The Battle For Second Place Begins

After going 3-1 against the New York Yankees, the Red Sox will host the Tampa Bay Rays starting tonight. As the Rays roll into town, the battle for second place in the AL East officially begins. The Red Sox are a half game back of the Rays, who went 2-1 against Toronto this past weekend.

This is a pivotal series for Boston, as they look to continue the fight for October. Also, thesecond place trade deadline is tomorrow, and the rumors are still flying. For Boston, the battle for second place is an uphill one.

Game One

A rematch of last week’s showdown in Tampa Bay begins Tuesday night. Charlie Morton goes up against David Price in the first game. While Morton is looking for win number 13 of the season, Price is looking to win his eighth game of the season.

For Morton, he is looking to keep his team in second place. Price, however, has other plans. After a shaky outing on Wednesday against Tampa Bay, Price is not only looking to redeem himself, but push Boston into second place.

Game Two

The battle for second place in the AL East continues a few hours after the trade deadline is finished. Rick Porcello has the ball in this game against a Tampa Bay starter that has yet to be named.

Porcello is looking to continue his hot streak after his win on Thursday night against the Yankees. He went six innings allowing three runs off of six hits. It did help that the Red Sox scored seven runs in the first inning off of Masahiro Tanaka, led by Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr.

Game Three

Boston begins August by having Andrew Cashner on the mound in what will be a very important game. After this game, Boston heads to New York to face the first place Yankees. Tampa Bay has yet to announce a starter for this game, but Kevin Cash will have a trick up his sleeve depending on how the first two games go.

Like Porcello, Cashner’s last game out was a masterpiece. The newest member of the Red Sox got his first taste of the rivalry, and did a great job. Cashner went 6.2 innings, allowing three runs off of ten hits, allowing him to get his first win in a Red Sox uniform. When Alex Cora took him out in the seventh, the Fenway Faithful gave him a well deserved standing ovation.

Can Boston win the Battle for Second Place in the AL East?

With the trade deadline in eyesight, both Boston and Tampa Bay have questions that need to be answered. For the Rays, it’s their rotation. For Boston, it’s the bullpen. This past weekend, Tampa Bay got to work, trading for Toronto’s Eric Sogard on Sunday. They also traded Hunter Wood and Christian Arroyo to Cleveland for prospect Ruben Cardenas.

As for Boston, rumors that they are in the process of getting either Edwin Diaz or Ken Giles are still out there. Both closers would be a good fit for Boston. Of course, what happens between now and then is up to Dave Dombrowski. Both this series and the next one are important for Boston. The defending World Series Champions need to stay hot if they went to get to October.

Andrew Benintendi Continues to Stay Hot

Although the Red Sox couldn’t cap off a sweep to finish off what was a very successful series against the Yankees, there was a ton of encouraging signs by this Red Sox team. One of which came from Andrew Benintendi, who looks like he might have turned a corner. As Benintendi continues his hot streak, the Red Sox will likely do so as well.

Benintendi’s July has been encouraging (he currently is batting just under .300 for thebenintendi continues month) but it was this past 4-game series, which helped solidify in my mind that his bat isn’t done cooling off.

Overall, Benenitendi finished 10 for 18 (.555 AVG), with 2 home runs, 6 RBI’s, and 8 scored runs. This is when Andrew Benenintedi is truly at his best. He doesn’t need to be the powerhouse of the lineup. Bringing a consistent night of offensive production is what is needed to keep this lineup continuing to operating like the efficient machine that it is.  Benintendi continues to become a consistent offensive contributor in each game, especially against the Yankees this past weekend.

Benintendi Continues His Tear

You can make the case that Benintendi’s production this past weekend was due to the Yankees atrocious starting pitching (good point). Or it was the fact that almost every positional player on the Red Sox had a great weekend (also, good point). It’s hard not to get excited though when someone as inconsistent as Benentindi has been, shows up and provides quality at-bats with offensive production. With the trade deadline only days away this could be one of the better additions to Red Sox could make to their starting lineup. Not that any are really in need of any offensive additions. A productive Benintendi for the dog days of August and the stretch run in September could be an offensive boost that fans have sought. Let us hope that this wasn’t a fluke month or series. Benintendi’s bat is here to stay for the remainder of the season and into the playoffs.

West Coast Problems: Sox Stuck With Struggling

The Red Sox could not hold their lead after scoring the first 3 runs in yesterday’s game. Making his second start of the season was Eduardo Rodriguez, and for the second consecutive start, Rodriguez looked awful. In his first outing in Seattle last Saturday, E-Rod could not make it out of the 4th inning, as he allowed 8 hits, 6 runs (5 earned), a home run, and 3 walks on 105 pitches. Yesterday, the left-hander could not make it out of the 3rd. He again allowed 8 hits, 6 runs (all earned), a home run, and 3 walks. He threw just 84 pitches and, with the loss, his record now stands at 0-2. The Sox west coast problems have been a combination of mental mistakes, poor pitching, and poor teamplay.

