Next Up For The Red Sox – The American League East Leading Rays

After facing three out of the four American League East teams this past week, The Red Sox turn to face the Tampa Bay Rays. The Rays, who have been red hot since the beginning of the season, are currently 13-4. They also hold a 5.5 game lead over the second place New York Yankees.

Over the past few seasons, the Tampa Bay Rays have given the Red Sox headaches.american league east They have also proven to be a competitive team in the American League East. They have reached the playoffs in 2008, 2010, 2011 and 2013. Only once did they make it to the World Series. That was in 2008, when they lost to the Philadelphia Phillies in five games.

Last season, the Rays went 90-72, landing in third place behind the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees. That team, which saw Blake Snell win his first Cy Young Award, did a lot this past offseason. This led to some believing that they may be in rebuilding mode, especially after they traded hurler Chris Archer at the 2018 trade deadline.

Before I go any further, let’s take a look back at the last three series.

Coming Home to The Toronto Blue Jays

After a long road trip on the West Coast, the Red Sox headed back to Fenway Park. There, they faced the Toronto Blue Jays for a mini two-game series.

Game One saw the World Series Champions get their rings and raise the banner. Although it started off as a magical day for the players and fans alike, it did end in a loss to the Jays. The starter Chris Sale, went four innings, giving up five runs. On the positive side, Mitch Moreland and Mookie Betts homered in the game. Final score: 7-5.

Game Two, and the final game of the series saw the Red Sox win in walk off fashion. After starter Nathan Eovaldi gave up five runs in the third, the Red Sox powered back to win the game. After a walk to Betts, Moreland hit a run scoring double to tie the game. From there,  Moreland was replaced by Eduardo Nunez, who stole third. Their closer, Ken Giles walked both JD Martinez and Xander Bogaerts next.

Then up came Rafael Devers. On a 2-1 count, Devers ripped a single to right field, which scored Nunez. This game ended with a score of 7-6, and had the Fenway crowd going wild. This moment, brought to us by some great hitting and a few walks, was a turning point for the Red Sox.

Patriots Day and The Baltimore Orioles

After splitting the series against the Blue Jays, the Red Sox’s attention turned to the Baltimore Orioles. The Orioles, who were playing a four-game set at Fenway, took two out of the four from the Red Sox.

The first game saw a mini win streak occur for the Red Sox. After a solid outing by Eduardo Rodriguez, who went 6.2 inning giving up two runs, the bullpen shut down the Orioles. The offense, led by Andrew Benintendi’s third inning home run, exploded, allowing Rodriguez and the pen to hold down the led. Final score: 6-4 Red Sox.

Game Two wasn’t so lucky for the Red Sox. The Saturday afternoon game ended the mini win streak. Rick Porcello, the 2016 Cy Young Award Winner, only lasted four innings, giving up three runs. Probably the most important thing to note about this game is that Orioles’ first baseman Chris Davis’ bat woke up. Davis, who had 62 plate appearances without a hit, decided to hit a two run single off of Porcello in the first inning. From there, the Orioles would go on to win the game. Final score: 9-5.

Game Three was a win for the Sox at Fenway Park. led by a stellar performance by David Price and Xander Bogaerts, the Red Sox blanked the Orioles. The final score: 4-0 Red Sox.

Game Four, which is the yearly Patriot’s Day game at Fenway Park, didn’t go so well. It found Chris Davis hitting his first home run of the season, and the bullpen being worked quite a bit. The only run scored by the Red Sox came in the fifth inning. Final score: 8-1 Orioles.

Back On The Road to Yankee Stadium

Back to the scene of the crime – The 2018 ALDS, which led the Red Sox to move onto the ALCS and the World Series, took place at Yankee Stadium. Fans can recall those last two games, the last one being the one that crushed the Yankees dreams of moving on. This game, however, was more of a nightmare than anything else. James Paxton, an offseason addition for the Yankees, allowed four hits over eight innings. Final score: 8-0 Yankees.

Game Two started off great for the Red Sox. A first inning solo shot for JD Martinez, and a two run home run for Christian Vazquez, put the Red Sox on top 3-0. Nathan Eovaldi, pitched 6 innings of great baseball, before the bullpen let the lead go. Final score: 5-3 Yankees.

Onto the Trop…

After the mini series in New York, the Red Sox will enjoy an off day on Thursday, before heading to Saint Petersburg, Florida to take on the Rays. After finding themselves near the bottom of the American League East, can the Red Sox play spoiler to the Rays? Let’s hope that they do. Eduardo Rodriguez, Rick Porcello and David Price look to have solid outings down at the Trop.

