Red Sox On The Brink Of Elimination

With all the optimism September brought for the Red Sox, October is sweeping it away. Winless this month, the Red Sox are facing a harsh reality: elimination. Cleveland quickly became the setting of Red Sox Nation’s nightmares with the debacles of games one and two. After two utter disappointments, the season will hang in the balance of game three on Monday at Fenway.

Game one was seen as crucial in that the Red Sox would need to win to feel Eliminationcomfortable. With Rick Porcello going against Trevor Bauer, it seemed like a sure win for Boston. Porcello, however, dug his own grave in the third inning, giving up three home runs. Even though the Red Sox had the lead twice before that, they were never able to recover. They cut it down to one twice and stranded the tying run at third in the eighth. A gutsy five-out save by Cody Allen closed out a 5-4 Indians victory.

Down 1-0 in the series, David Price got the ball to try and tie the series. This seemed like the perfect setting for Price to “earn” his contract money after an under-performing regular season. Once again, Price couldn’t resist the urge to let us down. Adding to his atrocious postseason resumé, Price gave up five runs on six hits in three and one/third innings. If this were his last start of the season, it would only be fitting. A four-run second inning capped by a three-run home run by Lonnie Chisenhall finished off the Red Sox in game two. An injured Corey Kluber stuffed my foot in my own mouth and shut the Sox out in seven innings en route to a 6-0 victory.

The Smell Of Elimination In The Air

So now the stage is set for the Red Sox. Game three at Fenway with Clay Buchholz on the mound. Dustin Pedroia talked post game about how this performance does not embody the team. Well, it’s time to put up or shut up. Pedroia is just 1-8 this series. Also, David Ortiz, Jackie Bradley, Xander Bogaerts, and Mookie Betts are a combined 3-28 in the first two games. It’s a bit scary to think the only bright spots, offensively, in both games have been Brock Holt and Andrew Benintendi.

A rah-rah kind of speech rarely works in baseball, but if Dustin Pedroia lit a fire under his team, they’ll certainly need it. They sleep-walked in Cleveland and it’s yet to be determined whether they’ll wake up before they walk right off the cliff. History may be on their side, the Red Sox are the only franchise to ever come back from this same deficit in the ALDS twice. The first time they did that was in 1999, coincidentally against Cleveland.

After game two, it really can’t get much worse. Monday should be a slugfest. The Red Sox should get their act together and Buchholz is pitching in Fenway, so the balls should fly. That should favor the league’s best offense, but who knows with this team anymore? Let’s just hope the Red Sox save us the embarrassment of avoiding a sweep. On the bright side, if they lose this series it’ll surely be the end of John Farrell’s tenure. That is, if they have any pride at all. It’s the little things.

Red Sox Cannot Catch a Break

Boston let out a collective gasp when Red Sox rookie Andrew Benintendi sprained his leg this past week. “Say it ain’t so!” seems to be the Red Sox motto this season. Injuries have plagued others players like Blake Swihart, Chris Young, Brock Holt, and Koji Uehara. These injuries haven’t only kept our best players out of the lineup, but have kept the Red Sox from securing first place. With the Baltimore Orioles falling behind, the Red Sox have a strong chance to capture first place. But as of late, it seems like the Red Sox cannot catch a break.

The Red Sox started the season in strong fashion. Jackie Bradley Jr., Mookie Betts, andRed Sox Cannot Xander Bogaerts’ bats were on fire. The pitching rotation was amazing. The bullpen was unstoppable.

Then the injuries started.

Brock Holt got another concussion. Chris Young went onto the DL. Josh Rutledge got hurt. Koji Uehara hurt himself. Blake Swiart hurt his leg. Joe Kelly got hurt. Craig Kimbrel got hurt. Meanwhile, the Red Sox swayed back and forth in the AL East between the Blue jays and Orioles. Just like me with past romantic relationships, anytime they seemed to finally gain an advantage they’d blow it.

Red Sox Cannot Get A Break. Is There Still Time To Recover?

I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again. I really think John Farrell needs to go. While injuries have put a huge dent in the amount of wins the Red Sox have accumulated this season, he hasn’t helped. I’ve questioned Farrell’s relief pitching choices more than once. Two pitchers who haven’t been injured much are Clay Buchholz and Junichi Tazawa but you wouldn’t know it based on their poor performance this season, and Farrell keeps using them. While Buchholz is starting to “coming around” a little, for lack of a better term, Tazawa isn’t getting much better.

The Red Sox are in a much stronger position than many think to reclaim first and keep it. The pitching rotation is coming around (finally), the relief pitchers are finding a groove, and the hitters are learning from mistakes. There’s no reason why that can’t begin to gel over and solidify.

The Red Sox cannot catch a break. They’ve been like a tarp flapping in the wind since June. They now have a chance to tie themselves down and focus on making it to the playoffs. Let’s hope they tie themselves down as tightly as possible.

