Red Sox Secure 2016 Playoff Spot

The Boston Red Sox recently clinched a playoff spot after two dismal seasons. Along with the Texas Rangers, and most likely the Cleveland Indians, the Boston Red Sox will soon begin their march towards the World Series. This means that all eyes will now focus on the playoffs. So if the Red Sox secure victories from Texas, Cleveland, and/or the Wild Card victor, they will advance to the World Series.

During the season many thought the Red Sox would finish in the cellar again. Injuries, bad pitching,red sox secure and runners left on base kept them out of contention. The calls to fire John Farrell grew louder as the summer progressed. Careless plays frustrated fans to no end. Some said that’s just baseball. They said you can’t win them all. That’s true, but to some their victories came from a lack of trying. That’s obviously no longer true, but the thought still lingers for some.

To see the Red Sox secure a playoff spot tempts fans to think about what was once unthinkable: winning the World Series. Before 2004, the dangerous thought more often than not disappointed fans. But with championships in 2004, 2007, and 2013, fans feel safer hoping again.

As Red Sox Secure a Playoff Spot, We Look to Our Other Contenders

The road to the World Series won’t be an easy one. While the Red Sox held their own against Cleveland this season, Indians pitchers Danny Salazar and Corey Kluber still concern the Sox lineup. The Indians also know how to bat around Clay Buchholz. Despite his recent improvements, Buchholz can’t take Cleveland for granted. As for Texas, the Red Sox beat them three out of six games this season. So the good news is that the Red Sox have done fairly well against their possible playoff contenders. The bad news, however, is that the Red Sox haven’t played them as much as they’ve played other teams like Baltimore and Tampa Bay.

In order to beat back the other AL teams, the Red Sox will have to closely study each pitcher and hitter they face. CLOSELY study each and every one. The Cleveland Indians are hungry for a World Series of their own given they haven’t won one since 1948. The Texas Rangers haven’t won even one World Series. That quest for titles of their own will make them worthy contenders.

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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.

Are Baseball Games Longer Than Ever?

Last June my friend Charles and I saw the Red Sox play the Baltimore Orioles. A fierce pitching duel unfolded between the O’s Chris Tillman and the Sox David Price, who struck out eleven in eight innings. Unfortunately, the Red Sox still lost 3-2. Throughout the game, Charles, a baseball writer, and I talked about the strong pitching. However, we were the only ones who appreciated it. Looking around, people seemed more interested in their Jason Varitek bobbleheads and their iPhones than the game. With baseball games longer than they were thirty years ago, are people losing interest?

It’s true that baseball games are tedious to watch. The art of hitting is appreciated by onlyBaseball Games Longer the most diehard baseball fan, but it can make baseball games longer. Hitting foul ball after foul ball gets old for fans and I can’t say I haven’t felt that way, too. So why are baseball games longer than ever? Aside from corporate reasons, it’s a combination of manager strategy, pitcher duels, injuries, instant replays, and most of all, pitching changes.

According to the Pittsburg Post-Gazette, Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred is well aware of the complaints. In fact, Commissioner Manfred is considering limiting their use. “I am in favor of something like that,” Manfred said. “…You know the problem with relief pitchers is that they’re so good. I’ve got nothing against relief pitchers, but they do two things to the game: The pitching changes themselves slow the game down, and our relief pitchers…they actually rob action out of the end of the game, the last few innings of the game.”

Personally, I hate it when relief pitchers come in during a game. The Yankees Joe Girardi’s platooning strategy, a Yankee manager favorite dating back to when Casey Stengel ran the team, is particularly infuriating. Why can’t the manager wait until the end of the inning? Because sometimes he doesn’t have a choice, especially when the pitcher’s poor performance is running up the opposing score. So the managers brings in a relief pitcher to stop the runs (if he’s good). That’s great for the team, but is it what the fans came out to see? Unless you’re a real die-hard fan, probably not. On the other hand, managers will tell you they’re not there to entertain fans. They’re there to win games, and if that means slowing the game down to win then so be it.

With Baseball Games Longer, How Do You Keep It interesting?

According to Forbes.com, the average length of a baseball game in 1981 was 2 hours and 33 minutes. Last season, according to the New York Post, the New York Mets completed games faster than any other team in baseball with an average time of 2 hours and 46 minutes. Last year MLB tried stop clocks. Personally, I thought they helped a lot. Turns out I’m in the minority regarding that thought.