Will The Stars Align For The Red Sox?

With the 2019 season underway, many eyes are on Alex Cora and the Red Sox. As they open this season, one of the things to wonder about is will the stars align for them come October? Most of the 2018 World Series Champions are on the Red Sox roster, and the question of repeating is on their minds. The last team to win back-to-back World Series titles was the New York Yankees from 1998 to 2000.

This past offseason, the front office brought back key members Nathan Eovaldi and Worldstars align Series MVP, Steve Pearce. With that, the Red Sox saw a few members of their bullpen leave. However, if you look back at past Red Sox offseasons following the World Series win, this wasn’t too bad.

 

Like many who have won the World Series before the 2018 team, the offseason was short, and Spring Training lagged on. Now, the regular season has begun, and onto the West Coast we go.

Opening Week on the West Coast

The Red Sox open the season on the West Coast, facing the Mariners, A’s and Diamondbacks. However, if you look at the rest of the American League East, they’re all playing either at home, or within the division. The Yankees are hosting the Orioles, and both the Blue Jays and Rays are at home. The Red Sox, however, won’t be back home until April 9th against the Blue Jays.

For many, that seems like a long time, and it honestly is. While Baltimore is also on the road, they get to be at home on April 4th.

You would think that since we just won the World Series, the Red Sox would have started at home, or close to home. However, Major League Baseball releases the schedule late in the season.

The Questions…

What will happen when Pedroia comes back? When will he come back? Who is our closer?

These are the questions that linger… Plus, there are more, I’m sure.

Pedroia is expected to be back shortly after the season begins. Who knows when exactly that will be, however, it’s more like what will he bring to the table. Last season, the Red Sox had Brock Holt, Eduardo Nunez and Ian Kindler at second base. This season is still a mystery when it comes to second base.

The discussion as to who will be the closer has been going on since the offseason. As of now, it looks like Matt Barnes could be it for the Red Sox. As for the bullpen, that’s still a question mark, and has been for quite some time.

Coming Home

As mentioned before, the Red Sox won’t be back in Boston until April 9th. From there, the new banner will make its debut behind home plate, and the Fenway Faithful will be welcoming the team home. Also, there won’t be any 10pm games for quite sometime, as the Red Sox begin their quest to repeat against the American League East.

The Red Sox Need to be Active at the Trade Deadline

As the Red Sox grow closer to the halfway point, and the trade deadline, in the 2018 regular season, they have given us all a pretty good idea of what’s working, and what isn’t. Back on June 11, the Sox went on a nice four-game win streak which included a sweep of the Baltimore Orioles. They went on to lose four of their next five, splitting a series with the Seattle Mariners and falling to the Minnesota Twins on consecutive nights. They salvaged their third contest against the Twins and then took two of three from the Mariners.

At 34-40, the Twins are not a team the Red Sox should be losing a series to. Meanwhile, theTrade Deadline Mariners, at 48-31, are within reach of the Houston Astros (52-28) atop the AL West standings. Boston’s recent inconsistency and their ongoing grapple with the Yankees atop the division leave this team in need of action at the trade deadline.

Trade Deadline Action: Relief Pitcher

I’ve lost track of how many games this bullpen has lost. At this point, this should be a no-brainer for Dave Dombrowski. The woes in Boston’s bullpen have been no secret this season. Carson Smith recently had season-ending surgery after throwing his glove. Tyler Thornburg is still trying to get healthy, and still hasn’t taken the mound in a Red Sox uniform. Heath Hembree and Brian Johnson, both with ERAs north of 3.80, have simply not pitched well at all. And to top it off, Craig Kimbrel and Joe Kelly will both hit the free agent market at the end of this season. Kimbrel and Kelly, along with Matt Barnes and Hector Velazquez, have emerged as the only serviceable arms in Boston’s bullpen.

So what are Boston’s options at the trade deadline? The most popular name in circulation is the Orioles’ left-hander Zach Britton. Baltimore looks to be in a complete and total rebuild at 23-54 on the year, so they are as viable a trade partner as they come. Britton underwent Achilles surgery this past offseason and has only appeared in seven contests this year. However, he is just two years removed from consecutive All-Star appearances and a fourth-place finish in CY Young voting. As it stands, Brian Johnson is the only southpaw in Boston’s bullpen, so Britton would be a massive addition. His contract expires after this year, so it would make sense for the Orioles to get some value out of him while they can.

