The Red Sox Are Built for Sustainable Success

The Red Sox are edging closer to their first division title since 2013. At various times in recent memory, that seemed impossible. Too many collapses. Not enough nerve. But as the leaves change color and autumn truncates summer, things are falling into place just nicely this time. The offense is unstoppable, and the pitching has improved. Boston is galloping away with the American League East, and that may be the case for many years to come.

Red Sox

This current success is rooted in fairly recent failure. The Red Sox have made just one postseason appearance since 2009. They’ve finished in last place three times since then, including the past two seasons, while winning eighty games has proved difficult. Managers have changed. Front office members have been fired. New players have arrived on bloated contracts. Yet, through it all, hope still pervaded, for an exciting group of prospects received playing time in which to hone its craft. Now, we’re seeing the fruits of that labor at the Major League level, and it’s pretty magical.

How the Red Sox Built a New Core

In darker days, back when Pablo Sandoval flailed at off-speed junk or Bobby Valentine lost control, we heard so much about the new core developing below. Well, it’s finally here. And it’s finally attuned to big league ball. Mookie Betts has over 200 hits, 30 home runs, 100 RBI and 20 stolen bases. Xander Bogaerts has 20 bombs of his own and he led the league in batting average earlier this season. Jackie Bradley Jr. may finish with 30 homers and 100 RBI with a late surge, complimenting his all-world defense. These players have an average age of just 24. They’re great, and they’re going to be around for a very long time.

Around that nucleus, there are more layers of young Red Sox talent. Andrew Benintendi is just 21, but his grace, poise and ability belies that fact. Yoan Moncada needs further refinement, but his raw skills saw him promoted to Boston before turning 22. Meanwhile, Eduardo Rodriguez has slowly returned to form, and he may be the Red Sox’ third playoff starter. Then we have Blake Swihart and Christian Vazquez, one of whom will eventually become the starting catcher at Fenway Park.

Few Teams Can Compete With This Talent

Quite simply, no other team in the AL East can match that cadre of young, cost-controlled, Major League-ready talent. Toronto is a strong opponent, but many of their aging stars will soon hit free agency. The Yankees are transitioning to a youth movement, and their farm is loaded. But in developmental terms, New York is probably where Boston was in 2014. Many of those bright young players still have a lot to learn, and that can be a painful process. Meanwhile, Baltimore relies on a veteran core, and Tampa Bay is so far removed from contention as to be almost irrelevant.

The Red Sox will have tremendous flexibility moving forward, as these players should remain in Boston for many years. However, right now, veterans like David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Rick Porcello and Dustin Pedroia are providing valuable experience and leading the Red Sox back to contention. That blend of youth and know-how is crucial. It may just result in a deep championship run, if the magic dust doesn’t run out.

Whether the Red Sox win it all this year or not, fans can rest assured that other opportunities will arise in future years. At one point, just a few short years ago, that was a distant dream. Yet now, after building through the tough times, sustainable success is once again on tap in Beantown. It should be fun to watch.

Is the Red Sox Pitching Staff Coming Around?

It’s finally happening. The Boston Red Sox are finding that groove they couldn’t quite grasp all season. For a while the Red Sox took a “two steps forward, one step back” approach. It didn’t work. Particular frustration fell on the Red Sox pitching staff. Blown leads and poor relief pitching added to that “one step back” mentality. But with the Red Sox in a safe lead in the American League East, it’s clear that the pitching staff is finding its groove.

Let’s start with Clay Buchholz. I gave up on Buchholz as a Red Sox pitcherRed Sox Pitching Staff  after he gave up a home run on his first pitch last summer. Enraged, I left Fenway Park. The first inning hadn’t even ended yet. For the next several weeks, I watched Buchholz struggle on the mound as he gave up numerous runs in his first few innings. Recently, however, Buchholz has won the two of his last three starts. While the teams Buchholz has beaten aren’t exactly contenders (Tampa Bay, San Diego), it’s still an improvement, especially compared to where he was last summer. He still has to bring his ERA down, but for now, let’s be thankful it’s not going up!

