Red Sox Learning To Take The Lead In Late Innings

One of the things that frustrated Red Sox Nation last year was the team’s inability to come from behind. An opposing team would outscore them, and the Red Sox couldn’t catch up. They’d load the bases but their hitter would strike out. Or they’d leave runners in scoring position inning after inning. In fact, they led the American League last year in runners left on base. With the Red Sox learning how to take the offensive in later inningRed Sox learnings fans are finally seeing a different tone.

Four of their eight wins as of April 17th were come-from-behind victories. Red Sox found themselves behind the Pittsburg Pirates during their makeup game on the 13th. Down 3-1 going into the 8th, Hanley Ramirez’s doubled home the winning run. The Red Sox did it again on Easter Sunday three days later against Tampa Bay. Down 5-4 in the seventh, the Red Sox rallied to pull ahead 7-5 by the ninth inning.

Even in instances where they didn’t win, they still showed strong effort. In an April 12th game against the Orioles, the Red Sox were down 9-0 going into the third. Despite losing the game, they finished the game 12-5. Win or lose, this was an issue the Red Sox sorely needed to work on from last season.

“The one thing that’s starting to show is that we’ve come from behind a number of games already,” manager John Farrell said in an article posted to Full Count on Weei.com.

With The Red Sox Learning To Come From Behind, Pitching Remains a Problem

I don’t think anyone anticipated the problems that the Red Sox rotation would have going into the 2017 season. We expected to see David Price at this point but he’s still down and out. Rick Porcello and Steve Wrignt have already taken their fair share of devastating losses. The Matt Barnes fiasco with Manny Machado isn’t helping things either.

Last year’s pitching was strong. Price dominated with strikeouts and Porcello became a 20-game winner. It was the offense that struggled at times. Now that the offense is heating up. it’s the pitching that’s struggling. If Farrell can find that balance the team needs, the Red Sox will be able to capture and hold onto first place.

Spikes and Controversy Slide Into Pedrioa

Fans have seen little else beyond spikes and controversy slide into Red Sox news lately. It started Friday night in Baltimore. The O’s third baseman Manny Machado slid into second as Dustin Pedrioa attempted a double play. Machado slid and spiked Pedroia. It looked  unintentional. But Pedrioa’s teammates and fans alike believe that Machado did it on purpose.

Personally, I don’t agree.Controversy Slide

Pedrioa told the press after the game that he didn’t think Machado intentionally spiked him. Pedrioa is a tough player whose been around for years and knows the difference between an accident and a dirty play. In fact, from the stands it looked like an accident.

I was attending the game in Baltimore with my friend Taylor that night. We were sitting behind the visiting dugout. At first, it didn’t look like Pedrioa was hurt that badly. I didn’t see any animosity between Machado and Pedrioa following the slide. In fact, as Machado slid into second he wrapped his arms around Pedrioa in an effort to cushion the impact. To see this kind of controversy slide into the game was unwarranted.

There were a lot of Red Sox fans at Camden Yards Friday night. I didn’t hear any of them suggest that Machado spiked him intentionally. O’s fans seemed to feel the same way. As I left the ballpark I didn’t hear anyone mention it. I didn’t hear anything about it in the bars I went into for an after-game drink. No one was talking about it. In other words, this is nothing more than an effort to make something out of nothing.

Anger and Controversy Slide Into The Red Sox Clubhouse

This incident was about to blow over until reliever Matt Barnes threw at Manny Machado on Sunday. Barnes was immediately ejected, making Friday’s incident a much bigger issue. Now some are saying Pedrioa is partly to blame. Following Sunday’s game, the O’s Zach Britton called Pedrioa’s leadership into question. Britton suggested that Pedrioa can’t control his teammates. It’s one thing to call this a “mishandled situation,” as Pedrioa put it, but it’s another thing to question Pedroia’s integrity. There’s no better ambassador for the Red Sox than Pedrioa. He’s one of those players whose love for the game equals his efforts.

This isn’t something the Red Sox need right now. Barnes should have known better than to throw at Machado over a nothing issue. Pedrioa likely didn’t tell him to do it; it’s not his style. It was an issue that was about to die down until  Barnes made it worse. It was something he decided to do on his own. But that’s between Barnes, his teammates, and John Farrell. Let the Red Sox deal with Barnes and focus on getting Pedrioa back into the lineup.

The best way to deal with this issue is to refocus on baseball. The AL East is unusually competitive this season and the Red Sox need to move on. Instead of dwelling on this insignificant issue, let the Red Sox focus on capturing first place.

