David Price’s return helps lead Sox in rout of Blue Jays

Don’t look now, but if the Red Sox continue to roll over teams like they did in a 12-2 victory over Toronto yesterday, the league better be on alert. After David Price’s return to form, and an offensive onslaught led by red-hot hitters Rafael Devers and Xander Bogaerts, the Sox have clearly put that series loss against Houston behind them.

Price looks like his old self in his first start back from the IL

David Price’s return will bolster the rotation, which was thinning with Nathan Eovaldi David Price's returnweeks away from returning. In his first trip to the mound since May 2, the southpaw was strong. Price went five innings (67 pitches) and held Toronto to just two runs and three hits, striking out four. For Price, his latest effort just adds on to his pure dominance over Toronto in his career. This afternoon’s victory propelled him to a 13-1 record all-time at the Rogers Centre. That balloons to a 22-3 career record in games pitched against the Blue Jays, good for a 2.37 ERA.

You don’t mess with David if the Jays are in the opposing dugout.

Bogaerts and Devers go back-to-back, Chavis stays hot

Carrying the offensive load for Boston were Bogaerts and Devers, led by back-to-back bombs in the 9th inning. On the day, the young sluggers each drove in a trifecta of runs, with rookie Michael Chavis adding another moonshot and a pair of runs driven in. Chavis finished the afternoon with a mammoth .981 OPS through 26 career games. That would be the highest mark on the team (for position players) if it qualified. Adding to the barrage was Jackie Bradley Jr., who drilled a line drive over the left field fence for his first home run of the season. His homerless drought had led all the way back to the ALCS against Houston. That homer came in Game 4 off of Josh James to tie the game in the sixth inning, leading to an eventual Red Sox victory.

Today’s lashing continues a powerful stretch for the Sox. Over their last 18 games (since 4/29) they have smacked 34 homers and have averaged 6.84 runs per game. In that span, they lead the majors in OPS.

The bullpen combines with David Price’s return to completely shut down the Jays

After Price allowed a two-run home run to Luke Maile in the second, the Red Sox arms shut it down. That home run was the final hit surrendered by Boston pitching for the remainder of the game. After that home run, 22 of the 23 remaining batters were retired. Brandon Workman, Heath Hembree, Ryan Brasier, and Hector Velazquez combined to throw four scoreless innings, striking out six and walking just one. The bullpen continues to be a strong point, posting a sub-two ERA over its last 22 games, the second-best mark in MLB.

As the Red Sox continue to rebound from that ugly start, all sides of the ball appear to be clicking. If the Rays and Yankees continue to battle the injuries they have suffered with, it would not be out of the question for the Red Sox to be as good a challenger as anyone for the division title.

Red Sox Save Their Season

In Boston’s three games over the weekend, they played their best baseball by sweeping the Rays. They showed life when they needed to, made big plays when opportunity knocked, and, most importantly, the three wins secured a Red Sox save to their season after a horrendous start.

The Sox’s biggest score over the weekend was an ample source of momentum. AfterRed Sox Save weeks compiled with struggles and reflection, the club finally gained a reason to play for 2019. They proved to themselves that they can play with baseball’s best (Tampa Bay had MLB’s best record entering Friday – now second best). They also proved they can win big games on the road.

Sox hit 5 home runs over weekend

Boston’s plethora of home runs, which helped move them out of the AL basement of ‘trouble slugging’ teams, came at the right time to help the Red Sox save their season. Starting on Friday, Christian Vázquez socked a pitch from Rays southpaw Ryan Yarborough over the center field wall. This hit came moments after Rafael Devers plated J.D. Martinez from first base on an RBI double. Then, in the eighth inning, with the game tied 4-4, Mookie Betts led off with a homer to center. As Betts rounded first and headed towards second, he pumped his right fist as a sign of elation. Mitch Moreland then went back-to-back. His blast sailed to right-center.

On Saturday, the Sox went up 1-0 when Sandy León was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded. Andrew Benintendi then hit a grand slam to left-center to put the Sox up 5-0. On Sunday, Moreland homered again to score Boston’s first run. It was his seventh long ball in 21 games played.

In a collaborative effort, Vázquez stands out

From Boston’s very first run on Friday against Tampa Bay, to a pickoff throw to Steve Pearce at first to win game 2. And ending with yesterday’s game-winning sac fly in the 11th inning, Christian Vázquez was the star of the series and played a major role in the Red Sox save to their season.

