 batters that he faced on Sunday night, he started 17 off with first pitch strikes. Getting ahead in the count by beginning with a first pitch strike is invaluable for a pitcher. It allows you to be able to throw the ball out of the strike zone to try to get the batter to a chase a pitch he can’t hit. If you start out with a ball or two, then you are restricted to the strike zone. In comparison, Andrew Miller, the closer who eventually gave up the game winning run in the tenth inning by walking the hitter with the bases loaded, started only 2 of the 7 batters he faced with a first pitch strike.

Another positive for Webster was the way he gave up his runs. Both earned runs came in the fifth inning courtesy of two solo home runs. I have no issue with this. A young pitcher still won’t know what of his pitching arsenal will work/not work against major league line-ups. If Webster gave up a lot of hits and proved himself unable to stop an onslaught of hard hit balls that would have been much worse. However two mistakes for a six inning night is acceptable, very acceptable.

Webster was up pitching this Sunday due to the doubleheader held as a result of Friday’s postponement. He was immediately headed back to Pawtucket after the game because the Red Sox do not have a place on their roster for him yet. However, I fully expect Allen Webster to be up at Fenway again this year.

After a debut like that on Sunday, I’m sure John Farrell agrees.

April 15th

april 15

Sports Illustrated’s newest cover

It is all just a game.

Then again, maybe it isn’t.

Sports have always had a funny place in my heart. I think it does for a lot of people. It is hard to describe this funny place objectively, perhaps, it’s best done through an example. My Dad and I live on opposite coasts now, and I spent the better part of my high school and college life in a different city from him. Often times it would be weeks between the periods where we would see each other. But however long it would have been, we could always reconnect very easily. This is because our conversations always began with how the Patriots were doing. We’d talk about Tom Brady, and how Belichick was preparing for next week, and so on. After ten or fifteen minutes of the Patriots, the conversation would enter a deeper realm, “how are you”, “how is school going”, “are you healthy”, “are you happy”?

I thought we were just talking sports. But it was so much more. We were keeping in touch; something I don’t think would be as easy if I didn’t at first want his opinion on the Celtics game or the Red Sox pitching rotation.

Yesterday, I went to the 11:05 Red Sox game with an Aunt and two of my Uncles. Without getting into too many details, it has been a rough past few months for this crew. However, we spent yesterday talking, laughing, reminiscing, and also planning for the future. It isn’t hard to imagine the venue for these conversations was a sports stadium. It was familial support, disguised as a Red Sox game.

Like I said before, I think this is relatable for a lot of people. That’s why things like fantasy football leagues have grown so rapidly in size. It disguises things like keeping in touch with your friends, making sure they’re alright, seeing if they need any help, as sports, just as my Dad and I could disguise our care for each other as an affiliation for a common team.

I play in a fantasy football league with a close friend of mine from high school. His name is Kevin. Yesterday, Kevin’s girlfriend Abby was in Boston from out of town. She had come to watch a friend finish the marathon. Abby had wanted to meet up and I told her that I would when I left Fenway. After the game, I spent ten or so minutes trying to get in touch with her, all to no avail. I figured I’d walk down Boylston Street to Copley to see if I could find her, but the crowd was too expansive. I decided to turn around and head back home.

10 minutes after coming home, two explosions, seconds apart, occurred in Copley Square at the finish line to the Marathon. Three people lost their lives; over a hundred more were injured.

The Red Sox won 3-2 on Monday, and for the second day in a row had done so thanks to some ninth inning heroics. An hour later, the term heroic was being redefined; given gravity by the first responders, the selfless spectators who moved towards danger rather than away, and those who finished a 26.2 mile race and then kept running to the hospital to give blood or check in for work.

My friend Abby was not among those hundred injured, but that doesn’t mean she was not affected. Spectators and runners, children and parents, those in Copley Square and those all over New England, are forever affected.

Many families, who probably used competitive running the same way my father and I used the Patriots, won’t be able to hear the word “marathon” again without a momentary cognitive glimpse of yesterday’s events.

That is perhaps the thesis of this rant. In my life, sports has brought me and kept me close with very many people. It was sports that brought many families like mine (not mine, but like mine) to Copley Square on that sunny Monday afternoon.

And in a task that seems almost impossible today, it will be sports that restore us.

Ben Revere (Phillies OF) wrote "Pray For Boston" on his glove before Monday's game.

Ben Revere (Phillies OF) wrote “Pray For Boston” on his glove before Monday’s game.

Sports can disguise the necessary emotional journey we must take.

Pride, disguised as a commemorative patch. Community, disguised as a gesture by an opponent. Hope disguised as a winning streak. Stoicism, disguised as the composure of our idols.

A city, disguised as a team.

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