West Coast Problems: Cora at the forefront

“I pay attention to details,” manager Alex Cora told nbcsportsboston.com. “I love payingWest Coast Problems attention to details and that’s something I took pride [in] last year. And right now, we’re not paying attention to details. So that’s on me. That’s on the staff.”

There were several examples of unacceptable decision making from the entire series, but especially from yesterday’s loss. In the 4th inning, Rodriguez allowed a RBI double to Robbie Grossman that gave Oakland a 4-3 lead. Marcus Semien then flied out to center for the inning’s second out. Stephen Piscotty then came to the plate. After hitting a 3-run bomb in his previous at-bat, Piscotty sent a flyball towards the right-center warning track. A miscommunication occurred between two Gold Glove outfielders, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Mookie Betts. The ball landed between them and hopped over the wall for a two-run, ground rule double. 6-3, Oakland.

West Coast Problems: Laureano for sure

Later in the game, in the 9th inning, the Sox found themselves down 7-3. Betts had reached first base on a walk. Andrew Benintendi subsequently sent a blooper to short-center field that dropped between Ramon Laureano and Semien. Betts aggressively rounded second and headed towards third, only to be thrown out by Laureano for his third outfield assist of the series. The Red Sox could of had runners on first and second with no outs. Instead, Benintendi was stuck at first with one out. The game ended two batters later.

Red Sox starting pitching this season looks like this: 0-5, 8.44 ERA, 13 home runs allowed, and a .301 BAA. Opponents have compiled a 1.052 OPS. Just to compare apples to apples, here is what the current division leader, Tampa Bay Rays, starting pitching looks like: 4-1, 2.19 ERA, 5 home runs allowed, a .190 BAA and a .570 OPS.

The Sox will attempt to ease the pain of their west coast problems as they play Arizona next starting tonight. Things do not get easier for Boston’s starters, as the team heads into the final series before returning to Fenway for the home opener on Tuesday. The Diamondbacks rank second in runs, home runs, and RBI in the National League through 7 games. They rank first in hits, doubles, and total bases.

Something that is not seen in the box score is how a team cooperates together from a visual perspective. One note I wanted to hit on is what Red Sox Nation knows as the ‘jump hug’ between Brock Holt and J.D. Martinez. Every time Martinez homers, Holt greets him in the dugout with a childlike, inseparable hug and the two jump together to celebrate. The tradition has lasted for about a full year now. I understand that baseball is full of quirky rituals and superstitions, but my question is, why are two grown men celebrating over one sequence when, overall, the team is in flux and in last place? It’s something that has been bugging me.

Boston’s record stands at 2-6 through their first two series. It is their worst start to a begin a season since 2011 when the team started 1-7 under former manager Terry Francona.

How Many Home Runs Will Hanley Ramirez Hit?

Hanley Ramirez

On Wednesday night, Hanley Ramirez received a flat, 78-mph knuckleball from R.A. Dickey of the Toronto Blue Jays, and, with one trademark, helmet-dislodging swing, launched a long home run over the Green Monster in left field. It was the 10th homer of the season for Ramirez, tying him with Seattle’s Nelson Cruz for the Major League lead, and equaling David Ortiz’s 2006 record for most round-trippers by a Red Sock before May 1st.

Naturally, when a player achieves something only done once before in franchise history, Hanley Ramirezpeople begin to take notice. In the case of Ramirez, fans instantly began to wonder about the sustainability of his incredible pace, with many attempting to project just how many home runs he could possibly hit this season.

On a purely mathematical level, Hanley is currently on pace to hit 77 home runs, through a full 162-game slate. This, of course, would break the all-time single season record of 73, set by Barry Bonds in 2001. Obviously, that just isn’t going to happen. Eventually, pitchers will adjust to Ramirez, who, undoubtedly, will experience slumps throughout the season, as is the failure-based nature of baseball.

Moreover, Hanley has typically struggled to remain healthy for a full season and, in recent years, the left fielder has required occasional days off to rest his ageing body. For instance, in the past four full seasons, Ramirez has played 115 games on average, due to injury and subsequently cautious management of his playing time.

Interestingly, at his current pace, Hanley would hit 54 home runs through 115 games played, which, of course, would equal the Red Sox single-season record, set by Ortiz in 2006. However, such a figure seems unlikely in the long run of a Major League season. Ramirez can be a very streaky hitter, and his aggressive approach may lead to more strikeouts once pitchers begin to catch up in mid-season.

But, in the spirit of fair argument, it is important to point out that, through April, Hanley showed a large increase in line-drive percentage (33%) compared with his career average (21%), and currently has a batting average right around .300 despite a BABIP in the low .230s. This suggests that, in the early going, Ramirez has been a flat-out better hitter than what he was in recent seasons; perhaps better in April 2015 than he has been at any point throughout his career.

Hanley Ramirez

Furthermore, 30.3% of Hanley’s fly balls this season have resulted in home runs, which, considering the league average of 9.5%, is quite astonishing, and indicates his fresh determination to take advantage of the famous left field wall at Fenway, which can convert even the laziest of flies into a homer. Whilst, overall, Ramirez has hit better on the road this year, his swing has seemingly been transformed due to the temptation of the Green Monster, with 80% of his home runs so far going to left field, compared with 53% last season, which he spent with the Dodgers.