As mentioned above, the Sox’s first run on Friday came on a Devers RBI double. Martinez scored from first, which was impressive considering his size and lack of speed on the base paths. Martinez scored the run on a bang-bang play at home plate, in which if he slid a split-second late, he probably would have been thrown out. What stood out from the play, however, was that the catcher called the runner safe milliseconds before the ump. Talk about focus!

Arguably the best play of Vázquez’s career came while catching, with two runners on base (one in scoring position), and two outs in the bottom of the 9th. The Sox were clinging to a one-run lead. The catcher noticed Tommy Pham was taking a big lead off of first base, and thus pre-determined a pickoff throw before the second pitch of the impending at-bat arrived. His throw was perfect and Steve Pearce tagged out Pham to win the game. With much excitement, Vázquez hugged relief pitcher Ryan Brasier. He then looked towards his other teammates with a smile, thrilled to seal the victory.

In the series finale, in extra innings, Vázquez hit a sac fly to deep right-center to score the winning run. Number-seven rounded first and clapped three times above his head before heading towards the dugout. He clearly had the largest impact of any Red Sox against TB.

A rookie gets his first career hit

Michael Chavis, Boston’s top prospect, was recalled from Triple-A Pawtucket before Friday’s game. He made his first career at-bat in game 2, in the top of the 9th inning, and with a runner on first. His clutch performance at this dish was a big boost to the Red Sox save to their season. Dave O’Brien, the team’s play-by-play commentator on NESN, said it best, “Chavis rips a double!” His double traveled more 400 feet, over Gold Glove Kevin Kiermaier’s head. The 23-year-old Chavis could not have produced a better first at-bat.

Starting pitching finally coming along

Eduardo Rodriguez, Rick Porcello, and David Price gave the rest of their team a fair chance to win their starts over the weekend. The trio’s contributions helped quiet the doubters, for now, and were key to the Red Sox save to the season. E-Rod and Porcello each pitched more than five innings and allowed 3 earned runs or less. Price allowed just 2 runs, struck out 10, and did not allow a long ball. They all saw their pitch count rise above 90.

Red Sox Save Their Season – Ideas to consider moving forward

  • Do not take foot off the gas pedal — Chris Sale starts tonight and is still looking for his first win. Coming off a successful and emotional weekend, Sale should be ready to kick butt. The Tigers are last in the AL in runs scored. They are also last in home runs and OPS. This should only give Sale a better chance for a quality start.
  • Continue to play Chavis — After a pinch-hit double on Saturday, manager Alex Cora elected to start Chavis yesterday – a decision I agree with. He responded by reaching base just once in five plate appearances. Devers has been playing better recently (4-game hitting streak), but could be subject to sharing some time at third, which is Chavis’s natural position. There also still lies a huge hole at second base with Dustin Pedroia, Eduardo Nunez, and Brock Holt nursing injuries. Cora should be confident in playing Chavis regularly this week.
  • Do not panic over losing Eovaldi — The starter is meeting with his doctor today after an MRI showed two loose bodies in his pitching elbow. According to multiple sources, surgery is the most likely outcome. I know this seems hard, but the Red Sox still have a solid four-man rotation in Sale, Price, Porcello, and Rodriguez. Add in Héctor Velázquez (2 games started, 6 combined innings, 1 earned run) and the rotation looks even better. They do not have starters ready to go in the farm system. The team could opt to pitch similarly to the Rays – by rolling out relievers to begin games. The case is a strong one, as Tampa Bay leads the AL with a 2.85 team ERA.

Mookie Betts Is Looking Every Bit Like the AL MVP

Since his first appearance on the MVP ballot three years ago, the question has notMookie Betts been if, but when Mookie Betts will take home one of the most coveted honors in Major League Baseball. Betts’ sophomore campaign in 2015 yielded a .291 batting average, 18 home runs, 77 runs batted in, and lots of optimism for this promising young outfielder.

In the following season, Mookie started turning heads and looked as deserving of the MVP as any. He drastically improved his numbers and played his way into his first All-Star Game as a starting outfielder. He also took home a Gold Glove, a Silver Slugger, and finished as the runner-up for American League MVP, falling just 45 points short of Mike Trout. His numbers regressed slightly in 2017 after batting a career-best .318 in 2016, but still returned to the All-Star Game and finished 6th in MVP voting. His play to begin the 2018 campaign has Mookie Betts emerging as a favorite to take home MVP honors at last.

