Home Runs Fuel IronPigs in 5-0 Win

PAWTUCKET, R.I. — The IronPigs impressive horde of home run hitters drilled a trio of solo shots en route to a 5-0 win over the Pawtucket Red Sox on a rainy Monday night IronPigsat McCoy Stadium. The PawSox (34-33) were held to just five hits. Including three singles from designated hitter Allen Craig and dropped the opener of the three-game set with the IronPigs (46-24). Lehigh Valley began the night with the third-best record in all of full-season Minor League Baseball.

 

Pitching Performances

PawSox starter Shawn Haviland (L, 3-5) worked six-plus innings and yielded five runs on seven hits with six strikeouts. Lefty Josh Smith, in his second appearance since being promoted from Double-A Portland, added three shutout stanzas.

Lehigh Valley starter and former No. 1 overall pick Mark Appel (W, 5-3) delivered 8.1 shutout innings in the longest outing of his professional career, which now spans 75 starts. The 25-year old fanned eight, walked three and gave up five hits before leaving after 119 pitches with a 5-0 lead and runners at the corners with one out in the bottom of the ninth.

Additionally, IronPigs slugging first baseman Rhys Hoskins hit a pair of solo home runs, moving into the International League lead with his 16th and 17th long balls.

Lehigh Valley leadoff man Cam Perkins ripped a solo shot to left field to begin the ballgame, and Hoskins started the second with a blast to center to make it 2-0.

Following zeroes over the next four frames, Hoskins led off the seventh by vaulting the third pitch he saw to left field to extend the gap to 3-0. Then, after a trio of consecutive singles, IronPigs No. 9 hitter Angelo Mora and Perkins lofted sacrifice flies to make it 5-0.

The Road Ahead for the PawSox and IronPigs

Pawtucket continued its three-game series against Lehigh Valley on Tuesday at McCoy Stadium at 7:05 p.m. Jalen Beeks squared off against Jake Thompson.

Radio coverage on of PawSox games can always be found on WHJJ (920 AM) and throughout the PawSox Radio Network beginning with the PawSox Pre-Game Show.

Pawtucket Pitchers Don’t Offer Much Relief

It’s no secret that the Red Sox pitching staff is struggling. David Price isn’t 100% yet. Drew Pomeranz can’t quite maintain consistency. Rick Porcello can’t win a game. Chris Sale is the only one who’s dominating opposing pitchers. Unfortunately, AAA Pawtucket pitchers don’t offer the Boston Red Sox much in terms of relief.

Henry Owens Continues To Struggle

Henry Owens signed with the Red Sox as a 1st round draft pick (36th overall) in 2011.pawtucket pitchers Many touted him as an eventual addition to the Red Sox rotation but his performance in Boston has been anything but promising. In 16 MLB game starts between 2015 and 2016 Owens is 4-6 with a 5.19 ERA. For now Owens is a mainstay in Pawtucket where he has a  4-4 record with a 3.72 ERA as of June 17th. Owens’ main problem continues to be his control. Unfortunately, unless we see some dramatic improvement, Owens likely won’t make it to the majors anytime soon.

Noe Ramirez Is Questionable

Noe Ramirez signed with the Red Sox in 2011 in the fourth round (142nd overall). While he’s currently 3-2 in Pawtucket as of June 18th, his MLB debut keeps many doubtful about his future. He made his debut with the Red Sox in July of 2015 and pitched an inning of relief. His debut proved disastrous. Ramirez allowed four runs (one unearned) on three hits, hit a batter, and struck out one while picking up the loss. Not exactly a debut that strikes confidence.

Brandon Workman’s 2014 Record Still Haunts Him

Brandon Workman has a 3-1 record with Pawtucket so far this season. Workman pitched well in 2013 finished with a 6-3 record including a perfect 8th inning in Game 6 of the 2013 World Series. 2014 was another story. Not only did he finish with a 1-10 record for a .091 winning percentage, but he received a six game suspension for throwing behind the Tampa Bay Rays’ Evan Longoria. A 7-13 MLB record with a suspension under his belt doesn’t make it likely he’ll move up to Boston anytime soon.

Pawtucket Hitters Don’t Offer Much Either

While Pawtucket pitchers aren’t a beacon of hope right now, their hitters aren’t faring much better. Blake Swihart, once a promising player, now lingers in Pawtucket with a .210 batting average as of June 17th. Boston once thought they’d make Swihart a staple behind the plate, or even in left field. But Christian Vazquez is playing better. Andrew Benintendi is doing well in left field. This leaves Swihart’s role with the Red Sox in question. Then there’s Rusney Castillo who, after signing a $72.5 million contact, was supposed to be the next big thing in Boston. While he played okay in 2015 with a .253 batting average, he continues to linger in Pawtucket and goes up to Boston for a cup of coffee here and there. Then there’s Allen Craig…

It’s hard to assign 100% of the blame to these players, especially the hitters. Except for 3rd base, Boston has an everyday man with plenty of utility players to plug the holes. But these players will find it difficult to advance if they’re not traded or start playing better, especially the Pawtucket pitchers.