Red Sox Rally To Beat Pirates In Makeup Game

The Boston Red Sox played an exciting make-up game against the Pittsburg Pirates Thursday afternoon. It started off rough for starter Eduardo Rodriguez. The southpaw surrendered a home run to Andrew McClutchen in the first inning to give the Pirates a 2-0 lead. The thin and dejected crowd at Fenway Park settled into their seats to watch what they thought would be another loss. But a Red Sox rally in the bottom of the 8th changed all that. This important victory represented so much more though. The offensive and defensive strategies used in this game are exactly what the Sox need to use from now on. It’s exactly what will help dig them out of holes.

Down 3-1 going into the 8th, Hanley Ramirez’s double drove home the winning run. A replay,red sox rally however, showed that the Pirates catcher tagged Mookie Betts before he could touch home plate. So instead of Betts representing the winning run, he was out and the score remained tied. After the Pirates intentionally walked Mitch Moreland, Xander Bogarts hit a go-ahead single to right allowing Ramirez, who had advanced to third, to score the winning run.

The Red Sox Nation erupted in cheers.

This victory was unique in that it didn’t turn into another lazy loss. More often than not fans have seen the Red Sox fall behind, and stay there. Rallies late in the game often come up short. John Farrell would have untested players pinch hit only to see them fail to get on base. Pitchers couldn’t retire the side and had to come out. At times, watching the Sox fall behind was like getting caught in quicksand. The more they struggled, the deeper they sank. So it was good to see that change, even if it was only for an afternoon.

Red Sox Rally Possible In Part to Christian Vazquez’s Defensive Skills

The Red Sox offensive wasn’t the only thing on fire yesterday. Christian Vazquez displayed a level of skill behind the plate that was a show in its own. Vazquez threw out Starling Marte at second in the 6th. What made Vazquez’s cannonball throw to second all the more impressive was that Marte stole 47 bases last year with an 80% success rate. Vazquez did it again in the top of the 9th, this time against Adam Frazier. Vazquez has thrown out 46% attempted base runners, definitely not a number to ignore.

Red Sox Nation saw the kind of solid offense and defense needed to win games. While Eduardo Rodriguez stumbled out of the gate in the 1st, he and the subsequent relievers managed to get it together long enough for Craig Kimbrel to save the game. And while opposing teams will now have a better idea of the team’s strengths and weaknesses, the Red Sox can also use this opportunity to reassess what works when they’re trying to rally.

The team has been on the receiving end of criticism about their inability to bounce back later in games. The Red Sox rally over Pittsburg showed that may no longer be the case.

Bullpen Woes Continue to Plague Red Sox

The Boston Red Sox are currently in Detroit for a four-game series. The Red Sox dropped the first two games before winning 7-5 on Sunday. Bullpen woes played a role in their first two losses, an issue the team has faced for a few seasons now. Between injuries and inconsistent playing time, their bullpen has failed to find their groove. Although Boston won the third game of the series with one more to go, they still have a lot to work on. If they don’t, the bullpen woes will cost the team a playoff birth.

The box scores indicate where the relief pitching often collapses. Their startersbullpen woes are decent, but not strong. Friday’s game saw starter Steve Wright give up four earned runs through six innings. The Red Sox scored five of their own but it wasn’t enough. Reliever Heath Hembree’s inability to stop the Tigers’ led to their victory as he gave up two runs for a 6-5 loss. They can’t afford to make these kinds of mistakes so early in the season. Yes, it is early, but its better to face these issues sooner than later. It will only get worse because opposing teams will continue to focus their offensive efforts on the relievers.

Late Inning Offensive Is Just as Bad As The Sox Bullpen Woes

It’s only fair to point out that the Red Sox bullpen would be stronger if they had the run support. The Red Sox don’t have much of a problem scoring runs early on. It’s the later innings when opposing pitchers, who by then have faced the same hitter a few times, know how to retire the side. I’ve been saying this for a while now. The Red Sox have an issue with overcoming deficits. Opposing pitchers know the lineup too well and it doesn’t seem like Farrell’s doing much to change his tactics (Admittedly, I wrote this line before today’s victory over Detroit).

Boosting their later inning offense could be the solution Farrell needs, as was evident in today’s victory over Detroit. We saw the Red Sox rally in the top of the 8th by scoring three runs, just enough for Craig Kimbrel to pick up the save. The Red Sox might see more victories like this if they continue to focus on offense. This could be the key. If the team can build the run support in later innings like they did today, the bullpen will have more breathing room and can focus on saving the game.

