Boston’s Bats Saved the Day

The Red Sox won a wild game on Thursday afternoon, edging the White Sox 8-7 in a see-saw affair. As has often been the case this year, they won because Boston’s bats saved the day.

For much of Thursday’s tilt, it looked like the White Sox were going to sweep a four-game series from the Red Sox (and at Fenway Park, no less) Boston's Bats Saved the Day. Chicago took a 4-1 lead into the bottom of the sixth, as Boston’s bats had once again gone into hibernation. After scoring once in each of the series’ first two games, the Red Sox offense remained eerily silent.

Until the sixth inning, at which point Boston erupted for four runs to take the lead. The lead was short-lived, however, as Jose Abreu immediately put the White Sox back on top with a three-run homer. Abreu’s long ball was a classic Fenway homer, finding the Monster seats when it probably would have been caught elsewhere.

And just like that, the Red Sox were down again, but not for long. They got a run back in their half of the seventh to trim the deficit to one. They scored again in the eighth to tie the game at 7-7.

Neither side scored in the ninth, so the game went to extra innings. Craig Kimbrel, who had pitched a clean ninth inning, came back out for the top of the tenth. After loading the bases with nobody out, he buckled down. By some miracle, Chicago failed to score.

After watching the White Sox squander a golden scoring opportunity, Boston’s bats saved the day in the bottom of the frame. With two on and one out, Xander Bogaerts delivered, rifling a single up the middle to plate Mookie Betts and win the game. The Red Sox mobbed their star shortstop near first base, celebrating their first walk-off win in over a month and second all season.

David Price in Top Form

The Red Sox have cooled off from their hot start, playing sub-.500 ball over the past few weeks. Several Sox, including Travis Shaw and Hanley Ramirez, are in a bad slump. One Bostonian playing well lately, however, is star pitcher David Price. Price began the year in a terrible rut, but has since turned his season around after discovering a mechanical flaw in his delivery (with some help from Dustin Pedroia). He delivered another dominant turn Sunday, with Price in top form as Boston edged Seattle 2-1 at Fenway Park.

Victory would not have been possible without David Price’s phenomenal performance, which saw him limit the Mariners to one run on eight hits and no walks with seven strikeouts over eight inningsDavid Price in Top Form. Seattle’s lone run came on a solo shot by the red-hot Franklin Gutierrez, who reached out and flicked Price’s 44th pitch just past Pesky’s Pole for a cheap home run. Other than that, Price stifled a dangerous Mariners offense.

With Boston clinging to a one-run lead, Price buckled down. He capped his excellent start with a 1-2-3 eighth, fanning the final two batters. In came Craig Kimbrel, who nailed down the save by striking out the side in the ninth. Without David Price, however, there is likely no save opportunity.

After completing eight innings just once before June, Price has gone eight innings in each of his last three outings. He leads the league in innings as well as strikeouts and has ripped off eight straight quality starts. Except homers, the rest of his stats are falling in line, too. Fans and media haven’t forgotten his early season funk, but it’s quickly fading away. Every time David Price pitches now, his slow start looks increasingly anomalous.

With the back of Boston’s rotation in flux, Price has given his team stability at the top. He’s come as advertised. More importantly, he’s been the stopper they hoped for when they opened the vault for him last winter  Now the Red Sox would like to see David Price in top form come October. That’s when he’ll really earn his money.

For Red Sox Fans, There is Plenty to be Excited About

It’s still cold outside, but the Red Sox warmed Bostonian hearts on Opening Day, beating the Cleveland Indians 6-2. Naturally, we shouldn’t get carried away, as this team still has more question marks than exclamation points, but it was pleasant to watch the Red Sox dominate once again. It was fun to see this new-look team coalesce as one, behind a game plan that worked to perfection.

Red Sox

Most notably, there was David Price, the genuine ace for which Red Sox Nation has yearned. The imposing southpaw pitched six solid innings of two-run ball, allowing just five hits while striking out ten. Yet, aside from the numbers, there was also tangible excellence to Price’s pitching and a palpable excitement among those watching him. With pinpoint control, he hammered the mitt of Blake Swihart. A succession of pitchers blistered over the outside edge in almost unhittable locations, and plenty of Indians were caught looking incredulously at strike three. In terms of debut performances, Price could hardly have scripted it better, given the freezing conditions in Cleveland.

