April Awards: Hitters, Pitchers, Fielders

April has come and gone. The Sox finished the month on a strong note – two wins at home against the Athletics. Their overall record is 13-17, good for 7 games back in the AL East. After some fast starts (Mitch Moreland: 10 extra base hits in first 14 games) and slow starts (Rick Porcello: 11.12 ERA through first 3 starts) to the season, the team heads into May with some optimism, as they look to capture their second sweep of the season today. The following are April awards for Red Sox players:

Player of the Month: Mookie Betts

  • Betts has batted second in the lineup for most of the season. He leads Red Soxapril awards hitters in at-bats, runs, walks, on-base percentage, and OPS. He has also been very efficient in the field, as he leads all Boston outfielders with 5 assists. He has permitted zero errors in mostly right field and some center field. After batting as low as the Mendoza-line through the season’s first three weeks, Betts has turned things around. He batted .452 in the final 11 games of April.

Best starting pitcher: David Price

  • This April award was easy to hand to Price, not because Price’s stuff has been dominant, but because everyone else’s hasn’t been great. Chris Sale and Eduardo Rodriguez have ERAs above six. Rick Porcello’s ERA is above five-and-a-half. Nathan Eovaldi made four starts (6.00 ERA) before going under the knife. Price owns an ERA of 3.60 and a WHIP of 1.07. He finished April with two quality starts.

Best reliever: Ryan Brasier

  • The Red Sox started the season without a firm understanding of their team’s closer. Brasier has become their guy. Six saves in seven opportunities is good for 5th in the American League. His 1.32 ERA, 0.80 WHIP, and .188 batting average against are all elite numbers. Matt Barners, Marcus Walden, and Brandon Workman have all been stellar as well, but Brasier takes the cake here.

Best hitter: J.D. Martinez

  • Martinez, who is batting .312 on the season, edges out Betts by a hair. The former leads the team in batting average and hits (34), and is third in on-base and slugging. Martinez led the led in hits, home runs, and RBI last year. I expect him to do the same this season.

Best fielder: Christian Vázquez

  • The April award could have gone to Betts, or Mitch Moreland, or Xander Bogaerts. Vázquez’s presence behind the dish has been extremely valuable, with the unexpected departure of Blake Swihart and easing-in of Sandy León. Vázquez has caught 5 base runners stealing, which ranks 3rd in the AL. However, more spectacularly, his zero errors ranks first in the AL.

Best rookie: Michael Chavis

  • Of all the April awards, this was an easy one – not just because Chavis is the only Red Sox rookie to receive regular looks this year. His numbers are terrific. His batting average is above .300, on-base above .400, and OPS above 1.000. He has earned an everyday role at second base, and has even seen time at first and third. His bat is for power (3 home runs), and he seems to feel comfortable with his glove while lined up at several infield positions.

Red Sox Sweep the Rays thanks to lifts from Moreland, others

You have tremendous foresight if you were expecting to see the Red Sox sweep the Rays after a weekend series in Tampa. With the tabloids barking for the real Red Sox to stand up, the World Champions were facing adversity really for the first time under Alex Cora. That might still be the case, as Boston still sits at just 9-13 AFTER a series sweep. But the Red Sox are finally showing real signs of shaking their funk.

The Red Sox sweep the Rays with a push from Mookie Betts

As has been the case since Betts showed MVP-ability in 2016, the team goes when he Red Sox Sweep the Raysgoes. When he struggles, so does the offense. It’s no secret Betts was scuffling entering play on Friday, going just 2 of 23 in his last seven games. That changed when he smacked a homer and a double to help lift the Sox over the Rays 6-4 to open the series. Case in point, as he went back-to-back with Mitch Moreland on home runs in the series opening victory. He continued that approach into the next two games. He added two more hits apiece in each contest. If the 2018 MVP continues to stay hot, then he very well might carry the Red Sox back to form.

The starting pitching continues to improve, and that starts with David Price

Price has arguably been the rotation’s most reliable thrower to this point in 2019. While the southpaw has tossed just one quality start so far, he has not allowed more than four runs in a start. Price has worked less than six innings only once too. Given the inconsistencies of Chris Sale, Nathan Eovaldi, Rick Porcello and Eduardo Rodriguez, Price’s outings have given the team a chance to win each time out. He was at his best versus Baltimore on 4/14 (7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 7 K) but worked out of jams and held the Rays to two runs over five innings with 10 strikeouts on Sunday afternoon. With Eovaldi hitting the injured list, and Chris Sale still yet to truly put it together, Price’s importance cannot be overstated to the rotation’s long term success.