Today’s victory over Detroit is a model the Red Sox should follow the next time they fall behind. What you saw in the 8th inning today were simple hit-and-run tactics managers don’t focus on often enough anymore. Get on base, drive them home, rack up the runs.

Let’s hope the Red Sox use today’s victory as a model for future success.

Problems the Red Sox Will Face This Season

We’re weeks away from another baseball season. Spring training is up and running. The Red Sox made some impressive off-season moves, most notably in obtaining Chris Sale from Chicago. Along with David Price and Rick Porcello, Sale’s addition makes the team a strong contender. But let’s not forget about the problems the Red Sox will face as they prepare for the 2017 season.

John Farrell is entering his fifth season as the Red Sox skipper. Undoubtedly, calls to fireRed Sox Will Face him will rise again if the Red Sox hit the kind of slumps they faced last year. Farrell has to avoid a repeat of those issues or else he’ll finally get the ax. The fact that Farrell is still with the team reflects the level of confidence the Red Sox have in him but how long will that last, especially when their pitching staff will potentially carry them to the post season? The margin of error for Farrell is tighter than ever this year.

Farrell’s problem isn’t just that he’ll walk on thinner ice this season, but that ice will crack open if he doesn’t figure out how to rally the team when they fall behind.

Ghosts of Fenway’s Past Offer Solutions to Challenges the Red Sox Will Face

Recently I interviewed a few former Red Sox players from the 1967 and 1975 World Series teams. Jim Lonborg, Bill Lee, and Rico Petrocelli all agreed that focus and discipline made their teams successful. They stopped slumps before they gained momentum, and rallied each other to maintain morale. Talent and hard work took those teams all the way into the post-season, but what made those teams successful was how well they kept up their momentum.

A problem the Red Sox face time and time again is their inability to face dejection. That’s how they’ll make it to the post-season. It’s hard for them to rally when they fall behind. They can’t depend on David Ortiz anymore. The Red Sox don’t have an heir-apparent yet, but that player won’t reveal himself through talent alone. Ortiz’s heir will have to rise to the occasion to take the reins.

The Red Sox problem is not a lack of talent, it’s their inability to take advantage of the right opportunities.

Red Sox Offensive Stronger Than Ever

I finally saw a spring training game in Florida this week. After spending the morning with Bill “Spaceman” Lee, I made it to Jet Blue Park to catch the Red Sox against the Minnesota Twins. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I saw the starting line up. Jackie Bradley Jr., Brock Holt, and Mookie Betts weren’t in the lineup. Those who were were on fire though. After seeing the Red Sox come from behind to beat the Twins it’s clear that we’ll see a Red Sox offensive stronger than ever this season.

One of the problems the Red Sox struggled with last season was their inability to rally.Red Sox Offensive Stronger They would put a few numbers on the board in the first few innings but the other team matched those numbers later on. Then the Red Sox would fall behind and rarely did they catch up. In some cases, they’d give up once the other team pulled ahead. This wasn’t just an issue last season, but it has been a perpetual problem since they won the 2013 World Series. Some say it’s because of John Farrell’s leadership. He’s not inspiriting the team like he should. Others say it’s the lack of drive. Eight and nine figure salaries can leave players with little to work for. But after pulling past the Twins on Saturday, it’s clear those days may be gone.

Sandoval is Part of What Makes the Red Sox Offensive Stronger

After an embarrassing setback last year, Pablo Sandoval has shown tremendous improvement. Although he failed to bunt to first, it was clear Sandoval’s has worked to run a respectable speed on the base paths. In fact, I was a little blown away by how fast he ran. Sandoval even had a RBI single in the fifth inning. Based on what I saw yesterday, Sandoval could become the source of future comebacks as he hustled, played hard, and made great contact with the ball. This upcoming season is an opportunity for Sandoval to redeem himself. It wouldn’t surprise me if he becomes a team leader this season.

Spring Training Performance Hopefully a Sign of What’s to Come

Other Red Sox players showed tremendous improvement since last season too. It’s easy to say this after only a few spring training games. However, its definitely an improvement over what fans saw over the last few seasons. The Red Sox limped and stumbled into the post-season last year. Their actual post-season performance wasn’t anything to rave about. But if the Red Sox maintain the tight momentum, their offense, combined with a threatening pitching rotation, will make the team strong contenders for October.