Therefore, where pitchers adjusting and Hanley slumping may detract from his ultimate home run total in 2015, a new pull approach and the friendly confines of Fenway may make up the difference. Thus, while Bonds’ record won’t come under threat, and Ortiz’s franchise mark should remain intact, Hanley Ramirez, health-permitting, may well hit between 45 and 50 home runs this year, which would be one of the top five home run-hitting seasons in Red Sox history.

Predicting Mookie Betts’ Future Numbers

Mookie Betts

It’s often foolish to make predictions about young players with a paucity of big league experience, but anybody who has watched the opening salvo of Mookie Betts’ career knows just how much the kid makes you dream.

Barely sixty games into his enthralling Red Sox tenure, the 22-year old Betts has already left a significant footprint in Boston sports lore. For instance, last August, he became the youngest Red Sox player to hit a Grand Slam in 49 years. Similarly, just last week, he became the team’s youngest Opening Day lead off hitter since Rico Petrocelli in 1965, and its youngest Opening Day center fielder since Tony Conigliaro in 1964. Moreover, Betts’ bomb off of Cole Hamels made him the third-youngest player ever to homer for the Red Sox in a sMookie Bettseason opener. Quite simply, he’s doing things which very few people his age have ever done, setting the tone for the fabled Red Sox and garnering nationwide attention.

But, more than that, Mookie is chasing history, thanks to an awe-inspiring start that has the baseball universe wondering just how far this precociously talented starlet may go. Accordingly, it’s only appropriate that we have a little fun with the numbers, and try to project, moving forward, what records Betts may break, and where his career may wind up, in a historical context.

Right now, through the first 59 games of his Major League career, Mookie has a .281/.355/.446 slash line, with 63 hits, 14 doubles, 7 home runs, 26 RBI, 10 stolen bases, 24 walks and 38 runs scored. By extrapolating that performance to represent a typical 162-game season, we see that Betts will, on average, produce 173 hits, 38 doubles, 19 home runs, 71 RBI, 27 stolen bases, 66 walks and 104 runs scored per year, numbers which ought to garner him a smattering of MVP votes.

However, the real fun begins when we expand that baseline seasonal output to represent a 15-year career. For instance, if he played fifteen full seasons at the present rate, Mookie would wind up with 2,595 hits, 570 doubles, 285 home runs, 1,065 RBI, 405 stolen bases, 990 walks and 1,560 runs scored. Presuming he stayed with the Red Sox for life, those numbers would place him 3rd, 2nd, 6th, 7th, 1st, 5th and 3rd in franchise history in the aforementioned, respective categories.

Yet, due to his early arrival in the Major Leagues as a 21-year old, Betts figures to have a legitimate opportunity to play more than fifteen full seasons. Thus, for arguments sake, let’s extrapolate his average baseline numbers to encompass twenty full big league seasons. The results? A remarkable 3,460 hits, 760 doubles, 380 home runs, 1,470 RBI, 540 stolen bases, 1,320 walks and 2,080 runs scored. That’s more home runs than Joe DiMaggio, more RBI than Mark McGwire, more stolen bases than Ichiro Suzuki, and more hits than Honus Wagner, Willie Mays and Tony Gwynn.

Of course, I’m aware the math is more than a little flawed, and, yes, I know it’s highly unlikely that Betts’ career will follow such a linear track. But, just for a moment, as he blazes a trail through the American League, it’s tremendous fun to marvel at the numbers and daydream about the potential. According to the somewhat skewed, yet nonetheless entertaining, projected career stats, right now, in Mookie Betts, the Sox have a cornerstone player with Jeter’s stroke, Manny’s patience, Rice’s power, Bonds’ speed, and Vlad Guerrero’s clutch production, which begs one question: who on Earth would trade all that for Cole *Bleeping* Hamels?

‘Twas The Night Before The World Series…

world series fenway

‘Twas the night before Fenway, and all through the park, all the creatures were stirring; the ballpark not dark;

The staff all scurried ‘round the park with care, in hopes that a championship soon would be there;

The Cardinals were nestled all snug in their beds, While visions of home runs danced in their heads;

And Molly in her ‘kerchief, Wally in his cap, had just settled down for a short monster nap;

When up in the bleachers there arose such a clatter, Wally sprang from his hideout to see what was the matter!

Away to the field he flew like a flash, ran through the outfield… he made a mad dash!

The glow of the lights on the freshly cut grass, blinded Wally, who almost fell on his A**

When what to his wondering eyes should appear, but Manager Farrell and a team full of beards!

More rapid than eagles, his players they came, And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;

Run Ellsbury! Pitch Lester! Catch Salty and Ross! Short Peddy! First Nava! Hit Papi and Nap!

To the top of the bleachers, to the top of the wall, now hit away, hit away, hit away all!

Wally heard him exclaim, as balls flew out of sight,

It’s the World Series guys, let’s continue to fight!