Martinez, Moreland, and Benintendi are all off to strong starts

As important as Betts’ oil is to grease the Red Sox’ engine, the team might be off to an even worse start if it weren’t for J.D. Martinez, Andrew Benintendi, and, most notably, Moreland. Through Sunday, Moreland lead the team in homers (7) and RBI (14), and mashed most of those homers to either tie or give the Red Sox the lead. The former Texas Ranger homered again Sunday to pull the Sox within one. Martinez has been one of the best hitters in baseball, hitting .350 with a 1.004 OPS, including four homers and 11 RBI. He is also one of three players (Rafael Devers and Betts) to appear in every game so far. Benintendi crushed his first career grand slam on Saturday to give Boston an early lead. Coupled with his strong defense in the field, the Cincinnati native figures to continue to break out in 2019.

If you expected to read the headline “Red Sox Sweep the Rays” on Monday, you also see why the team has gotten back on track. If the Sox want to keep winning, it is going to take more than what they have received so far from the roster. But a three-game sweep of the first-place Rays is a good starting point. They can now look forward to the upcoming home stand with three straight wins under their belt.

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.

Huge Win For The Red Sox: Opportunity To Split Series Today

What a huge win for the Red Sox last night! Although the team remains in last place in the AL East, the victory snapped their four game losing streak. With the 6-3 victory over Oakland, Boston improved to 2-5 on the season.

The Sox won the game in the 9th inning when Mookie Betts doubled off the third baseHuge win bag. Two runners scored. Andrew Benintendi, next up, scored Betts with a stand up triple. Boston entered the bottom half of the inning with a 3-run lead and handed the ball to Ryan Brasier, who closed the door and gave the Sox their much needed second win of the season.

The game started slowly, as the first 3.5 innings were quite uneventful – one run was scored by the A’s in the 2nd on an infield RBI single by catcher Nick Hundley.

The A’s scored again in the fourth when Ramon Laureano sent a Nathan Eovaldi curveball into orbit. The home run traveled 438 feet, well beyond the center field fence. Other than the Laureano home run and lack of command, 4 walks allowed, Eovaldi pitched decently. He was pulled after five innings. He accumulated 96 pitches, but just 51 strikes.

Swihart, on his 27th birthday, goes 3-for-4 in huge win for the Red Sox

Boston had tallied just one hit before Blake Swihart put them on the board with a solo shot in the fifth. Oakland’s lead was cut to two.

Sox tie it up

Clutch hitting and superb pitching out of the bullpen is what fueled last night’s huge win for the Red Sox. In the 6th inning, Betts led off with a walk. Two batters later, Rafael Devers grounded the ball to A’s second baseman Jurickson Profar for a potential double play. But, Profar overthrew shortstop Marcus Semien. The ball had to be chased down by third baseman Matt Chapman and Betts was able to then advance to third without a throw. Both Betts and Devers were safe.

J.D. Martinez walked on five pitches to load the bases and Mitch Moreland came to the plate. A’s manager Bob Melvin replaced starter Marco Estrada with left-hander Ryan Buchter. Moreland jumped on the first pitch and doubled down the right field line. Two runs scored and the game was tied.

Red Sox relievers Colten Brewer and Matt Barnes pitched the following three innings (6, 7, and 8). They recorded a combined four strikeouts, all of which A’s hitters went down swinging.

After the game, manager Alex Cora’s energy was uplifting. While speaking to reporters, he said, “When we pitch, we have a chance to win the game … The energy was better today, the whole day … We need to start playing clean baseball, better baseball.”

Red Sox activate Pearce ahead of today’s game

Steve Pearce will have a chance to make his 2019 debut now that he was activated off the Injured List today. Sam Travis was sent down to Triple-A Pawtucket.

The series finale is today. After trailing in the each of the first three games, Boston has somehow found a way to win two of the four games. Eduardo Rodriguez takes the mound in an important second start for the southpaw. He is opposed by fellow left-hander Brett Anderson. First pitch is at 3:37 PM/ET this afternoon. Enjoy the day game Sox fans!

Red Sox Struggles Continue: Shutout Two Nights In A Row

FRANKLIN, Mass. – When Matt Chapman clobbered an 89 MPH fastball off Chris Sale with one out in the top of the first inning last night, Red Sox Nation cringed. The ball did not have much loft to it. Right off the bat, I thought the ball had a chance at staying in the yard. But as it kept carrying, and as I saw the left-center field fence only 367 feet away, my doubts sunk in, and a split-second later, a Red Sox starter had given up its 12th home run. As Chapman rounded the bases, one thought crept into my head: the Red Sox struggles continue.

However, to everyone’s surprise, the Sox pitched phenomenally the rest of the way. SaleRed Sox Struggles Continue pitched 6 innings, walked two, and allowed only two more hits, one of which was an infield single and the other a single to center. He threw 87 total pitches. The Sox only had to tax two relievers as well, Brandon Workman and Ryan Brasier. Workman pitched the 7th and Brasier pitched the 8th; both of them did not allow a run.

Where Boston struggled in this one was at the plate. More specifically, failing to capitalize when runners were in scoring position. Hitters went 0-7 with runners in scoring position (RISP). Mookie Betts reached second base after doubling off Mike Fiers in the 3rd with two outs. Andrew Benintendi then grounded to second to end the inning.