Mookie Betts 2018 MVP?

Over the first eight games of the season, the Boston Red Sox were working on the best start in the history of the franchise. Mookie Betts’ bat, however, was nowhere to be found. After recording only one RBI on a lone solo home run in that eight-game span, Betts has since flipped the script entirely. In 31 games, the 25-year-old right fielder has swung his way into the league-lead for home runs (13), batting average (.360), runs (36), and slugging percentage (.825). This power surge has fueled Boston’s offense and helped the Red Sox maintain their top-two 25-10 record. It has also landed Mookie Betts in the history books.

On May 2nd, Betts returned to the starting lineup after hamstring tightness held him out for two games. Boston’s red-hot leadoff hitter picked up right where he left off. Betts hit three home runs for the second time this season, this time on a trio of solo dingers. The Red Sox’ 5-4 win against the Kansas City Royals was Betts’ fourth 3-HR game in his career, passing Ted Williams (3) for the most in franchise history.

No Signs of Mookie Monster Slowing Down

Just days after rejoining the lineup, Betts exited Sunday’s game when a throw from first base struck his right shoulder as he was heading to second base. This latest setback did not slow him down either, as he reprised his leadoff role in Boston’s next game on Tuesday. And he didn’t just return, he notched two hits against Yankee ace Luis Severino, including a clutch RBI triple that tied the game before the Yankees went back up for good.

Mookie Betts is on pace to hit over 60 home runs and drive in over 130 runs, out of the leadoff spot no less. He also leads the league in extra-base hits (26) and total bases (94). And with a spotless fielding percentage to top off his exceptional start to the season, he continues to prove himself as one of the most complete 5-tool players in Major League Baseball, and the early leader in the clubhouse for the American League MVP.

All Star Brock Holt Back in Sox Lineup

2015 All Star Brock Holt rejoined the Red Sox last week after taking time to recover from a concussion. The left fielder sustained his injury in early May after attempting to catch a line drive. Having Brock Holt back in the lineup couldn’t come at a more important time as Boston slips into third place. But what were his thoughts before rejoining Boston last week? I got to talk to Holt in late June in Pawtucket where I asked him how he felt.

“I’m feeling better,” Holt told me before a June 24th game against the Scranton/Wilkes Barre RailRiders. “It just feels good to be backBrock Holt back out here playing.” Like Holt, the Red Sox Nation has been eager to see the 2015 All Star get back in a uniform. But in recent years concussions like the one Holt sustained have been taken much more seriously. Recent studies show how much damage the brain sustains from concussions. These studies persuade doctors and trainers alike to be more cautious about rehab. This is why Holt took so long to get back to playing. Concussions can be scary for anyone, but not Holt.

“I wouldn’t say [it was] scary but it was just a weird thing to go through. Physically I felt fine. From the neck down I felt fine. From the neck up I didn’t. I knew something was wrong. It’s something you need to get right before you start playing again. You don’t want it to linger.”

Red Sox Have Brock Holt Back in the Lineup

As Holt begins to transition back into playing, he’s already thinking about getting back to left field. “I’ve played outfield for the last few years now. It was a challenge at first. We do a lot of practice taking balls off the wall (Green Monster). It’s difficult to play left because of the wall but there’s also not a lot of room to cover. You kinda learn it. If a ball hits high off the wall it’ll bounce. If it’s lower then you don’t know where it’s gonna go. Line drives bounce harder. We do a lot of pregame work but it’s a tough wall to play.”

Having Brock Holt back in the lineup is already paying off. He hit a homer in a July 4th game against the Texas Rangers. The home run was his fifth hit in three games. In addition to his home run, Holt threw a runner out at home from left field that ended the fourth inning for the visiting Texas Rangers.

Will having Brock Holt back be enough to overcome their deficit in the American League East? One thing is for sure. It won’t hurt!

Xander Bogaerts is the Best Shortstop in Baseball

Xander Bogaerts is the best shortstop in the league and is overlooked by many. He came up in the Sox system and people marked him as a guy who had a 30 homer bat. The power hasn’t been there up to this stage in his career but even if he doesn’t develop into a power hitter, Bogaerts is as good as it gets in the batters box in baseball. While teammate Jackie Bradley Jr. has a 27 game hitting streak, some may not know that Bogaerts hasXander Bogaerts best shortstop the second longest hitting streak in baseball at 16 games.