Red Sox Resemble Old Selves in D’Backs Sweep

It’s good to see the Red Sox resemble their old selves again after a few rough weeks. Several Red Sox hitters posted strong numbers as they swept the Arizona Diamondbacks in a three game series. Sweeping the D’Backs wasn’t just a team effort though. It resembled the way the Red Sox used to play, a style that often led them straight to the playoffs. I dare hope that this sweep will give the team the confidence it needs to start playing more consistently.

I’ll admit that beating Arizona isn’t the hardest thing to do nowadays. The Diamondbacks’sRed Sox Resemble pitching staff has an ERA hovering around 5 right now, putting them in 29th place in baseball. They also lead the National League in earned runs. So the Red Sox didn’t exactly sweep a pennant contender. But the numbers they posted during the three-game series are hard to ignore.

Home Runs Galore!

Hanley Ramirez hit two home runs Friday night, including a three-run shot that put the Red Sox ahead after David Price surrendered a two-run homer to Rickie Weeks Jr. in the first inning. David Ortiz joined Ted Williams and Carl Yastrzemski as the third Red Sox player ever to have 1,000 extra base hits. David Price won the game with eight strikeouts in what amounted to one of his weaker wins for the season.

The second game saw Brock Holt and Sandy Leon go the distance in a 6-3 win Saturday. Holt seems to have fully recovered from his injuries earlier in the season, while Leon’s batting average continues to defy logic. Reliever Brad Ziegler, a former Diamondback, struck out three straight to get out of a bases loaded jam in the eighth inning. Robbie Ross Jr. picked up the win while Craig Kimbrel, resembling his old self too, grabbed the save.

The third game saw Mookie Betts blast three home runs. He joins Ted Williams as the only other Red Sox hitter to have two three-home run games in a season. That marked eight RBIs in one game for Betts. Jackie Bradley Jr. added a home run of his own in the second inning.

Red Sox Resemble Old Selves In Bad Ways Too

David Price got the win in Friday’s game but not without a lot of help from the Red Sox offense. Surrendering a home run in the first seems to be a habit for the Red Sox pitching staff. Clay Buchholz allowed three hits and three earned runs in four innings Saturday night.

I’m not exactly sure what’s up with the pitching staff. If Dave Dombrowski really wants to see the Red Sox resemble their old selves then something has to be done about it. Price is very good but he’s not consistent. Steve Wright and Rick Porcello are on fire, but Buchholz continues to struggle badly. The bats give them plenty of run support, and the defense is strong too, but the pitching is still not coming together. If the pitching staff could find a groove like their hitters then the Red Sox could blast past the Blue Jays and Orioles to capture first place again. They’re only a few games behind so it shouldn’t be too hard.

Time, however, is running out.

Red Sox Promote Andrew Benintendi

Overnight, the Red Sox promoted prized prospect Andrew Benintendi to the Major Leagues, adding to the trade deadline intrigue. Evan Drellich of the Boston Herald broke the news, and Michael Martinez was designated for assignment to make way for Benintendi. The outfielder will join the team in Seattle on Tuesday.

Who is Andrew Benintendi?

Andrew Benintendi

Benintendi was a first round pick in the 2015 draft, and his rise has been meteoric. He reached Single-A in his first professional season, and has dominated this year, too. A .312/.378/.532 slash line at High-A Salem earned Benintendi a promotion to Double-A Portland. In 63 games with the Sea Dogs, he slashed .295/.357/.515 with 8 home runs and 44 RBI. That piqued the attention of Dave Dombrowski, who will slot the 22-year old in left field amid a heated pennant race.

Andrew Benintendi is the Red Sox’ number two prospect, behind Yoan Moncada. A lefty hitter, he is above average in every facet of the game, with obvious upside offensively. His promotion should provide a jolt of energy to the Red Sox, with Brock Holt likely sliding back into a utility role.

The Risk of Skipping Triple-A

Even though Benintendi is very highly rated, this is a risky move. The guy has still only played 151 professional baseball games. None of them were above Double-A. By all account, his makeup and ability should enable a smooth transition, but skipping an entire level of minor league development is rarely advisable. Whether people like it or not, Andrew Benintendi will still have plenty to learn. The Red Sox just figure that process should happen at the Major League level.

Benintendi is likely to be in uniform tonight against the Mariners. His debut will come Wednesday, as the youngster is given time to settle. Andrew is likely to see plenty of playing time against right-handed pitching, with further opportunities arising based on his performance. He will join other young stars like Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts to create a great core for the Red Sox.

“Our people kept coming up and saying, ‘We think he can play at the big league level,'” said Dombrowski. “Don’t look for him to hit in the middle of the lineup like he will eventually, but he’s a well-rounded player, he’s a good defensive player, and he runs the bases well. He has a good arm, we’ve been working him out at left field and he’s been able to play the wall well in Portland there.”

It will be fun to see how this plays out. Every young player is likely to struggle at some point, especially after jumping two whole levels in a system. But the future face of your Boston Red Sox has arrived. Andrew Benintendi has reached the Majors. It’s time to get excited.

