Mookie Betts heating up at the right time for Boston

It’s no secret that the Red Sox have not been impressive in the opening month of their title defense. After all, finishing April at a 13-17 clip is nothing short of a disappointment to start 2019. The Sox have won 7 of their last 11 and there’s been big reason for that: Mookie Betts heating up.

The 2018 AL MVP generally starts his seasons with a cold couple of weeks, and this Mookie Betts heating upcampaign was no different. Up until about two weeks ago, Betts was slashing .212/.321/.394. Those are numbers that a lot of players would be happy with. But the Red Sox right fielder is capable of much more, and that is starting to show.

Over the 11 games since, he has started to blossom back into form. He’s hit .405 (17-for-42) with five doubles, two homers and seven RBI. But not only do the numbers suggest that he is starting to find his stride, it is clear that his approach at the plate improved as well.

A change in approach has re-calibrated Betts’ bat

Mookie Betts was the topic of discussion last night when Alex Speier of the Boston Globe joined the NESN broadcast booth. Speier pointed out that Betts had been allowing pitchers to work further into counts, a deviation from his 2018 approach. Instead of jumping on a 1-0 fastball, the right fielder was letting those pitches go by. More recently, you will notice Betts not taking strikes in the box, but instead jumping all over a middling pitch and driving it. The more aggressive approach has led to Betts becoming the middle-of-the-order hitter that manager Alex Cora envisioned.

Not only has Betts been “attacking the strike zone” as Cora would call it, but he has also started to spray the ball all over the field. According to Speier, Betts was a heavy-pull hitter through most of the 2018 regular season. But he started to shoot the ball to the opposite field at the end of the season. Betts has multiple hits in five of his last six games, and he has used all different parts of the field to place them. In Tuesday night’s game, Betts ripped a solo homer to dead center and slapped a single between a shift to left. Throughout this scorching streak, the decorated youngster has also started to avoid the pull-heavy tendencies and starting spraying hits to the opposite field based on pitch location.

Betts is taking off and becoming one of, if not the league’s hottest, hitters. Wherever Mookie goes, the Red Sox go. If he continues to produce at this level the Red Sox will be ready to re-enter the division title race.

The Boston Blame Game

Right now, the Red Sox are hanging on for dear life near the bottom of the division. The only real bright spot is the sweep of the Rays in Tampa. Many fans were happy that the core group from last year is back. However, many are wondering if more could have been done. Thus begins the Boston blame game.

With the departures of Joe Kelly to the Dodgers and Craig Kimbrel to the unknown, theboston blame Red Sox bullpen is a mystery. The same can be said for the rest of the roster. In the past, however, the bullpen in Boston has been a wildcard. You never know what is going to happen next.

Where Does the Boston Blame Lie?

There are so many things that have and can go wrong. There are also many things that can go right. However, for the Red Sox, not much has gone right for them. Where do we begin? How about the very quiet Boston offseason.

This past offseason following the World Series win was kind of quiet in Boston. While other teams were signing and trading, It seemed like not a lot was going on in the front office. The most that was done was the trade that brought relief pitcher, Colten Brewer to Boston. Brewer, who is entering his second season in the majors, played for the San Diego Padres last season.

Many teams were trading right off the bat. Teams such as the Seattle Mariners and the Tampa Bay Rays make some big moves to make their teams as successful as they are now. Probably the least shocking issues was the free agent market. With big names like Manny Machado and Bryce Harper not signing deals right away, it’s no surprise that many players are still waiting.

Still, even with most of the champs staying in Boston, it’s hard not to point fingers and blame the front office for not doing more. Dave Dombrowski basically stated that he didn’t want to do a whole lot. That was evident, especially with relievers going to other teams in free agency. I get it, you want the core team to stick together and keep winning. However, it’s almost May, and the Red Sox are falling behind.

Spring Training

It’s tough to not look at the Red Sox’s Spring Training record and question what could have gone differently. Alex Cora and company only allowed the core starters to pitch certain innings and games. This has led to a slow start for guys like Chris Sale and Rick Porcello. Both starters have been open with their struggles, and blame themselves for the lack of good pitching during their regular season starts.

