Red Sox Erasing Doubt In A.L. East

For most of the summer, Red Sox fans were looking forward to the final series of the season. The three-game set at Fenway against Toronto was almost surely going to determine the winner of the A.L. East. However, the Red Sox were determined to make that series meaningless. Since a 1-0 loss to Baltimore on September 14th, the Red Sox have yet to lose a game. Along the way, they have put the division crown out of reach for everyone else.

Sunday was just another day at the office for the Boston Red Sox. In another low-scoring A.L. Eastgame at “the Trop” in Tampa, Boston outlasted the Rays 3-2 in ten innings. The win marked the third straight series sweep and 11th straight win for the division leaders. The day was marked by 22 strikeouts by Red Sox pitching, an unbelievable base-running play by Dustin Pedroia, and a gutsy bullpen effort by Joe Kelly.

The streak has put the Red Sox five and a half games up on second place Toronto and seven up on Baltimore. Excellent starting pitching and a virtually unhittable bullpen are propelling the Red Sox right now. Add that to the league’s best offense, and the Red Sox are far and away the hottest team in all of baseball. After the win Sunday, Boston’s magic number to clinch the A.L. East is down to two.

Beyond The A.L. East Title

Not to get ahead of ourselves, the Red Sox will have meaningful games next weekend. While they should have already clinched the division, a much more important title may be at stake. With a playoff spot in tact, the Red Sox now eye home field advantage. They are just one behind the Texas Rangers in the loss column. If they were to pass the Rangers, they would own the best record in the American League and home field advantage throughout the playoffs.

To think that the Red Sox could possibly have that title just a few weeks ago would have been absurd. With their best baseball of the season this month though, that’s where they find themselves. The Red Sox just surpassed Cleveland in the best-record race, meaning they would host the Indians in the ALDS if the season ended today. This offense is so good it really doesn’t matter where they play, but playing at Fenway would be a huge bonus. With that, the Red Sox could even find a way to slug themselves to the World Series. Luckily for the them, the pitching has been the brightest part if this September run.

Obviously, a run like this can not be expected in the playoffs. If they can keep up this pitching however, you can expect them to represent the American League in the World Series. As we all know, once you get there, anything can happen. Bottom line: don’t count out the Red Sox this October.

 

Red Sox Prepare For Big Series vs. Yankees

The Red Sox ended a rather frustrating series with the Orioles Wednesday night, suffering a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Kevin Gausman. It was the second night in a row that Toronto lost and the Red Sox were unable to extend their divisional lead. The loss still keeps the Red Sox in first but does not leave them comfortable.

Both Toronto and New York lost Wednesday, making it a game the Sox must find a way toseries win right? Wrong. The league’s most potent offense was held to four hits to Kevin Gausman. If you can recall, Gausman has already lost twice to Boston this year. He also has a career ERA of almost 5.00 on the road. However, the Red Sox made him look like Roger Clemens in the series finale with his eight shutout innings. After scoring 23 runs in two games, the Sox have mustered just four in the last two games.

All that incompetence has made this upcoming series that much bigger in the AL East. The Red Sox will welcome the Yankees into Fenway for four games with their top spot uncertain. After years of being brushed with desolation, this rivalry may finally heat up like the “good ole days.” This series will finally be played with a purpose. Last month, this may have looked like another meaningless series. Oh, how things have changed.

Since taking two of three from the Red Sox in early August, the Yankees have been red hot. In fact, they have been one of the hottest teams in baseball. Once sellers at the deadline, the Bronx Bombers find themselves just two games out of the second Wild Card. Even with that depleted bullpen, the Yankees have found a way and come into Fenway winners of seven of their last ten.

The Keys To The Series

After a disappointing loss from Rick Porcello, the Red Sox turn to Eduardo Rodriguez Thursday night. Rodriguez has been great lately and has had success against the Yankees this year. The Red Sox will need a bounce-back start from Clay Buchholz as well on Friday. Finally, this gives David Price a chance to erase some demons against the Yankees this season as he has looked horrible against them in three starts.

So yes, it is fun to see a big series between the Red Sox and Yankees in September. However, it became more magnified only because the Red Sox blew a chance in the series against the Orioles. This is a real chance for Boston to feel comfortable in the division and make life hell for the Yankees in the final three weeks.