After being on the disabled list for almost two months, Koji Uehara is finally back. Uehara doesn’t seem to have lost much of his magic either. As of September 17th, Uehara has a 0.67 WHIP and a 0.00 ERA in the last seven days. While he hasn’t registered a save since mid-July, it’s good to know that Uehara’s time on the DL didn’t affected his performance.

Red Sox Pitching Staff Still Has Some Work To Do

While Clay Buchholz and Koji Uerhara are improving, there’s a few pitchers who have a ways to go before they’re dependable again. Eduardo Rodriguez, who everyone expected to have a strong season, is 2-7 in 17 starts. He only lasted 2.1 innings against New York on September 15th, yielding eight hits and four runs. He hasn’t won a game since July 16th. As for Steve Wright, fans haven’t seen him at all in September as he  works on rehabilitating his arm. Wright, like Rick Porcello, emerged as a surprise success this season. It’s only obvious that the team wants to get him back as soon as he’s healthy.

Run support hasn’t been much of an issue this year. The bats have been on fire all season. The Red Sox pitching staff suffered from inconsistency throughout much of the season. However, it’s clear that the pitching is finally synching with the hard hitting lineup. With that said, this optimistic fan and sports writer is growing more and more confident that he’ll see the Red Sox in the World Series.

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.

Eduardo Rodriguez Masterful Again

As the Red Sox enter the home stretch of a pennant race, it would be silly not to recognize the excellence of their starting pitching. At one point this season, fans were begging the Red Sox to pick up any starting pitcher available.That is how bad the Red Sox starters were. Red Sox starters have dominated the last month and a half and it is no surprise that they’re back in the hunt for a division title. Everyone has had success in the rotation lately, but maybe the most important piece has been Eduardo Rodriguez.

Rodriguez came into this season with a lot of hype surrounding him. He won 10 games last year as a rookie and looked to be a blossoming young star. His 2016 campaign did Rodrigueznot get off to the start he wanted; his first start of the season came in late May and he struggled in the first half. His low-light: a June game in Tampa where he was shelled for nine runs on 11 hits. Unable to make it out of the third inning, the debacle led to him being chewed out on the mound mid-game by Dustin Pedroia.

Rodriguez’s Second Half

Rodriguez was sent down to Pawtucket in late June due to his struggles. Since the All-Star Break he is only 1-3 but has a 2.73 ERA. He has brought his ERA from the brutal June 8.59 down to 4.83. The highlight of Rodriguez’s comeback has been his last three starts. In those starts he has only given up five runs in 18 and 1/3 innings. Sunday was definitely Rodriguez’s best start. He pitched 7 and 2/3 no hit innings and shutout the A’s for a full eight innings. Unfortunately for him, the Red Sox found a way to lose the game and “E-Rod” received a ‘no-decision’ for his efforts.

The most impressive part about Rodriguez’s turnaround? His complete change of attitude on the mound. While in Pawtucket, Rodriguez had to develop secondary pitches after leading the league in fastball percentage. He improved his slider and change up tremendously during that stint. When he was rushed back up to Boston, he flourished. He is pitching with confidence and craftsmanship.

The way Rodriguez and the starting rotation are going right now, the Red Sox have a great chance at playing postseason baseball again. Looking at this recent success, it is hard to understate the importance of Eduardo Rodriguez’s maturation.

Looking Into September For The Red Sox

New England: brace yourselves. The last few years have brought the ringing of the song “Wake Me Up When September Ends” for Red Sox fans. However, 2016 has proven to have been a much different year than Red Sox fans are (recently) used to. This is what the fan base has yearned for.