The Bullpen

Anytime Red Sox Nation sees a pitcher warming up in the bullpen, we either get a good feeling, or a bad feeling. For example, in the game against the New York Yankees on April 17th, Nathan Eovaldi was pitching a good game, and was taken out in the 7th inning. Brandon Workman came in, and gave up a single, and walked two batters before being taken out with the bases loaded and one out in the inning. This led to Brett Gardner hitting the game winning grand slam off of Ryan Braiser.

As of right now, the bullpen consists of Workman, Braiser, Matt Barnes, Brewer, Heath Hembree, Travis Lakins, Tyler Thornburg and Marcus Walden. Many of these pitchers, with the exception of Lakins, have many years of major league experience. Lakins, who was called up and made his MLB debut on April 23rd against Detroit has an ERA of 3.38. He went 2.2 innings, striking out two in the loss to the Tigers.

The Future

The Red Sox have a lot of work to do over the next few weeks. With many players on the injured list, the bright spot is seeing rookie Michael Chavis contributing to the club. The infielder made his Major League debut against Tampa Bay on April 20th. So far, he is batting .214, with one home run and two RBI’s. He has also transitioned to second base, after playing third and first in the minors.

Does Red Sox Nation still trust Cora? It’s tough to tell. The Red Sox haven’t been playing their best, and when they do, it’s only one or two games. There are many factors in the Boston blame game, however, some are more evident than others.

With May right around the corner, it’s a guess that the Red Sox will turn a corner. A corner in which it shows them heading to the top. After all, we are the defending World Series Champions.

Red Sox Sweep the Rays thanks to lifts from Moreland, others

You have tremendous foresight if you were expecting to see the Red Sox sweep the Rays after a weekend series in Tampa. With the tabloids barking for the real Red Sox to stand up, the World Champions were facing adversity really for the first time under Alex Cora. That might still be the case, as Boston still sits at just 9-13 AFTER a series sweep. But the Red Sox are finally showing real signs of shaking their funk.

The Red Sox sweep the Rays with a push from Mookie Betts

As has been the case since Betts showed MVP-ability in 2016, the team goes when he Red Sox Sweep the Raysgoes. When he struggles, so does the offense. It’s no secret Betts was scuffling entering play on Friday, going just 2 of 23 in his last seven games. That changed when he smacked a homer and a double to help lift the Sox over the Rays 6-4 to open the series. Case in point, as he went back-to-back with Mitch Moreland on home runs in the series opening victory. He continued that approach into the next two games. He added two more hits apiece in each contest. If the 2018 MVP continues to stay hot, then he very well might carry the Red Sox back to form.

The starting pitching continues to improve, and that starts with David Price

Price has arguably been the rotation’s most reliable thrower to this point in 2019. While the southpaw has tossed just one quality start so far, he has not allowed more than four runs in a start. Price has worked less than six innings only once too. Given the inconsistencies of Chris Sale, Nathan Eovaldi, Rick Porcello and Eduardo Rodriguez, Price’s outings have given the team a chance to win each time out. He was at his best versus Baltimore on 4/14 (7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 7 K) but worked out of jams and held the Rays to two runs over five innings with 10 strikeouts on Sunday afternoon. With Eovaldi hitting the injured list, and Chris Sale still yet to truly put it together, Price’s importance cannot be overstated to the rotation’s long term success.

Martinez, Moreland, and Benintendi are all off to strong starts

As important as Betts’ oil is to grease the Red Sox’ engine, the team might be off to an even worse start if it weren’t for J.D. Martinez, Andrew Benintendi, and, most notably, Moreland. Through Sunday, Moreland lead the team in homers (7) and RBI (14), and mashed most of those homers to either tie or give the Red Sox the lead. The former Texas Ranger homered again Sunday to pull the Sox within one. Martinez has been one of the best hitters in baseball, hitting .350 with a 1.004 OPS, including four homers and 11 RBI. He is also one of three players (Rafael Devers and Betts) to appear in every game so far. Benintendi crushed his first career grand slam on Saturday to give Boston an early lead. Coupled with his strong defense in the field, the Cincinnati native figures to continue to break out in 2019.

