Ortiz Leads Red Sox All-Star Team

As David Ortiz leads Red Sox All-Stars to San Diego next week, Red Sox Nation will cheer for an AL victory. Six Red Sox players have been chosen for the 2016 American League All-Star team at Petco Park in San Diego. This will be the first All-Star game for all but two of the chosen Red Sox players. Here are your 2016 Red Sox All-Stars (Player numbers are current as of July 8th).

David Ortiz will be playing in his tenth, and final, All-Star game this year as he closes in onOrtiz leads Red Sox finishing a historic season. Ortiz is leading the American League with 34 doubles and a .429 on base percentage. He’s also hitting .337 with a .677 slugging percentage. Despite pleas to reconsider, Ortiz insists that he’s retiring—stating that he can no longer tolerate the pain in his feet and ankles. Ortiz should be a shoe-in for induction in the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2021.

Craig Kimbrel has struggled in recent weeks, but has accumulated 17 saves this season. This will be his fifth All-Star game.

Kansas City’s manager Ned Yost chose Steven Wright for this year’s All-Star game, his first. However, Wright probably won’t be the starting pitcher. Wright has developed a nasty knuckleball that rotates slower than planet earth, deceiving batter after batter. He’s leading the league in complete games (3) and has a 10-5 record overall.

Mookie Betts finally made the All-Star team for the first time despite a spectacular 2015 season. Betts currently leads the American League in plate appearances (401), at-bats (374), and total bases (197). Betts has only made one error in 179 defensive chances too.

Jackie Bradley Jr. has revived what was once seen as a floundering career. After hitting .189, .198, and .249 over the last three seasons, respectively, Bradley Jr. is hitting .293 with 14 home runs. In 197 defenses, Bradley Jr. has made only one error. I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets the Gold Glove Award for this season’s defense.

After missing last year’s All-Star game by a narrow margin, Shortstop Xander Bogaerts will finally get his chance to show the rest of the league how good he is. Hitting .332 this season, Bogaerts has emerged as a Red Sox fan favorite. While not known for his power, Bogaerts is a clutch hitter who comes through when needed most.

The 87th All-Star Game will take place on July 12th, 2016 at 7:30 Pacific time. Boston will be smiling down on San Diego as David Ortiz leads Red Sox All-Stars on the field to take on the National League.

Sox Need Pitching Help

Coming into the season, most pundits predicted that the Red Sox lineup would produce enough runs to keep the team in contention, which it has. Most analysts also expected that Boston’s pitching staff, specifically the starting rotation, would be a problem, and in that regard they were also correct. Many anticipated Dave Dombrowski dealing prospects to upgrade their pitching at the deadline, which he seems likely to do. Because the Red Sox need pitching help, and they need it now.

With Boston fading fast, Dombrowski can’t afford to wait another month before bolstering the staffSox Need Pitching Help. The Red Sox are 9-14 in June with a minus-12 run differential. They’ve gone from three games up on the AL East at the start of June to four games out of first in under four weeks. Boston’s offense has cooled considerably, but that’s less worrisome because lineups typically rise and fall over the course of the season. Barring serious injuries, that lineup will be fine.

The same can not be said, however, of Boston’s pitching staff. The rotation has been a mess, particularly at the back end. David Price has not been up to snuff. Joe Kelly and Clay Buchholz have bombed. Rick Porcello has been hot and cold. John Farrell has exhausted all his options for the last two rotation spots with middling results.

With none of the young Red Sox starters proving ready to contribute, Dombrowski must seek pitching help outside the organization. Several big-names will likely be available, including Sonny Gray and Julio Teheran, but would require bundles of prospects to acquire. Boston must stabilize its rotation, however, and it’s worth trading a few kids now to avoid relying on Sean O’Sullivan and Henry Owens down the stretch.

The bullpen could also use reinforcements, as reliable options for high leverage situations are lacking. There’s Craig Kimbrel, obviously, and Junichi Tazawa, but that’s pretty much it. Carson Smith’s done for the year and Koji Uehara is finally showing his age. Boston needs another power arm to strengthen the bridge to Kimbrel. Relievers are always plentiful near the deadline, so acquiring one shouldn’t be too difficult.

So even though the trade deadline is still more than a month away, Boston shouldn’t wait. The Red Sox need pitching help now. If they wait, it might be too late.

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.