Red Sox Post All-Star Break Review

The Boston Red Sox entered the All-Star break at 68-30. That was the best record in Major League Baseball, and they’ve kept a firm grasp on that honor. Back on July 2nd, Rick Porcello and the Sox took down the Washington Nationals 4-3. You may remember Porcello driving a shot into the gap and clearing the bases off a pitch from reigning NL Cy Young winner Max Scherzer to put Boston ahead. They went on to win the next nine contests. In the series opener against the Blue Jays, you may remember Mookie Betts’ at-bat heard around the world when he launched a grand slam over the Green Monster on the 13th pitch he saw. If you haven’t seen it, you should.

Boston’s next loss came eleven days later, on Friday the 13th no less, in their second All Star breakgame against the Blue Jays. The bad luck didn’t last long, however. The following game, the Sox and Jays headed to extra innings knotted at 2 when Xander Bogaerts stepped to the plate with the bases loaded. One run was all Boston needed, but Bogaerts went ahead and sent one over the fence in dead center instead, walking the game off in glorious fashion. It was Boston’s first walk-off grand slam since the year 2000.

Just a year after not hitting a single grand slam, the Sox, with nine at the break, are in striking distance of the franchise record for grand slams in a season (11), and the MLB record (14). The Red Sox concluded the first half winning 12 of their last 13 contests and 17 of their last 20. Now, as Boston’s dominant pace continues, let’s take a look back on the first half for the winningest team in Major League Baseball.

Starting Pitching

For the first time in Red Sox history, Boston entered the break with four pitchers with ten or more wins. Porcello and Eduardo Rodriguez have eleven, while Chris Sale and David Price, each with ten, are just behind.

Rodriguez continues to progress in Boston, with his 11-3 record, 3.44 ERA, and 110 strikeouts on pace to be career-highs. He was just placed on the ten-day disabled list with a right ankle sprain and is still sidelined to this day. While Porcello hasn’t returned to his Cy Young form from two years ago, he remains a respectable arm in the middle of the rotation. However, Porcello looked like Cy Young himself in his recent start against the Yankees, where he tossed a complete, one-hit gem of a game that aided the Sox in their relentless sweep of New York, comfortably in second place in the AL East.

Price continues to be a wild card with his injury hiccups and apparent inability to pitch against the Yankees. At 10-6 with an ERA north of four, there is certainly room for improvement from Boston’s 217-million-dollar southpaw. While we’re on the subject, Price looked to find some sort of groove against the Yankees in their last series. He wasn’t dominant, but it was a significant step in the right direction. Steven Wright and Drew Pomeranz will likely return to health soon after the break, and the claim for the fifth rotation spot is something to keep an eye on. Meanwhile, Sale, with an AL-best 2.23 ERA and MLB-best 188 strikeouts, is throwing as well as anyone in the MLB and is a front-runner for the American League Cy Young. I’ve paid my respects to him already.

Relief Pitching

In a word, unimpressive. We all know about Carson Smith by now. Joe Kelly has enjoyed a successful year as Boston’s setup man, but his ERA had ballooned to 4.31 recently after a stretch of shaky outings. Heath Hembree and Brian Johnson haven’t been anything special, and Tyler Thornburg had only appeared in four games. Craig Kimbrel had 30 saves at the break and continues to look like one of the best closers in baseball. But unfortunately, he can’t do it all.

Offense

The main reason for the best first half in franchise history? This right here. Mookie Betts led Major League Baseball with a .359 batting average and is gunning for MVP honors. J.D. Martinez, who batted .328, is third, and his 29 home runs and 80 runs batted in led the league at the break. The influence of Martinez on this lineup has been nothing short of incredible. He continues to make his case for one of the best free agent acquisitions the Red Sox have ever made. Expect his name right next to Mookie’s on the MVP ballot.

At the turning point in the season, Xander Bogaerts had already surpassed his 2017 home run total and matched his RBI total. Mitch Moreland played his way to his first career All-Star game in his second season in Beantown. Andrew Benintendi was flat out robbed of an All-Star appearance. He is on pace for career-highs in batting average, stolen bases, home runs, doubles, and RBI. The struggles of Jackie Bradley Jr. subsided as the first half wound down and he looks to have found some sort of groove at the plate. Newly acquired Steve Pearce is fitting in nicely so far. Through nine games, he’s batting .458 and is another cog in the stacked Red Sox lineup. Oh, and he absolutely torched the Yankees in the series sweep, hitting four dingers and driving in eight runs.

Review of the Red Sox After the All-Star Break

The Red Sox entered the break with a 4.5 game lead on the Yankees in the AL East, and it has skyrocketed since then. Betts, Martinez, Moreland, Sale, and Kimbrel all secured a trip to the All-Star Game. The Sox were the only team in the American League with multiple starters in the All-Star Game (Betts, Martinez).

Looking back, the Red Sox started the year 17-2 on their way to the best start in franchise history. And they hit the All-Star break after going 17-3 over their last 20. The Boston Red Sox are statistically the best team in Major League Baseball. If their historic first half is any indication, this ballclub will be a force to be reckoned with come October.

David Ortiz sent home with illness

David Ortiz was sent home Sunday with a respiratory illness on Sunday, meaning he missed the 8-6 loss to arch rivals, the New York Yankees. And, of course, the conspiracy theories were flying. Most suggested that Ortiz was sent home because he didn’t want to play first base, which John Farrell had floated around as an before the All Star Break.