Bogaerts has recorded a hit in 28 of his last 30 games and leads the American League in batting average at .346. During his hit streak he is hitting .403 with five doubles, three homers and four RBI’s. The most impressive part of the streak is the three homers. While Bogaerts was tabbed as a guy who had power potential down on the farm, that power has never shown at the big league level.

Is Bogaerts the Best Shortstop?

Many said Bogaerts could eventually develop into a 30 homer bat at a shortstop position where that type of power is very hard to come by. To put it in perspective, the last time a shortstop hit 30 homers in a season was in 2011, done so by Troy Tulowitzki and J.J Hardy. If Bogaerts ends up hitting 30 homers in multiple seasons, he may end up being one of the best offensive shortstops ever to play the game. Still 23 years old, Bogaerts could end up hitting in the 20-25 homer range at best. I do not see that happening until at least 25 years old though as he continues to evolve as a major league hitter. If the power doesn’t develop, what is Bogaerts potential?

Sox fans may remember a guy named Derek Jeter. When watching Bogaerts hit all I can think of is Jeter. They both spray the ball all over the field and are extremely tough to get out. The most homers Jeter hit in a season was 24, done so in 1999, his fifth season in the big leagues. Bogaerts is in his fourth season this year and will likely finish around 15-20 homers. Jeter got off to a faster start in his major league career than Bogaerts but Bogaerts figured it out last season having a better third season than Jeter had.

The comparison to Jeter may come off as far fetched but having the luxury of watching both of them play has been awesome and they are both very similar hitters offensively. Bogaerts still has a lot of time to cement his own legacy in the game and his great season last year followed by his torrid start this season should have Sox fans excited as we may have the new Jeter wearing number two in a Sox uniform.

Could Ortiz Match Williams In His Final At-Bat?

Few Hall of Famers can say that their final Major League at-bat was a memorable one. Mickey Mantle popped out to Red Sox shortstop Rico Petrocello in 1968, who by then was merely a shadow of the player he once was. Babe Ruth, playing his final year for the Boston Braves in 1935, grounded out, a less than stellar ending to a career that had all but turned into an embarrassment (A pinch runner often took Ruth’s place in his last season because he had become too heavy to run). Even our own Carl Yazstrezemski’s final at-bat was uninspiring as he popped out in the bottom of the seventh against the Indians in Ortiz Match Williams1983. Many in the Red Sox Nation are hoping that David Ortiz won’t go the way of Mantle, Ruth, and Yazstremski when he takes his last at bat this season. In fact, I’m hoping he’ll leave the game the same way Ted Williams did, but in the post-season instead  of the regular season.

Ted Williams, a.k.a. the Splendid Splinter, bid adieu to baseball on September 28th, 1960 when he hit a solo home run to center off of Baltimore’s Jack Fisher in the bottom of the eighth, giving the Sox the edge in a 5-4 win. No other Hall of Famer had ever homered in his last at-bat, and none to date have done it since (as far as I know). But that was in a year when the Red Sox weren’t playoff contenders (they finished 7th in the American League with a 65-89 record). So if the Red Sox make the playoffs this season after a two-year hiatus, Ortiz might not only leave the game in a memorable way of his own, but might do so at Fenway Park during the World Series, perhaps with a home run of his own.

Winning the World Series for Boston with a home run is a LONG shot for Ortiz, and many factors would have to align perfectly in order for there to even be a chance of that happening (If Ortiz pulled that off I’d push to have the Baseball Hall of Fame’s five-year waiting period waived so he could be inducted right away). But if the Sox reach the playoffs, then Ortiz will have a chance to reclaim his role as a clutch hitter (he did hit five home runs and batted .400 in fourteen playoff games in 2004, including a game-winning home run in Game 4 of the ALCS). So if Price and Bucholtz throw the heat, Bogaerts hits over .300, and Betts and Bradley Jr. keep playing like the Gold Glove winners that they are, then I think it will be safe to dream about what Big Papi will do in his final at-bat. Whether it will be with a home run or not remains to be seen. But when we’re talking about Big Papi, anything is possible!