If you expected to read the headline “Red Sox Sweep the Rays” on Monday, you also see why the team has gotten back on track. If the Sox want to keep winning, it is going to take more than what they have received so far from the roster. But a three-game sweep of the first-place Rays is a good starting point. They can now look forward to the upcoming home stand with three straight wins under their belt.

The Top Prospect Gets The Call

Before their game against the Tampa Bay Rays, the Red Sox made some changes to the club. With injuries to Dustin Pedroia, Eduardo Nunez and Brock Holt, it’s no surprise that the Red Sox have called up top prospect, Michael Chavis.

Chavis, who is regarded as the number one prospect in the Red Sox organization, willtop prospect play a big part with the big league club. After spending the last few weeks in Pawtucket, he is ready to showcase his work.

The Road To Boston

Chavis was drafted in the first round of the 2014 MLB draft, and was the 26th selection overall. Although he originally committed to Clemson University, Chavis signed with the Boston Red Sox. The Gatorade Player of the Year started his career with the Gulf Coast League Red Sox. There, he batted .269, with one home run and 16 RBI’s over 39 games. The third baseman led the GCL Red Sox to a title in 2014 as well.

In total, Chavis played in six minor league seasons before his call up on April 19th 2019. He started with the Greenville Drive in 2015, and moved up to Pawtucket last season. In 2017, Chavis also played in the Arizona Fall League for the Peoria Javelinas.

Top Prospect Made An Impact in Fort Myers

Chavss was announced as the Red Sox’s #1 prospect prior to Spring Training. Michael Chavis proved his worth during those games. Wearing the number 65, the 23 year old right hander played in eleven games, batting .273 with four home runs and ten RBI’s.

Chavis, who is mainly an infielder, made an impression on the Red Sox staff. Despite being sent to the minors to start the season, many knew it was a matter of time before he would be called up. With the Pawtucket Red Sox this season, he saw playing time at a new position, second base.

Only The Beginning

Despite only playing in a handful of games at second base, the Red Sox still called up Chavis. Manager Alex Cora stated that despite this, Chavis will see playing time. With the call up, Chavis will be a big help offensively. He can also split playing time with Rafael Devers.

In the game last night against the Rays, Chavis got his first big league hit. The pinch hit double was a great sign of things to come.

Time to worry about the 2019 Boston Red Sox

The 2019 Boston Red Sox have officially instilled worry and concern in a city and region that have high hopes for a repeat championship season in Boston. After getting swept by their arch-rival New York Yankees last night in a 5-3 loss, the Red Sox have now fallen to 6-13, good for dead last in the American League East. The old proverbial baseball of “it’s still too early to panic” may ring true. However, the signs of improvement of this team have been far and in between so far this season.

What is wrong with the Red Sox?

In order to really assess what’s wrong with the Red Sox in 2019, one should look closely2019 Boston Red Sox at the root of the issue of this team. The overall attitude of this team entering Spring Training simply put was way too cavalier, dare I say too cocky/arrogant. To be brutally honest, the attitude and mindset of the team started with both Dave Dombrowski and Manager Alex Cora. Dombrowski was too casual and lackadaisical in not making improvements to the pitching staff, and now the pitching staff currently has the worst run differential in Major League Baseball.

Alex Cora is not free of blame in this at all. After all, he enforced the idea of the starting pitchers not having a heavy workload in Spring Training considering the workload the pitching staff had last October. That idea has backfired big time, none more than with Chris Sale as he is 0-4 with an 8.50 ERA. The bullpen has not fared any better, as they entered today ranked 22nd in Major League Baseball in bullpen ERA.

Red Sox’ mental errors are costing this team

One of the hallmarks of 2018 Boston Red Sox was their ability to do all of the little things right. However, in 2019 the Red Sox have committed some outrageous mental errors in the field that has cost them ballgames.