Baltimore has another relief pitcher set to enter free agency. Brad Brach, a right-hander, has appeared in 32 contests this year with ten saves. Britton is the much more attractive option and is linked to several other teams as the trade deadline approaches.

Trade Deadline Action: Right-Handed Hitting

Since the Red Sox designated Hanley Ramirez for assignment on May 25, Boston’s lineup has been missing some pop. Ramirez hit .330 in April but fell into a major slump in May before his departure. While Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez have shouldered much of the offensive workload, the Yankees have as much firepower, if not more.

The Sox have a few different options in terms of what position to go after to fulfill this. They have shown some interest in Adrian Beltre, the veteran third-basemen currently employed by the Texas Rangers. The Rangers are in the AL West basement and are another legitimate trade partner. Beltre’s hitting .309 with 25 runs batted with Texas so far this year and won a Gold Glove in 2016. He would be warmly welcomed back for a second stint in Boston as an alternative to the streaky Rafael Devers at third base. Manny Machado is another popular name on the rumor mill, but his financial demands and lofty asking price make it a long shot.

They could also look to the outfield. Jackie Bradley Jr. continues to struggle at the plate and having outfield depth that can swing the bat come October could be instrumental for a playoff run. The Orioles’ Adam Jones is an obvious candidate, given his expiring contract and the situation in Baltimore. Mark Canha of the Oakland Athletics is on Boston’s radar as well. Canha is batting .253 with 27 RBI and 10 home runs on the year.

The 2018 trade deadline is July 31. The Red Sox continue their back-and-forth with the Yankees in the division, and the right move or two could go a long way in their quest for another AL East crown and World Series run.

Ryan Flaherty’s Maine Roots

Most who have listened to Red Sox/Orioles games have heard of Baltimore utility player Ryan Flaherty’s Maine background. But few know the backstory of how the kid from Portland made it to the show.

Flaherty grew up surrounded by baseball. His dad, Ed, is the coach at the University of Ryan Flaherty's maineSouthern Maine and a local legend. He won two national championships with the Huskies in 1991 and 1997. In fact, the University just named the field there after the elder Flaherty.

Making an Impact

Flaherty played high school ball for the Deering Rams and was a standout in football as well as baseball. A 2005 graduate, he led Nova Seafood to the American Legion World Series Championship in 2004 and won the Telegram League batting title. Flaherty also won the Maine Gatorade and John Winkin baseball award as a senior along with Legion Tournament MVP. To make his resume more impressive, Flaherty was a finalist for Maine’s prestigious football award, the Fitzpatrick Trophy.

Ryan Flaherty’s Maine childhood transitioned into a college career at the “Harvard of the South”—Vanderbilt University. While with the Commodores, Flaherty played alongside fellow big leaguers David Price and Pedro Alvarez. He received an honorable mention his freshman year and a Second-team All-America selection. During his final season with Vanderbilt, he hit .542 in the NCAA Tournament. His consistent performance at the plate led Coach Corbin to coin him “the model of consistency.”

Big League Success

The Chicago Cubs chose Flaherty in the first round (41st overall) of the 2008 Major League Baseball Draft. In four seasons of minor league ball, Flaherty batted .279 with an on-base percentage of .347, slugging percentage of .455, and 182 RBI. He also hit 38 home runs and 79 doubles. While in the Cubs organization he was ranked as the 8th best prospect.

Despite this, Flaherty was Rule 5 eligible and was subsequently selected by the Baltimore Orioles. He has continued his consistent performance and has become one of Buck Showalter’s primary utility options.

To this day, he is the only active major league player born in Maine, as Charlie Furbush is currently a free agent. In 2012, he became the first Mainer to hit a postseason home run.

Instances of Racism Haunt Fenway

Orioles outfielder Adam Jones claimed that he was the focus of racist taunts during Monday’s game at Fenway Park. A fan threw a bag of peanuts at him while others taunted him with racial slurs. While those fans were ejected, it’s another example of how instances of racism haunt Fenway Park. Not only are these instances ignorant and immature, but Racism Haunt Fenwaythey embarrass the City of Boston.

