Next Up For The Red Sox – The American League East Leading Rays

After facing three out of the four American League East teams this past week, The Red Sox turn to face the Tampa Bay Rays. The Rays, who have been red hot since the beginning of the season, are currently 13-4. They also hold a 5.5 game lead over the second place New York Yankees.

Over the past few seasons, the Tampa Bay Rays have given the Red Sox headaches.american league east They have also proven to be a competitive team in the American League East. They have reached the playoffs in 2008, 2010, 2011 and 2013. Only once did they make it to the World Series. That was in 2008, when they lost to the Philadelphia Phillies in five games.

Last season, the Rays went 90-72, landing in third place behind the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees. That team, which saw Blake Snell win his first Cy Young Award, did a lot this past offseason. This led to some believing that they may be in rebuilding mode, especially after they traded hurler Chris Archer at the 2018 trade deadline.

Before I go any further, let’s take a look back at the last three series.

Coming Home to The Toronto Blue Jays

After a long road trip on the West Coast, the Red Sox headed back to Fenway Park. There, they faced the Toronto Blue Jays for a mini two-game series.

Game One saw the World Series Champions get their rings and raise the banner. Although it started off as a magical day for the players and fans alike, it did end in a loss to the Jays. The starter Chris Sale, went four innings, giving up five runs. On the positive side, Mitch Moreland and Mookie Betts homered in the game. Final score: 7-5.

Game Two, and the final game of the series saw the Red Sox win in walk off fashion. After starter Nathan Eovaldi gave up five runs in the third, the Red Sox powered back to win the game. After a walk to Betts, Moreland hit a run scoring double to tie the game. From there,  Moreland was replaced by Eduardo Nunez, who stole third. Their closer, Ken Giles walked both JD Martinez and Xander Bogaerts next.

Then up came Rafael Devers. On a 2-1 count, Devers ripped a single to right field, which scored Nunez. This game ended with a score of 7-6, and had the Fenway crowd going wild. This moment, brought to us by some great hitting and a few walks, was a turning point for the Red Sox.

Patriots Day and The Baltimore Orioles

After splitting the series against the Blue Jays, the Red Sox’s attention turned to the Baltimore Orioles. The Orioles, who were playing a four-game set at Fenway, took two out of the four from the Red Sox.

The first game saw a mini win streak occur for the Red Sox. After a solid outing by Eduardo Rodriguez, who went 6.2 inning giving up two runs, the bullpen shut down the Orioles. The offense, led by Andrew Benintendi’s third inning home run, exploded, allowing Rodriguez and the pen to hold down the led. Final score: 6-4 Red Sox.

Game Two wasn’t so lucky for the Red Sox. The Saturday afternoon game ended the mini win streak. Rick Porcello, the 2016 Cy Young Award Winner, only lasted four innings, giving up three runs. Probably the most important thing to note about this game is that Orioles’ first baseman Chris Davis’ bat woke up. Davis, who had 62 plate appearances without a hit, decided to hit a two run single off of Porcello in the first inning. From there, the Orioles would go on to win the game. Final score: 9-5.

Game Three was a win for the Sox at Fenway Park. led by a stellar performance by David Price and Xander Bogaerts, the Red Sox blanked the Orioles. The final score: 4-0 Red Sox.

Game Four, which is the yearly Patriot’s Day game at Fenway Park, didn’t go so well. It found Chris Davis hitting his first home run of the season, and the bullpen being worked quite a bit. The only run scored by the Red Sox came in the fifth inning. Final score: 8-1 Orioles.

Back On The Road to Yankee Stadium

Back to the scene of the crime – The 2018 ALDS, which led the Red Sox to move onto the ALCS and the World Series, took place at Yankee Stadium. Fans can recall those last two games, the last one being the one that crushed the Yankees dreams of moving on. This game, however, was more of a nightmare than anything else. James Paxton, an offseason addition for the Yankees, allowed four hits over eight innings. Final score: 8-0 Yankees.

Game Two started off great for the Red Sox. A first inning solo shot for JD Martinez, and a two run home run for Christian Vazquez, put the Red Sox on top 3-0. Nathan Eovaldi, pitched 6 innings of great baseball, before the bullpen let the lead go. Final score: 5-3 Yankees.