This issue isn’t going to be resolved anytime soon. To limit relievers, or anything else for that matter, would jeopardize the integrity of the game. Maybe it’s not the game that’s changed though. Maybe it’s people’s inability to focus. People’s attention spans aren’t nearly as long as they used to be, especially when iPhones and texting make us crave instant gratification more than ever.

Personally, I think the pace of baseball games would pick up faster by doing two things. The opposing team should take the field immediately following the third out, which would cut the game down by 20 minutes. Secondly, limit relief pitching, but only for Joe Girardi (Seriously, he does it too much!).

Keeping Perspective On The 2016 Red Sox Season

The Red Sox swept the basement-dwelling Arizona Diamondbacks in a 3-game set over the weekend making it is easy to lose perspective on the 2016 Red Sox season as a whole. They outscored Arizona 31-9 over the span of the series and gave fans hope for October baseball.2016 Red Sox

Even with the series sweep, the Red Sox still have a tough road ahead. And by tough, I mean really tough. Over the next week and a half, the Red Sox will travel to four different cities with no off-days. Of those four teams, three of them are within a game and a half of a playoff spot. For all intents and purposes, they’re in the “playoff picture”.

The 2016 Red Sox Going Forward

The trip starts Monday with one game in Cleveland, a make-up from the opening series of the year. Drew Pomeranz starts against the Tribe, who is still winless in a Red Sox uniform. This road trip will also be without Steven Wright, who went on the 15-day DL Monday. Wright has gone 13-5 this year and is tied for the league lead in complete games with four. Not being able to roll out Wright for an assured eight innings may prove costly on such a long road trip.

After Cleveland, it will be two games in Baltimore then four in Detroit. Both of these teams are hot in the race and the Orioles are still ahead of the Red Sox in the AL East. This next week can certainly widen a Red Sox lead in the Wild Card and could even make a push for the division lead. The Orioles are an AL-best 39-17 in their confines of Camden Yards however, making the task that much more difficult.

The bullpen could still be an issue for this team, though. With the exception of the tremendous inning by Brad Ziegler Saturday night, the last week has been nightmarish for the pen. The Red Sox will need better work from Robbie Ross, Fernando Abad, and Junichi Tazawa to make a serious playoff push.

That being said, the sweep means the Red Sox are far from out of it. If they can come out on the plus side of this road trip, they will have a new lease on life. After the summer they have had, Red Sox fans should count their blessings. Basically, this road trip will show what the 2016 Red Sox are really made of.

Joe Kelly Eyes Boston Return

I spotted Joe Kelly in the locker room when I walked in a few hours before the Pawtucket Red Sox were set to play the Toledo Mud Hens. Figuring that this would be a one and only chance to talk to the right-handed pitcher, I pulled out my recorder and approached him with a few questions, the first being, “How does it feel being back here?” Joe shifted in his chair and looked up. “I’ve been undefeated since I got here,” Kelly said as he put his cell phone down on his lap and grinned. It took me a minute to realize that he hasn’t pitched for the Red Sox AAA affiliate yet; I never took Kelly as a joker. Shifting to a more serious time, Kelly added, “I want to get consistent with my mechanics again and get back up [to Boston} as soon as I can.” Focusing on mechanics and getting his consistency back are just a few things on his mind as Joe Kelly eyes Boston return.

Kelly was taken by surprise when he learned he was being sent down to PawtucketJoe Kelly Eyes Boston Return after getting shelled by the Baltimore Orioles on June 2nd. Kelly went 2.1 innings giving up seven runs and seven hits before Red Sox manager John Farrell pulled him from the game that ended in a 13-9 loss for the Red Sox. While Kelly is 2-0 with 27 strike outs in 22.1 innings this season, he was becoming a concern for Farrell as his ERA climbed over 8.00 going into June. “He’s blessed with a golden arm and tremendous stuff, but the execution of it has not been as consistent,” Red Sox manager John Farrell told ESPN’s Scott Lauber. “So, we have made a move. We’ve optioned him back to Pawtucket in the pursuit to get him back on track.”

As Joe Kelly eyes Boston return, the rest of the Red Sox rotation continues to smooth out their own wrinkles. Pitching ace David Price gave up two runs, including a home run, on June 3rd against the Toronto Blue Jays that boosted his ERA to 4.88, not exactly what Dave Dombrowski had in mind when he offered Price a $217 million contract. Meanwhile, Eduardo Rodriguez is still trying to find his groove, Rick Porcello gave up five runs in his last start, and Clay Buchholz….do I even have to say anything?