The Obstruction of Potential: The Play That Derailed Two Careers

Even with unrivaled success this millennia, Boston fans do not often forget those times that did not go right for them. They never forget that which went horribly wrong, even if it was corrected in the end.

The 2013 World Series championship was unforgettable for Boston and the city’s baseballObstruction fans. When seemingly everything went right for the Red Sox that year, there was a moment in that World Series where it looked like it would all fall apart. There was one moment where Red Sox nation felt like Raiders fans after the Tuck Rule in 2001. That one moment did not necessarily damn the series, but it could have damned two once-promising MLB careers.

Late in Game Three, St. Louis’s Allen Craig came around third after an overthrow. After tripping over third baseman Will Middlebrooks, he came around to score the winning run via an obstruction call. If not for the call, Craig would have been out by five feet, but alas the Cardinals suddenly had a 2-1 series lead.  While the call had Bostonians up in arms, the Red Sox won the next three games to claim their eighth world championship. The obstruction could be seen; the downward spiral of the two players’ careers could not.

Allen Craig’s Downfall

At the 2014 trade deadline, these two teams were heading in opposite directions. With St. Louis making a playoff push, they traded Craig along with Joe Kelly to Boston in exchange for John Lackey. Craig was under team control for three and a half more years with a club option for 2018. He was definitely one of the hardest hitters in the Cardinals’ lineup. The only thing Craig hit in Boston (and Pawtucket) was a wall.

In 29 games with Boston in 2014, he hit a brutal .128 with a whopping two RBI, enough to send the biggest optimists into a fit of pure rage. 2015 was not much better. He hit .152 in 36 games, but surpassed his RBI total of 2014, churning out three. Since then, he’s gotten to know Pawtucket better than their own mayor. This past season, he appeared in 22 games for the Pawtucket Red Sox, raking to the tune of a .173 average and slugging .250 along with his one homer and six RBI.

In 2013, Craig had 97 RBI for the Cardinals. In the two and a half seasons since that he’s been with the Red Sox, he has 41 split between his time in Boston and Pawtucket. The Red Sox will undoubtedly not pick up his option after this year and will owe him 13 million dollars in 2018. To call Craig a disappointment would be an insult to all the disappointments who never got a hug from their dad. Craig was a catastrophic failure.

The Drop-Off of Will Middlebrooks

The road for Will Middlebrooks since earning a ring has not been much friendlier. He broke out in 2012 where he hit 15 homers in his first big league season. His average subsequently dipped from .288 to .227 in 2013. Middlebrooks made it through the 2014 season with Boston, hitting .191 with two homers in 63 games. In December of that year, he was traded to San Diego for Ryan Hanigan. As bad as Hanigan was the past two seasons, it is really tough to decipher who won that deal.

In 2015, Middlebrooks appeared in 83 games for the Padres when he hit .212 with a .224 OBP. That production on a last place team earned him a trip to Milwaukee in free agency. On a Brewers team that went 73-89, Middlebrooks only earned 27 at-bats in 10 games, hitting .111. This offseason, he signed a minor-league deal with the Texas Rangers, making him a member of four different organizations in the four years since the 2013 World Series title.

Postlude

As bad as those two guys have been since then, there are still people involved in this infamous play who have been nearly as disappointing. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who threw the ball away to allow Craig to score, has been with three teams since then. His highest batting average since has been .225. Jim Joyce, the umpire who made the call, is most famous for that and blowing Armando Galarraga’s perfect game. He retired unceremoniously this offseason.

Times like these remind us there is nothing promised in this game. Craig was the x-factor of the 2013 World Series and now he’s struggling for playing time in Pawtucket. Middlebrooks was a budding slugger who has been in and out of the minors. While the obstruction call ended up not having a huge impact on the series, it drastically altered not just a runner’s path to home plate, but also two once-promising MLB careers.

John Lackey Should Still Be With Boston

Chicago Cubs starting pitcher John Lackey was a strong contributor to the 2013 World Series team and trading him was a big mistake. Lackey had a roller coaster ride in a Sox uniform as he struggled in his first two seasons before becoming a reliable arm every fifth day for the organization. When the 2014 team was scuffling and the trade deadline came around, former Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington decided to part ways with John Lackey, trading him for Joe Kelly and Allen Craig.

Craig was struggling and his career looked to be dwindling and Kelly had his struggles inJohn Lackey the National League which typically doesn’t lead to success in the more hitter friendly American League. Meanwhile, Lackey seemed to be gaining form and becoming who the Sox thought they were getting him when they signed him to a five year $82.5 million deal. That improvement has continued and John Lackey is pitching like an ace, often going unnoticed behind Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester in the best starting pitching rotation in baseball.

Last season in St. Louis, Lackey had a 2.77 ERA and this season he has a 2.63 ERA for the Cubs. At this point in his career he will not wow you with his stuff but he hits his spots and gets guys out, something many Sox pitchers struggle to do. Lackey seems to be blossoming late in his career as last season was his best season to date and he’s on track to improve on those numbers this year. With John Lackey pitching so great, the Sox return of Joe Kelly and Allen Craig in the trade has been a catastrophe.

