Red Sox Post All-Star Break Review

The Boston Red Sox entered the All-Star break at 68-30. That was the best record in Major League Baseball, and they’ve kept a firm grasp on that honor. Back on July 2nd, Rick Porcello and the Sox took down the Washington Nationals 4-3. You may remember Porcello driving a shot into the gap and clearing the bases off a pitch from reigning NL Cy Young winner Max Scherzer to put Boston ahead. They went on to win the next nine contests. In the series opener against the Blue Jays, you may remember Mookie Betts’ at-bat heard around the world when he launched a grand slam over the Green Monster on the 13th pitch he saw. If you haven’t seen it, you should.

Boston’s next loss came eleven days later, on Friday the 13th no less, in their second All Star breakgame against the Blue Jays. The bad luck didn’t last long, however. The following game, the Sox and Jays headed to extra innings knotted at 2 when Xander Bogaerts stepped to the plate with the bases loaded. One run was all Boston needed, but Bogaerts went ahead and sent one over the fence in dead center instead, walking the game off in glorious fashion. It was Boston’s first walk-off grand slam since the year 2000.

Just a year after not hitting a single grand slam, the Sox, with nine at the break, are in striking distance of the franchise record for grand slams in a season (11), and the MLB record (14). The Red Sox concluded the first half winning 12 of their last 13 contests and 17 of their last 20. Now, as Boston’s dominant pace continues, let’s take a look back on the first half for the winningest team in Major League Baseball.

Starting Pitching

For the first time in Red Sox history, Boston entered the break with four pitchers with ten or more wins. Porcello and Eduardo Rodriguez have eleven, while Chris Sale and David Price, each with ten, are just behind.

Rodriguez continues to progress in Boston, with his 11-3 record, 3.44 ERA, and 110 strikeouts on pace to be career-highs. He was just placed on the ten-day disabled list with a right ankle sprain and is still sidelined to this day. While Porcello hasn’t returned to his Cy Young form from two years ago, he remains a respectable arm in the middle of the rotation. However, Porcello looked like Cy Young himself in his recent start against the Yankees, where he tossed a complete, one-hit gem of a game that aided the Sox in their relentless sweep of New York, comfortably in second place in the AL East.

Price continues to be a wild card with his injury hiccups and apparent inability to pitch against the Yankees. At 10-6 with an ERA north of four, there is certainly room for improvement from Boston’s 217-million-dollar southpaw. While we’re on the subject, Price looked to find some sort of groove against the Yankees in their last series. He wasn’t dominant, but it was a significant step in the right direction. Steven Wright and Drew Pomeranz will likely return to health soon after the break, and the claim for the fifth rotation spot is something to keep an eye on. Meanwhile, Sale, with an AL-best 2.23 ERA and MLB-best 188 strikeouts, is throwing as well as anyone in the MLB and is a front-runner for the American League Cy Young. I’ve paid my respects to him already.

Relief Pitching

In a word, unimpressive. We all know about Carson Smith by now. Joe Kelly has enjoyed a successful year as Boston’s setup man, but his ERA had ballooned to 4.31 recently after a stretch of shaky outings. Heath Hembree and Brian Johnson haven’t been anything special, and Tyler Thornburg had only appeared in four games. Craig Kimbrel had 30 saves at the break and continues to look like one of the best closers in baseball. But unfortunately, he can’t do it all.

Offense

The main reason for the best first half in franchise history? This right here. Mookie Betts led Major League Baseball with a .359 batting average and is gunning for MVP honors. J.D. Martinez, who batted .328, is third, and his 29 home runs and 80 runs batted in led the league at the break. The influence of Martinez on this lineup has been nothing short of incredible. He continues to make his case for one of the best free agent acquisitions the Red Sox have ever made. Expect his name right next to Mookie’s on the MVP ballot.