This isn’t the first instance of racism that Fenway has witnessed. Back in 1945 Jackie Robinson and two other Negro League players were given a try out at Fenway Park. Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey allegedly yelled from the stands “Get that nigger off the field!” when he saw Robinson. Yawkey, never known for his progressive views, was the owner when they became the last team to integrate in 1959 when Pumpsie Green joined the Red Sox. Ted Williams, himself a Mexican American, was one of the few players on the team who took the time to embrace his new teammate by asking him to warm up with him before a game. During his own induction speech, Williams called for the induction of Negro Leaguers in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Is There a Double Standard?

Many are saying that Jones’ claims aren’t valid. Some are even saying he’s lying or exaggerating. They argue that no one ever called David Ortiz those same slurs, so why should they believe Jones? That’s because Boston fans loved Ortiz. Jones, on the other hand, isn’t afraid to speak his mind. He’s known as someone who calls it the way he sees it, and instead of responding to his ideas in a mature way, people focus on his race to discredit him. Those people not only disrespect opposing viewpoints, but they can’t even form coherent responses. For them, it’s easier to shout something racist than it is to think of a logical and insightful opinion. Then again, Fenway’s a ballpark and not a university, so these types of instances shouldn’t be happening to begin with.

The particularly disgusting thing about this incident though is that people paid money to come to the ballpark and act this way. It’s fine if you want to boo him for being an Oriole. But throwing peanuts at him? You not only make yourself look stupid, but you give Boston a bad reputation.

Instances of Immaturity and Racism Haunt Fenway

Last Sunday I sat in the grandstand to watch the final series game between the Red Sox and Cubs. Sitting behind me was a twenty-something who clearly had had too much to drink. The immature, sexist, racist, and derogatory things he said right out loud during the game embarrassed me in front of our Chicago guests. This guy talked about his blatant use of women as objects, his drug habit, and didn’t refrain from using bad language around kids. He was your typical obnoxious fan whose beliefs and opinions reflect a low I.Q.

It’s bad enough that I have to deal with fans like this. But it’s worse when they become national news. If you’re going to be so stupid as to think your race is better than someone else’s, then stay home. Bostonians don’t want to hear what you have to say. As instances of racism haunt Fenway, instead of being a jerk, be that fan who screams with joy when Hanley Ramirez hits another homer over the Green Monster. And if you hear someone shouting something racist, tell them to shut up, or call security and let them handle it.

Red Sox Facing Strong AL East This Season

The 2017 American League East has the Red Sox facing more than its fair share of competition. Last year the Tampa Bay Rays and New York Yankees were at the bottom of Red Sox facingthe standings. Now the Baltimore Orioles and Yankees are looking down on the Red Sox. The Toronto Blue Jays, which made it to the playoffs last year, are dead last. They’ve only won five games as of April 24th. This level of competition is making it difficult for the Red Sox to take first place. They’re playing well enough, but they’re going to have to re-strategize if they want to pass the O’s and Yankees.

Who’s Strong?

The Baltimore Orioles have been knocking at the door of the playoffs for a few seasons now. Their skipper, Buck Showalter, is a seasoned manager who knows the AL East like the back of his hand. While none of their players are standing out yet as likely MVPs, their combination of hitting, fielding, and pitching is what’s keeping them in first place.

The New York Yankees, who haven’t contended for a playoff spot in years, have strong hitting on their side this year. Aaron Judge and Starling Castro are proving to be offensive threats to opposing pitchers. Judge knocked a 460-foot home run out of PNC Park in Pittsburg last week, tied for the longest since 2009. Yankees haven’t hit home runs that far since the days of Mickey Mantle. In addition to their offense, their pitching staff allows only about three earned runs a game. With the Red Sox facing anticipated opposition from the O’s, they probably weren’t expecting the same from the Yankees, or Tampa Bay.

The Tampa Bay Rays haven’t been contenders for a few years either. But they currently rank top ten in runs, batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage, which is an improvement for them. They also have an ace in Chris Archer. He finally broke his eleven-game losing streak against the Red Sox while holding them to one run in 5 2/3 innings on April 15th.

It seems that the teams fans wrote off are suddenly coming alive. While it’s early in the season, these teams are scrambling to grab hold of first place and keep it. If not, they know anther team won’t hesitate to take it from them.

With The Red Sox Facing Competition in the AL East, They Struggle With Pitching

Red Sox pitchers Steve Wright and Rick Porcello are off to a tough start to the season. They were fantastic last year, and definitely have the ability to be great again this season, but it’s going to be tough. They may have started this this season with a level of confidence they didn’t think would be tested so early. But if they want to stay in the rotation they’re going to have to come up with news ways to stave off opposing hitters, who by now have clearly learned to hit them, and hit them well.