John Lackey Belongs with Red Sox Nation

Kelly has not established himself in the Sox rotation and is not looking likely to do so. Kelly has good stuff to work with but he has yet to put it together and it seems like yesterday the 28 year old was still a promising prospect. Kelly is now in the minor leagues, joining the other piece in the trade, Craig. Craig has been a disaster as he has been a minor leaguer for most of his tenure with the Sox organization. A once promising offensive player for the St. Louis Cardinals, Craig has seen his career vanish quickly and likely has played his last inning in the major leagues.

The Sox let go of a pitcher that was big time in the postseason in 2013 in order to gamble on a pitcher with upside who hadn’t put it together and a bat that was on the downfall. As a result, this trade is one of the worst in recent memory and the Sox 4.22 ERA as a pitching staff would be much better if Ben Cherington had stayed with John Lackey.

History Made At McCoy Stadium as Castillo Demoted

On April 13th 2016, the baseball world was shaken to its core when history was made at McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. Records were broken, ticket sales skyrocketed and soon the Boston media will be swarming the Triple-A affiliate. Why? Well, with Rusney Castillo demoted to Triple-A, McCoy Stadium is nowCastilo demoted to pawtucket home to the highest payroll of all minor league baseball teams with over 70 million dollars on the books.

Rusney Castillo has more than 48 million dollars left on his seven-year, 72.5 million dollar deal that he signed in 2014. Old friend Allen Craig, who was once a promising slugger with the St. Louis Cardinals, has 21 million dollars (and a team-friendly 13 million dollar option in 2018) attached to his name. And if you want to be even more precise, once Pablo Sandoval joins the team on a rehab assignment they will have easily amassed the 100 million dollar threshold with the 72.4 million dollars remaining on the beefy third baseman.

Rusney Castillo Demoted to Pawtucket: History Made But at What Cost?

All kidding aside this is quite frankly embarrassing to a franchise that has already faced it’s share of criticism from media and fans alike since spring training. How an organization can have players with big major league contracts playing in Triple-A is beyond me, but it boasts an even bigger question—who’s to blame? Easy answer: ownership.

Spending a total of 275.5 million dollars on Castillo, Sandoval and Ramirez was not just a mistake, but a costly one. This team needed pitching in 2015, and they desperately  need pitching in 2016. Currently this pitching staff,including the bullpen, has a combined ERA of 5.40. Yes it’s still early enough that things can, and should turn around, but in the interim this organization is becoming the laughing-stock of the baseball world.

But hey, if you’re looking for family friendly baseball outings with major league talent, head on down to McCoy Stadium. Castillo and Craig will be there welcoming you with open arms. And maybe you’ll even get to see a Panda in action in weeks to come. Now wouldn’t that be a treat?

Red Sox Offseason Preview: Who Stays, Who Goes

The Red Sox are poised to have an interesting offseason, to say the least. Most of Red Sox Nation wouldn’t argue that the Red Sox need to look for pitching help during the offseason, but the question is how do they get said pitching help? There are a couple notable free agents available, namely David Price and Johnny Cueto. There are also a few players that could be available via trade, notably Matt Harvey, who has been mentioned a few times in connection with the Red Sox.Red Sox offseason

If they do look for a trade, which is entirely possible, the question becomes who would the team be willing to trade to get an ace or a strong reliever? It’s a question that the Red Sox will have to answer because I’m sure there will be interest in making a deal for one or more of the Red Sox promising young players. Here’s who will stay and who might go when this Red Sox offseason

Who Stays:

David Ortiz: David is one of the few that won’t be leaving. He’s 39, and at this point, it’s hard to see Ortiz finishing his career anywhere besides Fenway Park.

Dustin Pedroia: He’s the co-face of the Red Sox with David Ortiz at the moment, and he’ll be the sole face of the team when Ortiz retires. Plus, he has 6 years left on the 8-year deal he signed back in 2013 and there will be be few teams willing to take on that deal.

Mookie Betts: One of the Red Sox best young talent’s, it’s very difficult to imagine the team letting him go unless they get a very, very good return.

Xander Bogaerts: Like Betts, a very good young player, and unlikely to be traded.

Who Goes:

Blake Swihart: With Christian Vazquez coming back, Blake Swihart could be on a lot of team’s radars. I’m sure he could get a lot in return if the Red Sox do decide to trade him.

Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval: After a disappointing first year for both guys, the team could be looking to dump their massive contracts, similar to the deal they pulled of with the LA Dodgers that sent Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford to LA.

Allen Craig: After under-performing for a season and a half, the team could be looking to deal him before next season.

Clay Buchholz: Clay has an option for next season, and even if the team picks it up, he could still be dealt. He has had injury problems through the years, and the team has to decide whether or not he is worth the injury troubles he has.

This is how I see the Red Sox offseason playing out. Of course, this is all speculation, and I could be wrong. We’ll have to wait and see, but one thing is for certain—this will be an interesting Red Sox offseason!