At the turning point in the season, Xander Bogaerts had already surpassed his 2017 home run total and matched his RBI total. Mitch Moreland played his way to his first career All-Star game in his second season in Beantown. Andrew Benintendi was flat out robbed of an All-Star appearance. He is on pace for career-highs in batting average, stolen bases, home runs, doubles, and RBI. The struggles of Jackie Bradley Jr. subsided as the first half wound down and he looks to have found some sort of groove at the plate. Newly acquired Steve Pearce is fitting in nicely so far. Through nine games, he’s batting .458 and is another cog in the stacked Red Sox lineup. Oh, and he absolutely torched the Yankees in the series sweep, hitting four dingers and driving in eight runs.

Review of the Red Sox After the All-Star Break

The Red Sox entered the break with a 4.5 game lead on the Yankees in the AL East, and it has skyrocketed since then. Betts, Martinez, Moreland, Sale, and Kimbrel all secured a trip to the All-Star Game. The Sox were the only team in the American League with multiple starters in the All-Star Game (Betts, Martinez).

Looking back, the Red Sox started the year 17-2 on their way to the best start in franchise history. And they hit the All-Star break after going 17-3 over their last 20. The Boston Red Sox are statistically the best team in Major League Baseball. If their historic first half is any indication, this ballclub will be a force to be reckoned with come October.

Drew Pomeranz Should Not Be Starting

It is getting painful to watch Drew Pomeranz pitch every fifth day. Playing the Astros this weekend, it is easy to see the major difference for Houston between this year and last. It’s the Astros dominant rotation. With the addition of Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander now in the fold for the entire season, both of whom seem like early contenders for the Cy-Young award, there isn’t a weak link in their starting 5. For the Red Sox, it is clearly Pomeranz.

Chris Sale, David Price, and Rick Porcello all posses Cy-Young award caliber potential.Drew Pomeranz When those three are pitching at their peaks, it is hard to find a better trio in the league. Meanwhile, Eduardo Rodriguez seems to be staying healthy, continuously turning in quality starts and now has a 6-1 record. Pomeranz has not had that same reliability.

Last season, Drew Pomeranz looked like the all-star type of pitcher Dave Dombrowski thought he had acquired a year prior when he obtained the lefty from the San Diego Padres in exchange for the promising pitching prospect, Anderson Espinosa. Drew won 17 games for the Red Sox in 2017, as he was the consistent staple in the Boston rotation, along with Cy-Young runner-up Chris Sale. Pomeranz earned the nickname “Big Smooth” as he seemed confident and easy going in pressure situations. His ’12 to 6′ curveball baffled hitters, especially Yankees, as he amassed 174 strikeouts for the year. Ex Boston manager John Farrell, saw enough poise and success from the south-paw he decided to name him the “number 2” starter for the playoffs. Since that postseason start, he has fallen off tremendously.

Drew Pomeranz  is Replaceable

This offseason, the oft-injured Drew Pomeranz again didn’t make his season debut until late April. When he returned, his fastball was noticeably down in velocity. After averaging close to 92 on the radar gun with the pitch last season, it has since dipped to the 88 mph mark. His curveball didn’t have the same prototype bite to it. That late movement to the breaking ball we as fans were accustomed to seeing. Now after eight games started, it is easy to see last season may be an anomaly. Wright should be in the bullpen.

The knuckleballer Wright has been fantastic this season. He has only allowed four runs in 16.0 innings pitched from the pen. The knuckleball seems to regularly find the strike-zone. Alex Cora has leaned on him as the “innings eater” all year. Before Wright went down with an injury in 2016, he earned an all-star nod and was on his way to a dominant season. Wright often has had to pitch in long-relief this year. He routinely comes in as early as the third or fourth innings to replace the struggling Pomeranz. If Wright joins the rotation, then he wouldn’t be in mop-up duty, fewer runs would be given up early and Boston would have a better chance to win.

Red Sox Comeback Against Rays

In the 118 years of the program’s existence, the Boston Red Sox never started 8-1, until now. On Sunday, down 7-2 in the eighth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays, the Red Sox scored six straight runs. This Red Sox comeback included five runs coming with two outs. Since falling to the Rays on Opening Day, the Red Sox have won eight straight and started this season better than any other team in franchise history.Red Sox Comeback

While the Sox have largely relied on their pitching through the first eight contests, it was the offense’s turn to carry the team in this one. The Rays got to starting pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez early on, as the lefty gave up five hits and three runs, all earned, in only 3.2 innings of work. Manager Alex Cora had to get creative with his bullpen in this one. He trotted out four different middle relievers before handing the ball to Carson Smith in the 8th and Craig Kimbrel in the 9th. In their lone innings of scoreless work, Smith (1-1) took home the win while Kimbrel secured his third save of the young season.