Onto the Trop…

After the mini series in New York, the Red Sox will enjoy an off day on Thursday, before heading to Saint Petersburg, Florida to take on the Rays. After finding themselves near the bottom of the American League East, can the Red Sox play spoiler to the Rays? Let’s hope that they do. Eduardo Rodriguez, Rick Porcello and David Price look to have solid outings down at the Trop.

Transactions In The American League East

The MLB experiences the bulk of its roster turnover during the winter months. This off-season’s largest signing came in late February, when the Philadelphia Phillies signed Bryce Harper to a thirteen-year, $330 million dollar contract. In regards to transactions in the American League East, the most noteworthy deals came two off-seasons ago, when the Red Sox signed J.D. Martinez to a five-year, $110 million dollar contract, and when the Yankees acquired Giancarlo Stanton in a trade with the Miami Marlins.

Although the American League East took a step back in terms of acquiring star-power this winter, there were plenty of deals that will affect the division in 2019. Here is a look at each team’s most notable move.

Boston Red Sox – re-signed first baseman Steve Pearce (one-year, $6.25 million)

Pearce came to the Red Sox in June 2018 in a trade with Toronto for a minor league infielder. He quickly became a fan favorite after a socking a home run over the Green Monster in his first Fenway at-bat. He went on to post a .901 OPS in 50 games for Boston. More importantly, he was a postseason standout and was awarded World Series MVP. In the Fall Classic, he hit three home runs, including two in the series-clinching Game 5. He is set to platoon with fellow first baseman Mitch Moreland. Pearce can also play the outfield. He logged 38 at-bats between left and right field and 64 more as a DH.

Other noteworthy moves: signed right-handed pitchers Erasmo Ramirez and Jenrry Mejia

New York Yankees – acquired starting pitcher James Paxton from Seattle Mariners in exchange for 3 minor leaguers.

This was the most notable transaction in the American League East division this off-season. Paxton threw just north of 160 innings in 2018 and started 28 games. Both were personal bests. He has always had trouble staying healthy, but when Paxton is on the mound, he is royally effective. He threw three complete games last season. One of them was a no-hitter in his native country, Canada. The southpaw joins a loaded starting staff in the Bronx, with Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, J.A. Happ, and C.C. Sabathia by his side. Paxton has his best chance at starting 30 games this year, especially considering how lethal his bullpen is behind him.

Other noteworthy moves: signed RP Adam Ottavino, re-signed SP J.A. Happ

Tampa Bay Rays – signed starting pitcher Charlie Morton (two-years, $30 million)

The 2017 World Series hero is a player, like Pearce, who is hitting his prime later than most. Entering his age-35 season, Morton was named an All-Star for the first time in 2018 and has posted a record of 29-10 in his last two seasons, to go along with an ERA in the mid-3s, a WHIP below 1.20, and 364 strikeouts.

Other noteworthy moves: signed OF Avisail Garcia, traded for C Mike Zunino

Toronto Blue Jays – signed starting pitcher Clay Buchholz (one-year, $3 million)

This signing was one of the sneakier ones and occurred earlier this month. Buchholz, who is a two-time All-Star, has spent the bulk of his career with the Red Sox. He left Boston, after nine years with the club, in late 2016 when he was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies. He started only two games for Philadelphia due to an elbow injury. He returned to action last season for the Arizona Diamondbacks and put together his best season since 2013. In sixteen games he started in 2018, he threw one complete game, accumulated a 2.01 ERA, and limited hitters to a 1.03 WHIP.

Other noteworthy moves: signed starting pitcher Matt Shoemaker, signed right-handed pitchers David Phelps and Bud Norris

Baltimore Orioles – signed shortstop Alcides Escobar (Minor League contract)

The Orioles made close to zero notable transactions this off-season. Although this was the least, most notable transaction in the American League East, this deal makes sense in several ways. Before acquiring Escobar, the Orioles were projected to start rookie shortstop Richie Martin, who has never played an inning in the majors. Still, Martin may outplay the veteran and earn the starting nod, but at least the O’s now have some insurance at the position. Escobar is durable (nine-straight seasons of at least 530 plate appearances) and has experience playing with an exceptional team (Royals 2014-’15). Bringing those qualities to a rebuilding team in need of leadership will fare well.

Other noteworthy moves: signed starting pitcher Nate Karns.