To lead off the 4th, Rafael Devers singled to right-center field. J.D. Martinez and Xander Bogaerts followed with two consecutive flyouts. Devers could not tag up to advance from first base. Mitch Moreland, next up, singled to right field. Devers rounded second and reached third base. Brock Holt then grounded out to end the frame.

In the top of the 6th, Benintendi recorded Boston’s fifth hit of the evening with an infield single. Subsequently, he stole second. Two batters later, Martinez was able to move Benintendi to third. Following that, with two outs, Bogaerts struck out swinging.

An inning later, Christian Vazquez also reached third base, after a double and a stolen base. To end the inning, Jackie Bradley Jr. struck out swinging. My thinking: the Red Sox struggles continue.

Laureano Again?!

Bogaerts came to the plate in the 9th with one out. He launched a deep fly ball to center field. Oakland outfielder Ramon Laureano, who gunned down Bogaerts at home plate the night before, went up for the catch, but missed. The ball ricochetted off the wall and rolled back onto the outfield grass. Laureano picked up the ball and threw a one-hop dart to Chapman at third base. Chapman caught it cleanly, slapped his glove down on Bogaerts’ side, and the call was ‘out’!

From there, even with Moreland coming to the plate, the life had been sucked out of the Red Sox. Holt eventually struck out to end the game.

Alex Cora frustrated, but still satisfied

“Right now nothing’s going our way,” the Sox manager was quoted as saying on NESN.com. “Honestly, after tonight, I feel better. I feel better because it was a game. 1-0, we had a chance. We competed. … I know what the record is, but honestly I can go home and get some sleep.”

The Sox have now lost four games in a row. Almost a full week into the 2019 season, they find themselves solidified into last place in the AL East.

The Red Sox struggles continue into tonight’s third game out of four against the A’s. First pitch is at 10:07 PM/ET.

Shockingly Poor Start For The Red Sox

Not what you expected to happen, right? The Sox played four meaningful games in March, one last night, and now it’s April 2nd. The team lost 3 of 4 in Seattle and were shut out last night in Oakland. To say the least, 2019 has been a shockingly poor start for the Red Sox.

The starting pitching has been horrific. Chris Sale, Nathan Eovaldi, Eduardo Rodriguez,shockingly poor start Rick Porcello, and David Price have now all pitched. The results are ugly: 26 earned runs and eleven home runs allowed in 21 innings. The bullpen has not been much better. The club’s eight relievers have all been used, and in 20 innings, have surrendered 20 hits, 7 earned runs, 4 home runs, and eight walks. Matt Barnes has collected the team’s lone save.

In regards to hitting, reigning MVP Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi, who bat one-and-two in the lineup, both have on-base percentages (OBP) of .250. Only Mitch Moreland, Xander Bogaerts, and J.D. Martinez own an on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS) over .800. In comparison to other teams, Boston ranks in the top-5 in all hitting categories, but in the bottom-5 in most pitching ranks.

Now that we know all of that, we must address the key question, which is: what is going on with the Red Sox and why have they come out “flat” after winning the World Series last year?

Pitching is the problem

The starting pitching, besides Price’s performance last night, have not given the offense a chance to get going. 7 runs were allowed in the first 3 innings of game-1, 3 runs through two innings in game-2, 2 runs in the first inning of game-3, and 9 runs through 3 innings of game-4.

In 2018, the Red Sox were the only team that qualified for the postseason to have four hitters (with at least 500 plate appearances) record an OPS of at least .830: Betts, Benintendi, Martinez, and Bogaerts. First baseman Steve Pearce, who played in just 50 regular season games with the team down the stretch, recorded a .901 OPS. One could attribute Betts’s .598 OPS, Benintendi’s .375 OPS, and Pearce’s absence (calf injury) to the poor start for the Red Sox.

Also in 2018, Boston was the only team (postseason eligible) to have a player save more than 40 games with a WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched) less than 1.00. That player? Craig Kimbrel – he is not back with the club this year. Kimbrel’s presence in the bullpen could factor in nicely moving forward and take some pressure off relievers.

Poor attitude

One factor to the shockingly poor start for the Red Sox that cannot be measured by statistics is their attitude. Their leader, manager Alex Cora, was asked during postgame if there was any concern following the team’s loss last night.

“Not really. It’s five games. When you go through stretches like this, it (stinks) that it’s early in the season, but yeah, we have to pick it up.”

Cora’s nonchalant demeanor is not changing the way the team is approaching games. The top of the lineup needs to get going. Cora announced today on MLB Network that Betts will move back to the leadoff spot. The starting pitching now starts its second turn. So far this season, Sox pitchers have allowed the most runs in the American League. They rank second-to-last in earned run average (ERA) and batting average against (BAA). In addition, Boston is the only AL team to not record a quality start.

Tonight’s first pitch is at 10:07 PM/ET. We’ll see if things start to change this evening in what has been a shockingly poor start for the Red Sox.