After a see-saw month of July and a bit of a sour end to August, Boston is ready for Septembermeaningful September baseball. Luckily for the Red Sox, they will have a serious confidence builder going into the month, ending August with a three-game set against the Rays at Fenway. From this point on, the push for a playoff spot is most certainly on.

The September Schedule

It is one thing to play meaningful baseball, it is quite another to play no meaningless baseball in September. From September 9th to the regular season finale on October 2nd, the Red Sox will only play within the division. Yes, that means the last 23 games of the regular season will be against the AL East. Every game this month is going to be a high-leverage one, leaving virtually no room for error. That is the scenario the Red Sox will surely be in if they get back on track.

The Red Sox and Blue Jays will square off for a three-game series in Boston from September 30th to October 2nd. The way these two teams have been playing, it seems as if the final series of the year will decide a division champion. After last place finishes three of the last four years, this is what Red Sox fans have dreamed of.

To get there, the starting pitching will need to continue to be formidable. Rick Porcello and David Price have been anchors in the rotation this  August. They will need the Eddie Rodriguez we’ve seen most of the second half, not the one we saw Sunday night. Also, the weather should cool down soon, eliminating most of Steven Wright’s excuses. If those guys can pitch well in September, the Red Sox will certainly be a tough team to beat. Also, the bullpen needs to suck just a little bit less. There can be no more of these eight-run innings in a playoff race. If they can avoid being horrendous, the Red Sox should find themselves playing after October 2nd.

So, with that said, it is time to buckle up Red Sox fans. Your team is in for a wild ride in September.

The Red Sox Rotation is Now a Strength

For almost three years, the Red Sox rotation has been a source of frustration. In 2014, Jon Lester was traded away, and Ben Cherington didn’t replace him. Boston lacked an ace for what felt like the longest time, until David Price was signed last winter. Under-performance early this season increased the worry among fans, but things have gradually clicked into place, giving the Red Sox a starting corps to be relied upon as October looms ahead.

A Resurgence for the Red Sox Rotation

In the past thirty days, the Red Sox rotation has pitched to a 3.19 ERA. Only two teams have a better mark in all of baseball: the Cubs and Rays. Boston is also fourth overall in FIP during that span, while a WHIP of 1.110 is the best any American League team can muster. Only the Blue Jays and Tigers have induced more soft contact in the past month among AL rivals, which suggests the Red Sox rotation has definitely turned a corner.

Red Sox rotation

Rick Porcello has emerged as the staff ace, as his 2.08 ERA in the past thirty days illustrates. But David Price has also improved greatly as the season has progressed. The big southpaw has a 2.36 ERA in his last six starts, and he appears to be peaking when it matters most. Meanwhile, Eduardo Rodriguez has a 2.67 ERA in his last five starts; Drew Pomeranz is at 3.31 over his last six; and Clay Buchholz has even returned from the dead with a 2.70 mark in his last 16.2 innings pitched.

Once a Weakness, Now a Strength

Whichever way you dice it, the Red Sox rotation, so often maligned, is quietly becoming a strength. Aside from the numbers, this group just inspires more confidence than it ever has before. Porcello and Price are experienced guys who should handle the pennant race pressure. Rodriguez seems to have ironed out a few issues. And the Sox still have Steven Wright to return from his stint on the disabled list, to compliment Pomeranz and Buchholz, who are also doing just fine.

All things considered, Boston is rounding into form at just the right time. The offense has been relentless all season, but it is now backed by a more consistent pitching staff. In general, the Sox seem to be grinding harder right now, and there is a newfound toughness to this team that has enabled it to win plenty of close games recently. That bodes well for the stretch run, which will feature plenty of games against division rivals such as Toronto and Baltimore.

Through all the hardship and uncertainty, here the Red Sox stand. It’s late August and they have a 71-54 record, good for a share of first place. Just thirty-seven games remain, and one last push is needed for a return to postseason play. For the first time in a long while, the Sox have a strong balance between offense, defense and pitching. Don’t look now, but this may be the most complete team in the American League.