There was also the continued emergence of Mookie Betts as a true superstar. Mookie launched a laser two-run homer and made a dazzling defensive play in right field, leaping high to snare a knuckling liner over his head. Betts brings a phenomenal dynamism to this Red Sox team, which makes for truly compelling viewing.

Elsewhere, David Ortiz celebrated his final Opening Day by clouting a long home run, reminding us all why we love him and that sweet swing so much. Meanwhile, Hanley Ramirez collected two hits and looked comfortable at first base, and Travis Shaw weighed in with an RBI. Every Red Sox batter except Dustin Pedroia and Swihart had at least one hit, with five guys tallying more than one. Then closer Craig Kimbrel came in to shut the door with two strikeouts in the ninth. It was just a very promising day all around.

Of course, it was just one game in a marathon season, a mere raindrop in the ocean. But, without doubt, there is a different buzz and energy to this Red Sox team. There is an excitement that has been missing for some considerable time. The fascination surrounding Price’s starts may be reminiscent of that enjoyed by Pedro Martinez in his prime. Similarly, there’s a chance Ortiz could make history every time he steps to the plate, while the young core is totally enthralling.

Yes, the bubble of optimism could burst with Clay Buchholz, Joe Kelly and Rick Porcello up next in the starting rotation, but Red Sox fans should accentuate the positive. After so many years of struggle, at least they have hope now. They have a dominant ace. They have an elite closer. They have a legendary slugger chasing records and a group of rising stars ready to inherit his mantle.

They have a chance to be really, really good. And after so long in the basement, that has to feel good.

Where the Red Sox Stand as Truck Day Looms

Since capturing David Price in early December, the Red Sox have been awfully quiet. Admittedly, handing a 7-year, $217 million contract to a premium ace just weeks after acquiring an All-Star closer is cataclysmic in baseball terms, and Dave Dombrowski can be forgiven for taking some time to regain composure. However, this isn’t a complete roster by any measure, which means the Red Sox still have work to do as attention turns to Truck Day.

Red Sox

Without a doubt, adding Price and Craig Kimbrel made the Red Sox a much better team. In fact, Fangraphs projects Boston to have the best record in the American League this year. Yet, beneath the data, this is a team with several question marks and unsatisfying holes. Once again, the human reality casts doubt over the statistical romance, as fans are left yearning for more.

Quite frankly, when Clay Buchholz and Rick Porcello are currently slated to take the ball in Games 2 and 3 of a prospective playoff series, it’s difficult to be overly optimistic about the Sox’ chances. Similarly we have no idea what to expect from Pablo Sandoval or Hanley Ramirez, though initial reports indicate they’re working into better physical shape. And as for Jackie Bradley Jr. and Rusney Castillo? We saw exciting flashes last season, but whether they can take that next step into becoming regular stars remains to be seen.

Last year, the Red Sox won 78 games and finished in the AL East cellar, fifteen games behind the Blue Jays and eight adrift of a Wildcard berth. The introduction of Price and Kimbrel should help bridge those gaps, but there is no guarantee. The Yankees have also improved, theoretically, by trading for Aroldis Chapman and Starlin Castro, while the Orioles managed to retain a majority of their club, which looked to be falling apart at one stage. Again, we see that the Red Sox still have plenty of building to do.

So, what is left on the market for potential upgrades? Well, not a lot. The pool of adequate free agent starters has been reduced to Doug Fister, Yovani Gallardo, Mat Latos, Cliff Lee and Tim Lincecum, while the best remaining outfielders are Dexter Fowler and Austin Jackson. Of course, a trade is still possible, with the usual names lurking on the rumor mill, but the Red Sox may not be willing to use any more prospects as trade chips following the earlier blockbuster.

Ultimately, the Red Sox are now in their best position since October 2013. But, unfortunately, that doesn’t say much considering how bad the intervening years were. Boston can certainly rely on Price and Kimbrel to produce, and Mookie Betts, Blake Swihart, Xander Bogaerts and Dustin Pedroia are primed for big seasons, but a string of questions will need to be answered in the affirmative for Boston to truly rebound.

There’s still just over two months until Opening Day, so Dave Dombrowski has time to continue dealing. He inherited a core and has begun to build diligently around it. Perhaps those efforts just need to be accelerated, if the dreams of Red Sox Nation are to be realized soon.

Where Will Dombrowski and the Red Sox Strike Next?

The Red Sox got their ace, and they got a solid closer as well. So, the question is now where will Dombrowski and company go from here? On paper, the team looks like a team that should be in the playoffs next year, assuming they can stay relatively healthy.