One example was when the Red Sox were on their season-opening 11 game road trip in Oakland, playing the Athletics on April 4th. Jackie Bradley Jr. and Mookie Betts are two Gold Glove-winning outfielders; which is part of what made this particular instance so maddening for Red Sox fans. Stephen Piscotty hits a 361-foot fly ball to right centerfield, Bradley Jr. and Betts were converging on the fly ball. Bradley Jr., being the centerfielder, should have called off Betts to make the catch. Instead, Bradley Jr. and Betts looked at each other as the ball drops in and hops over the wall for a ground rule double.

This one example is a microcosm of issues this team has had throughout this season. The hitters have not been as aggressive in their offensive approach at the plate. As a result, the team has is batting .229, which is 20th in Major League Baseball. They are struggling to reach base as they have a team On-Base Percentage of .300, which ranks 21st in Major League Baseball.

Can the 2019 Red Sox turn this season around?

The Red Sox have too much talent not to be able to turn their season around. Yes, the season is still young. Yes, the team is struggling in all facets of the game. It’s only 19 games into the season, yet it is hard not to be concerned with this team moving forward. This team can turn their season around, but they will need to do it now.

Swihart Designated for Assignment: A Confusing Move

When you begin a season 6-12, especially in a large market, fans react impulsively. If certain players get off to bad starts, people call for their heads. It is not necessarily fair, but it is the nature of a place like big-market Boston. With catcher Blake Swihart being let go after just 17 games, it indeed felt impulsive. Considering turmoil across the rotation, lack of bullpen depth, and an anemic offense, it indeed seemed time for a change. With Swihart designated for assignment, the Red Sox tried to solve a litany of issues by moving one role player, and it’ is hard to understand why.

With Swihart designated for assignment, the roster subtracted a versatile, cost-Swihart Designated for Assignmentcontrolled player yet to blossom. As Alex Cora tussled with how to use the former first round pick throughout 2018, the consensus was that he was a valuable trade chip that provided depth off the bench. The Red Sox never moved him, and it seemed to pay off in the second half after Swihart flashed his ability with increased playing time. 2019 was when Swihart was going to get a real shot at becoming the catcher of the future. Christian Vazquez would get his innings, but Swihart was going to get ample time on the diamond. But after just a handful of contests, a sputtering team decided to make a move. It just does not feel like the right one.

Swihart was never really given a clear path to a major role

With Swihart designated for assignment, it might easy to forget his origins. A first round pick, 26th overall out of New Mexico in 2011, he brought with him a Gatorade National Player of the Year award. The Red Sox drooled over his athleticism, seeing him as a steal at 26 in the first round. He surfaced in the bigs in 2015, which at the time felt a tad premature. He was solid across 84 games as a rookie, particularly showing defensive improvement as the season progressed. It was 2016 where the wheels came off. Trying to incorporate Vazquez back into the mix meant moving Swihart around the field to find playing time. After a nasty ankle injury in left field, it took him nearly two entire seasons to return to full health. From there, Swihart played spottily all over the place, and never settled in. Since the beginning of 2018, there has never been a clear spot for him, and that has now shown through with this DFA.

Removing Swihart hurts the team’s versatility

It is tough to make sense of why removing a cheap, young, versatile player was the best move. On a roster that has underwhelmed, Swihart at least provided intrigue. Despite management shifting his focus to catching in 2019, he still managed to appear at other positions. How could the Red Sox justify keeping him all last season, just to DFA him now? In comparison to other players such as Eduardo Nunez, who is relegated to the infield, why remove the guy that can move around the diamond? Sure, Swihart’s .213/.310/.385 slash line through 12 games played is unimpressive. But looking at what other role players have offered so far, it really is odd to make him the (first?) fall guy.

Perhaps there are issues off the field that the fan base does not know about. Maybe Blake Swihart was not a long term solution. Whatever the case, his days in Boston are numbered, and it remains to be seen what baseball holds for his future.