Sox and Orioles Have Similar Teams

People like to make a big deal about pitching, especially starting pitching. Some go so far as to claim that pitching is 75 percent of the game. Well, the Boston Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles are the two best teams in the AL East at the moment, and neither one has an ounce of pitching. In fact, the Red Sox and Orioles have similar teams, which might explain why they’re only one game apart in the standings.

Baltimore and Boston are built to mash, with above-average bats at almost every positionSox and Orioles Have Similar Teams. Their lineups run deep with power, so it’s not surprising that they’re the American League’s top two teams in terms of slugging percentage. Sluggers also tend to be adept at getting on base, and sure enough both offenses sport one of the three best team on-base percentages in the American League. One key difference is that the Sox have speed, whereas the Orioles don’t. Boston ranks fourth in the AL in stolen bases with 35, nearly four times Baltimore’s last-place total of nine.

Their rotations are also similarly constructed. Both rely on an ace, David Price for Boston and Chris Tillman for Baltimore, and have strong number twos as well in Steven Wright and Kevin Gausman. Beyond them, however, quality starts have been hard to come by. Clay Buchholz and Joe Kelly need fixing in Boston, while Mike Wright and Ubaldo Jimenez aren’t the answer for Baltimore. Starting pitching is a clear weakness for both teams and something each needs to address as the trade deadline approaches.

Thankfully, both have strong bullpens to compensate for their lackluster starters. The Red Sox have a formidable late-game trio of Junichi Tazawa, Koji Uehara, and Craig Kimbrel, while the Orioles have a fantastic triumvirate of their own in Dylan Bundy, Darren O’Day, and Zach Britton. Both teams are tough to beat when they have a lead in the late innings.

The Sox and Orioles have similar teams, so it’s fitting that they just split a four-game series at Camden Yards while scoring the exact same amount of runs. Their lineups beat the crap out of each other, culminating in two wild slugfests on Wednesday and Thursday night. Expect the season to play out in a similar fashion as both clubs duke it out for the top spot in the AL East.

Rivalry Resumes This Weekend

After sweeping the Yankees at Fenway Park last weekend, the Red Sox look to break out the brooms again when baseball’s most storied rivalry resumes this weekend at Yankee Stadium.

The divisional foes are heading in opposite directions as they begin their second series of the seasonRivalry Resumes This Weekend. The Sox have surged into first place with their recent hot streak, winning nine of their past 11 to overtake Baltimore at the top of the AL East. The slumping Yankees, meanwhile, are languishing in last place, seven games back of Boston.

Pitching Matchups Favor Sox

Boston looks to keep rolling when the rivalry resumes this weekend behind Rick Porcello, who’s pitching like an ace these days. Porcello is off to a 5-0 start and hasn’t allowed an earned run in 13 2/3 innings, the last seven of which came in Saturday’s 8-0 rout of the Bombers. His opponent, Michael Pineda, will have to be more efficient with his pitches to win their rematch; Pineda needed 106 pitches to get through five innings last time and has yet to go past the sixth this year.

Saturday’s matinee features a frustratingly inconsistent duo in David Price and Nathan Eovaldi, both of whom can be dominant when they’re on but have been terrible when they’re not.  Price, for instance, leads the league in strikeouts and earned runs—a rare combination. Eovaldi has also been up and down, averaging over a strikeout per inning but carrying a 5.46 ERA. Both struggled in their most recent duel, allowing six runs apiece in Sunday’s slugfest. If both bring their best stuff, however, the final score will be 2-1 instead of 8-7.

Sunday’s series finale could go either way, with Steven Wright on the hill for Boston against New York’s Luis Severino. Wright has been a revelation with a 1.67 ERA and 1.14 WHIP in five starts this year, but like all knuckleballers he’s completely unpredictable. The same could be said of Severino, who has a 6.31 ERA this year but posted a 2.89 ERA last year. The last time either appeared in a Yankees-Sox game was last August, when Severino made his major league debut against Wright at The Stadium. Both were fantastic, allowing only one run each as Boston edged New York 2-1, so their rematch certainly has pitching duel potential.