Dave Dombrowski has said that acquiring David Price will most likely be the last “major Dombrowski Red Soxmove,” but I disagree with that to an extent, and here is why: The Red Sox are not a World Series team yet. They have an ace in Price, but I believe the Red Sox still need either a number 2 starter or another solid reliever. Right now, the greater need is probably bullpen help because 2 of their key guys, Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara, have struggled with inconsistencies over the past season and a half or so. And Koji is nearing the end of the line at 40 years old, so I don’t know how much gas he has left in the tank. And no team can win without a good bullpen (see: Kansas City).

True, acquiring Craig Kimbrel was a good start, but I think they still need at least one more 7th or 8th inning guy in front of Kimbrel to really shore up the back end of the pen up and take some of the pressure off Koji Uehara and Junichi Tazawa.

In my opinion, getting another starter behind David Price is less of a need than another bullpen help because if the starters we already have pitch like they can, then the rotation should be set. And getting Price will take the pressure off guys like Clay Buchholz and Rick Porcello, as well as help the young guys we have develop, since they can definitely learn a lot from a great pitcher like David Price. If they go out and get a #2 starter, that would be good, but if it came down to it, I’d like to see the Red Sox go after another bullpen arm instead of resting on what they have now, as good as it is at the moment.

 

Red Sox Add Kimbrel, Send Signal of Intent

When the Red Sox traded for San Diego closer Craig Kimbrel last week, shock waves reverberated around the baseball world. Such a trade can be viewed as a defiant signal of intent, a confirmation of Boston’s rekindled commitment to acquiring elite talent.

Red Sox add kimbrel

In Kimbrel, the Red Sox added a genuine star. The bullpen ace will turn 28 in May, but has already amassed 225 saves in five full Major League seasons. Only thirty-eight pitchers have ever saved more games in baseball history, which is indicative of Kimbrel’s prodigious ability. Given his relative youth, Craig figures to have a legitimate shot at 500 saves, a plateau reached only by Mariano Rivera and Trevor Hoffman thus far.

Of course, the Red Sox didn’t want to give up dazzling prospects such as Manuel Margot, Javier Guerra, Carlos Asuaje and Logan Allen, but the opportunity to rebuild a woeful bullpen around one of the two best closers in the game was too good to pass up. Dave Dombrowski has often struggled to construct a strong relief corps, but Kimbrel gives him an enviable cornerstone.

Moreover, this trade was highly symbolic. From a philosophical perspective, it indicated that, after years of indifference and indecision, the Red Sox are ready to go all-in and recommit to investing heavily to win now, rather than just stockpiling assets for a tomorrow that may never arrive. Dombrowski is the ultimate win-now architect, and ownership has clearly granted him autonomy to reshape the Red Sox into a powerhouse.

So, what is his next move towards achieving that objective? As every baseball fan on the planet knows, the Red Sox need a bonafide ace, a bulldog to head the rotation. And, as Dombrowski indicated recently, that piece will likely be acquired via free agency. Accordingly, Boston figures to compete heavily in the market for David Price, who seems the perfect antidote to the franchise’s pitching problem. Alternatively, Zack Greinke may be a target, although his advancing age will test ownerships’ resolve, while Johnny Cueto and Jordan Zimmermann will also be worthy of consideration.

However, I think the Red Sox need two, not one, additional starters. At present, the perpetually inconsistent Clay Buchholz will start on Opening Day, while Wade Miley or Rick Porcello would likely pitch Game 4 of any potential playoff series. Quite frankly, that simply isn’t viable if the Sox hope to seriously compete for a world championship. Therefore, I expect Dombrowski to finally solve the ace problem before wading into the secondary market for a strong mid-rotation arm like Mike Leake, Doug Fister, Jeff Samardzija, or Mat Latos.

Hypothetically, a rotation of Price, Leake, Miley, Buchholz, and Eduardo Rodriguez would instantly improve the Red Sox beyond measure, and go a long way to redressing the balance between offence and pitching that was so distorted last year. Dombrowski could possibly offset the salary burden by working some kind of trade including Joe Kelly, Porcello, or, ideally, Hanley Ramirez.

At this point, speculation is the lifeblood of baseball fans. A lot can happen between now and Opening Day. However, with one trade, one sacrificing of homegrown talent in order to obtain elite external reinforcements, the Boston Red Sox made a new commitment to their fans, and fired a warning to their rivals. Dave Dombrowski wants to win immediately, and the journey to that end promises to be greatly intriguing.