Red Sox Comeback Best Start in Program History

Down 7-2 in the eighth inning, Mitch Moreland got things started with his first double of the season, driving in Hanley Ramirez. He crossed the plate soon after on a double by Rafael Devers, his fourth of the season. RBI singles by Christian Vazquez and Mookie Betts tied the game at 7.

Andrew Benintendi has struggled to begin the 2018 campaign, batting only .154 with 6 hits. Stepping up to the plate in a game knotted at 7, with two outs and the go-ahead run on second base, he had a chance to turn the page on his rocky start.

Turn the page he did, as Benintendi knocked his first double of the year to center field, scoring Mookie Betts and putting an exclamation point on Boston’s explosive eighth inning.

Even with all of the positive takeaway’s from Sunday’s game, the Red Sox experienced a scare in the seventh inning when shortstop Xander Bogaerts was helped off the field with a  left ankle injury. After a J.D. Martinez throw from the outfield bounced away, Bogaerts slid into the stairwell of the Rays’ dugout, unsuccessfully trying to corral the ball and save the run.

Bogaerts has been the undisputed sparkplug of the Red Sox offense so far this season. Through nine games, Xander Bogaerts has hit .368 with two home runs, including a grand slam in his 6-RBI performance on Saturday. He added one hit on Sunday before Brock Holt replaced him in the seventh inning.

Injuries Can’t Cloud Red Sox Comeback

Manager Alex Cora has said that Xander Bogaerts will be further evaluated on Monday. Not only has Bogaerts put this offense on his back, but Boston’s middle infield is already undermanned with Dustin Pedroia still recovering from offseason knee surgery.

Should Bogaerts miss any time, Eduardo Nunez and Brock Holt will likely man the middle infield for the time being. While solid defensive options, their bats are undoubtedly a downgrade from Boston’s hottest hitter, especially in an offense reliant on baserunners and contact. The status of Xander Bogaerts should be followed closely, as Boston’s middle infield can’t afford any more setbacks.

The streaking Red Sox, after nine games against the Rays and Marlins, will go for their ninth straight victory in their first true test on Tuesday when the Yankees visit Fenway Park at 7:10pm.

 

Harrisburg Senators Win Series on Sunday

Portland, Maine – The Harrisburg Senators (32-41) led wire-to-wire and defeated the Sea

Harrisburg Senators Dogs (32-39) 11-4 in the rubber match of the series on Sunday afternoon at Hadlock Field.

 

Harrisburg scored in the top of the first for the second straight night. Darian Sandford led off the game with a walk, then Alec Keller doubled and Jose Marmolejos singled to score Sandford.  Raudy Reed followed with a sac fly to put the Senators up 2-0.
Elih Villanueva (1-3) received the loss and allowed five earned runs on seven hits in 3.1
innings.
Taylor Hill (3-1) allowed three runs (two earned) on eight hits in six innings to pick up the victory for Harrisburg. RC Orlan worked a scoreless seventh while Brady Dragmire pitched the final two innings and allowed a run on a single in the ninth by Danny Bethea.
The Senators had 15 hits in the ballgame, including a three-run homer by Mario Lisson off of Jacob Dahlstrand and a two-run shot by Drew Ward off of Jake Cosart. Five Senators finished with multi-hit games.
Michael Chavis went 2-for-3 or Portland with a double and a home run, his second of the season. Henry Urrutia had three hits and an RBI, Rafael Devers finished 1-for-2 with a single and three walks.