Another Sweep?

Based on pitching matchups and recent results, Boston should be favorites in every game. The Red Sox have their top three starters going this series, while the Yankees will be without their two best (Masahiro Tanaka and CC Sabathia). Both Porcello and Wright have outperformed their respective counterparts by a wide margin this year, while Price is a good bet to bounce back. None of them are expected to face much resistance from a Yankees lineup that ranks last in the AL in runs and just lost Alex Rodriguez to the DL.

Predicting a sweep is always risky given the sheer randomness of baseball, but don’t be surprised if Boston sweeps their arch-nemesis again when the rivalry resumes this weekend.

Blue Jays Starter Marcus Stroman Rehabs at McCoy Stadium

As the Red Sox focus on letting their young players get playing time down the stretch, the American League East leading Blue Jays are looking forward to getting back one of their key players for the stretch run. Starting Pitcher Marcus Stroman made a rehab appearance with the Buffalo Bisons on Monday at McCoy Stadium and said he is ready to return.

Stroman, 24, who is at the end of a crazy recovery after tearing his knee in Spring Marcus StromanTraining just fielding his position, seems to be done talking about his knee and ready to start for the Blue Jays. Stroman won 11 games for the Blue Jays last season in 20 starts and could take the rotation spot of Drew Hutchison, who has double digit wins but a very high ERA. Hutchison has already been demoted this season and would likely move to the bullpen if the Blue Jays decide Stroman is ready to return to the rotation.

If Stroman were to return to the rotation on regular rest, his first start of the season would come this Saturday against the Yankees at Yankee Stadium.

In 3 innings of work Stroman had a line of 8 H, 4 ER, 4 BB and 5 K. Obviously not the line you look to get in 3 innings of work against a PawSox lineup that has been ripped apart due the Red Sox struggles and injuries but Stroman seemed upbeat and even remarked that Boston affiliates have hit him well before.

Stroman tore his knee on March 10th during fielding drills in Spring Training and began a long road to recovery. Knee injuries, most expect to take a full year but some have come back sooner, Adrian Peterson comes to mind of the Minnesota Vikings. Stroman even went back to class at Duke University to finish his degree while rehabbing.

The prolific Toronto offense is what comes to mind when most think of the Blue Jays but the pitching since the acquisition of David Price is what has been of note for the Jays. With all the moves the Blue Jays made this season it looks like they are going for it and Marcus Stroman will soon be back sooner than many thought.

AL East Could Be Open Again

The Red Sox are doing it again – playing well enough to make me think they could go on a run. The Red Sox have gone 5-2 in their last 7 games against AL East opposition, and have won 3 of their last 4 series (8-5 overall). Which includes a series victory against the defending AL champs, the Kansas City Royals, by the way.

If they want to have any chance at making a run, Gordon Edes points out that they wouldAL East Red Sox 2015 have to go on a ridiculous tear worthy of what the 2004 Red Sox did. Hypothetically, if 90 wins were enough to win the AL East, the Red Sox would have to go 53-28 for the rest of the season. As Edes points out, the only time the Red Sox have been able to put together that kind of run since the schedule moved to 162 games in 1961 is when they went 54-27 down the stretch in 2004 en route to a World Series title.

Could they do it? Talent-wise, they might (key word being might!) be able to. In reality, though, probably not, given the way this season has gone. The problem, as Edes points out (and I agree with him), is that the 2004 team was loaded – they had Curt Schilling (still in top form), Pedro Martinez, the best 3-4 offensive combination at the time in David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez, and a Gold Glove infield, among other pieces. The 2015 team falls woefully short of that, to say the least.

They’ll have to make a few trade deadline deals and fill some of their holes if they want to have any shot of contending for the AL East this year, and I hope they do. If they can make a few moves without breaking their farm system while fetching good, major league-ready talent in return, then I’d be for it.

This could just be me starting to tell myself that there’s still hope where there is none, but I hope not. I’m sick of losing, and I would love to see the Red Sox at least make some kind of effort to get back into contention for the AL East. And hope some of the other guys

Hey, I can dream, can’t I? We’re only 6.5 out at the moment.