Farrell told the media that he sent David Ortiz home before the first pitch on a doctor’s David Ortiz orders. According to ESPN, John Farrell became aware that Ortiz might not play last night and had checked in with Ortiz via text Saturday night after the team’s win that night, and in person on Sunday morning. When asked if it could impact his availability after the All Star Break, Farrell just said that the team will check on him daily, and that he hoped it wouldn’t.

Now, to the fun stuff: The conspiracy that David was sent home for refusing to play first base. It makes sense from a certain perspective, but I personally find it hard to believe that David Ortiz would have intentionally sat out to avoid playing first. Yes, his ego has become pretty big at times in light of the fact that he played a huge role in bringing Boston 3 World Series titles, but my feeling is that he still wants to help this team get back on track. If he was healthy, I think he most likely would have, at the minimum, kept himself available as a late-game pinch hitter if he didn’t feel comfortable at first for that particular game.

Personally, I have to wonder if this is frustration towards a generally under performing team over the last couple of years getting worse, especially against the Yankees. The Yankees have now won 5 straight series at Fenway Park dating back to last year, per ESPN, which stings for Red Sox fans. Bad enough the team can’t beat our arch rivals at the moment, but to lose 5 home series in a row in 2 years is frustrating beyond belief.

Just a quick note to Red Sox fans: David Ortiz isn’t the guy to look at, at least for this game. The team on the field didn’t get the job done on Sunday, so direct your frustration towards them. If it turns out there is something in the “David wasn’t really sick” theories, then you have every right to be angry at him, but for now, your frustration should be directed at the guys who were actually taking part in the game on Sunday.

Red Sox In Need Of All-Star Break

This season has been anything but good for the Boston Red Sox.  At this point in the year, the Sox have a record of 27-37 (as of Tuesday 6/16), and are currently the only team in the American League East who has a losing record.  Loyal Sox fans are still somewhat optimistic, but that optimism is quickly starting to go away.  And with just 25 more games until the team gets four days off for the All-Star break, this may be just what the team needs.

One of the toughest parts to the Major League season for a team that is playing terrible isRed Sox the fact that there is very little time off.  In any of the other major sports, if a team has a bad game, or stretch of games, they’ll usually have at least a day or two to regain some confidence and clear their heads, but not in baseball.  In baseball, teams will typically only get one or two days off a month.  With the way the Red Sox have been playing, they will need more than just a day or two off though.

Right now, the Sox are on a six game losing streak.  The team has been swept in back-to-back series by the Blue Jays and Orioles, two division rivals.  To make it even worse, this losing streak comes right after the team had just completed it’s first sweep of the season, and was actually starting to show some confidence.  But they’re now back to their losing ways.

There was, and still is somewhat, one positive part to this season, and that is Eduardo Rodriguez.  Rodriguez is the rookie left-handed starting pitcher who came out of the gates on fire.  Entering his last start, he had an ERA of 0.44, and had one of the best debuts by a rookie in team history.  But it seems like reality checked in during his last start against the Blue Jays where he lasted only 4 2/3 innings, allowing nine runs on eight hits in a 13-5 loss.  As a Red Sox fan, let’s hope that this was just one bad game that he will snap out of soon.

Rodriguez now has a record of 2-1, he is the only Sox starter with a winning record.  Wade Miley leads the team with five wins, but that is not a lot for a team at this point in the season.  The Sox bats aren’t looking any better either.  Dustin Pedroia stands as the only player hitting over .300 on the season.  These two things put together can only be a recipe for losing.

Now let’s try to look at things more positive.  There is still many more games to be played, and any sports fan knows that anything can happen in sports.  But with how things are looking now, the Sox need to turn things around soon.  The Sox finish the first half of the season with a three game series against the Yankees at Fenway Park.  I’d say they need to take at least two of these games to build some type of momentum and confidence going into the All-Star break, or this may end up being one of the worst seasons in Red Sox history.

The Unfortunate Inconsistency of the Red Sox Offense

Red Sox offense A.J. Pierzynski

The Red Sox offense lit up the Yankees on Sunday night, giving us hopes that it would continue on Monday against the Cubs. Well, that could not have been further from truth. After a night of 12 hits and eight walks, the Red Sox were almost no-hit by Jake Arrieta, ending up with two hits and one walk.

The addition of Mookie Betts to the lineup provided hope for a potential spark to the poor offense, however he has looked a bit shaky in the outfield. With Shane Victorino’s rehab stint shut down, it appears that Betts will have some time to prove himself in the majors both at the plate and in the outfield.

It seems that pretty much every time the Sox start hitting, they can’t carry it over to the next game. There were only two occasions in the month of June where the Sox scored five or more runs in two consecutive games and seven games total. Their 84 runs in 28 games last month equals exactly three runs per game, which is nowhere near where it needs to be.

There are about two weeks left before the All-Star break and the Red Sox have to figure things out in that period. With the Orioles, White Sox, and Astros on their slate, it would be a great time to pick up some wins and gain some more ground in the AL East race.

It has been rumored that some Red Sox might be dealt at the deadline, including big names like Jon Lester and John Lackey. If the Sox work their way back into the thick of things, I don’t see them being moved. There is a chance that A.J. Pierzynski may be moved though, but that all depends on whether he gets the bat going. He has been relatively productive compared to the rest of the team, but with two catching prospects on the rise in Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart, he could be expendable.