Brock Holt Should Return to Utility Status

The return of Brock Holt has given the Red Sox a big boost this week. Since being reinstated from the concussion list, the versatile scrapper has collected a hit in each game and has provided a jolt of energy to his club. However, I cannot help but feel that Holt is better deployed as a super utility player rather than a starting left fielder, and that’s something the Red Sox could look to address before the trade deadline.

Brock Holt

In decades gone by, there was a stigma attached to utility players. They were usually guys who could do one thing well, usually with the glove, but whose overall play didn’t warrant regular at bats. Yet now, every team prizes flexibility, to the point where players are almost expected to succeed at multiple positions.

Joe Maddon was an early pioneer of the super utility position in Tampa, with Ben Zobrist filling the role. He has carried that over to the Cubs, where stars like Kris Bryant and Javy Baez are asked to change positions on a daily basis. Such a situation allows a manager to manage rest more easily, keeping his players fresh throughout a marathon season, while also taking advantage of platoon splits.

Brock Holt, The Ultimate Super Utility Guy

Brock Holt built a strong reputation as a super utility guy early in his Red Sox career. Last season, for instance, he played every position except pitcher and catcher. Despite his overarching status as a bench player, Holt still saw action in 129 games. He produced a very impressive batting average of .280 while getting on base at a .349 clip. That distinguished him as a very good player, but the ability to play almost any position really well while still hitting strongly made Brock Holt a phenomenal asset to the Red Sox.

The front office was so enamored with his performance that Dave Dombrowski gave Holt a regular job this season. When Hanley Ramirez transitioned to first base, Brock became the everyday left fielder. He still plays occasionally at other spots, but the bulk of his playing time has come in front of the Green Monster in 2016.

Why The Bench Needs More Versatility

Holt was performing slightly below his usual pace through the first few weeks, only for a head injury to keep him out of action for more than a month. During that period, the Red Sox missed his energy and leadership, but his presence as a regular-position player has also diminished the Boston bench.

Unheralded players like Mike Miller, Ryan LaMarre and Deven Marrero have been pressed into action, which is less than ideal for Boston. Chris Young has slowly turned around his season, and improvement has also been made by Josh Rutledge and Marco Hernandez, but the Sox still lack a certain amount of flexibility with Brock Holt anchored to left field.

If he could return to a utility role, filling in anywhere that rest is needed for veterans, Holt’s value would be increased, not diminished. Although his effort deserves a starting gig, Holt could still play almost every day, but at different spots on the diamond. Although Hanley Ramirez is having a good season, the Sox could always use some additional power to protect David Ortiz in the lineup, and left field could also be a spot to add that.

Of course, the Red Sox aren’t going to make major moves to bolster an offense that has scored more runs than any other in baseball. If Dombrowski makes a big trade this month, it’s likely to be for pitching. That’s the major need of this ballclub. However, a good front office always tries to find incremental ways to eke more value from its major league roster, and a more dynamic utilization of Brock Holt is certainly one change Boston could explore in this regard.

All Star Brock Holt Back in Sox Lineup

2015 All Star Brock Holt rejoined the Red Sox last week after taking time to recover from a concussion. The left fielder sustained his injury in early May after attempting to catch a line drive. Having Brock Holt back in the lineup couldn’t come at a more important time as Boston slips into third place. But what were his thoughts before rejoining Boston last week? I got to talk to Holt in late June in Pawtucket where I asked him how he felt.

“I’m feeling better,” Holt told me before a June 24th game against the Scranton/Wilkes Barre RailRiders. “It just feels good to be backBrock Holt back out here playing.” Like Holt, the Red Sox Nation has been eager to see the 2015 All Star get back in a uniform. But in recent years concussions like the one Holt sustained have been taken much more seriously. Recent studies show how much damage the brain sustains from concussions. These studies persuade doctors and trainers alike to be more cautious about rehab. This is why Holt took so long to get back to playing. Concussions can be scary for anyone, but not Holt.

“I wouldn’t say [it was] scary but it was just a weird thing to go through. Physically I felt fine. From the neck down I felt fine. From the neck up I didn’t. I knew something was wrong. It’s something you need to get right before you start playing again. You don’t want it to linger.”

Red Sox Have Brock Holt Back in the Lineup

As Holt begins to transition back into playing, he’s already thinking about getting back to left field. “I’ve played outfield for the last few years now. It was a challenge at first. We do a lot of practice taking balls off the wall (Green Monster). It’s difficult to play left because of the wall but there’s also not a lot of room to cover. You kinda learn it. If a ball hits high off the wall it’ll bounce. If it’s lower then you don’t know where it’s gonna go. Line drives bounce harder. We do a lot of pregame work but it’s a tough wall to play.”

Having Brock Holt back in the lineup is already paying off. He hit a homer in a July 4th game against the Texas Rangers. The home run was his fifth hit in three games. In addition to his home run, Holt threw a runner out at home from left field that ended the fourth inning for the visiting Texas Rangers.

Will having Brock Holt back be enough to overcome their deficit in the American League East? One thing is for sure. It won’t hurt!