The Road Ahead

The Sea Dogs’ homestand continues as the N.H. Fisher Cats come to Portland for a four-game series beginning Monday night. LHP Trey Ball (1-6, 5.60) makes his 13th start of the season for Portland. Tickets are available at seadogs.com or 207-879-9500.
Eduardo Rodriguez will rehab with the team on Thursday.
Listen live on the U.S. Cellular Sea Dogs Radio Network beginning at 6:45 PM and watch on MiLB.TV starting at 6:55 PM.

Red Sox’ Winning Streak Has Fans Excited Again

The hometown heroes have won their last five games (as of May 27th). They have scored a whopping 41 Red Sox' Winning Streakruns in those games while opposing teams have mustered just 15. The Red Sox’ record as of May 27th sits at 26-21, which is the highest amount of games over .500 it has been all year. The recent outburst has been an all-around team effort, from the hitting to the fielding and everything in between. The Red Sox’ winning streak has been a proponent of very good pitching, especially starting pitching.

The Red Sox’ Winning Streak Has Been Led By Pitching

Eduardo Rodriguez has pitched two great games during this 5-game streak. He gave up 3 earned runs over 8 innings in Oakland last Sunday, and beat the Mariners on Friday giving up no runs in 6 innings, (4-1, 2.77 ERA). The Sox were coming off a game that they pitched rather well in too, when they tied the MLB record for strikeouts in a game with a combined 20. Drew Pomeranz pitched a gutty game, striking out 11 en route to the win. Craig Kimbrell struck out 4 in the ninth due to a dropped-third strike, while a combination of Hembree, Barnes, and Scott collected 5 punch-outs. Though Chris Sale was unable to break his own record (in which he shares with Pedro) for the most consecutive starts with 10+ strikeouts, the Sox still won. Sale’s three earned runs over 7.1 got the job done.

What Hitting Has Meant To the Red Sox’ Winning Streak

The Red Sox are finding ways to win. They have proved in the last few years that they can beat any team. They did exactly that against a hot Texas Rangers team. The starting pitching held the Rangers’ bats in check while guys like Andrew Benintendi and Xander Bogaerts collected RBI. Xander left the yard for the first time this season, and is hitting a whopping .335 on the season. This is just the start we needed out of him, and his power stroke may have finally returned. Look for this team to stay hot if they can stay healthy, as the return of David Price will hopefully galvanize the club, as well.

Red Sox Inconsistent Pitching Has Been an Issue

The Red Sox starting rotation has yet to come full-throttle. Sox fans are beginning toInconsistent Pitching grow tired of the team’s inconsistent pitching. Despite Chris Sale’s massive success, the rest of the rotation has been inconsistent to say the least. Drew Pomeranz is the only starter with a winning record, and David Price has not returned from injury. Speaking of injuries, Steven Wright can’t stay away from them. Not to mention, Rick Porcello has not found his groove from last year quite yet. It’s still early, but when will it be time to press the panic button?

David Price’s Return Should Aid Red Sox Inconsistent Pitching

If all goes well, LHP David Price is slated to pitch one more simulated game before he goes on his rehab assignment. This is the best news we have heard so far concerning Price’s injury. News broke last month that he was still experiencing elbow soreness during long toss, but now he seems to be making progress. According to John Farrell, Price threw a 50-pitch simulated game on Thursday, maxing his fastball out at 95 mph. Price’s next sim-game will be Tuesday in Milwaukee, and he is expected to make his first rehab start next Sunday. Again, if all goes well, David Price could be back in the Sox rotation at the end of May or in early June.

Red Sox Inconsistent Pitching Does Not Include Chris Sale

At this point in the regular season, Chris Sale could be a legitimate Cy Young candidate. With an ERA of 1.38 and 63 strikeouts, he has been nothing short of electric. His average fastball velocity is up from last year, and he has yet to give up more than 2 earned-runs in a game. The problem is that the Red Sox have trouble scoring when Sale pitches. They have averaged 2.5 runs/game when Sale starts. I do not see this as a huge problem; Chris Sale is one of the best pitchers in all of baseball and we will win games for him. It has to happen.

If the Red Sox want to succeed as much as they were expected to this year, they have to start pitching like they mean it. Also, David Price has to return to the rotation for them to have a chance of repeating their AL East championship.