Porcello Wins His 20th Game

Friday night proved to be a great culmination for Rick Porcello’s season. Going into 2016, Porcello was one of the major question marks for the Red Sox. The answer to the question has been a season of dominance for him. That dominance has now produced a 20-win season.

Porcello shut down one of the league’s best offenses Friday night, limiting the Blue Jays toPorcello two runs and six hits in seven innings. He also struck out seven while only surrounding one walk. Backing him up, the Red Sox offense slugged their way to a dominant 13-3 win at the Rogers Centre.

The win Friday makes Porcello the first Red Sock to have a 20-win season since Josh Beckett in 2007. If Porcello can offer the same postseason dominance Beckett had in ’07, it could be the same result for the Sox; a World Championship. With the number 20 under the “win” column, Porcello should be the frontrunner for the AL Cy Young Award.

Porcello’s Cy Young Résumé

Porcello’s year has been great to say the least. While not an All-Star, he was the first pitcher in the majors this year to reach those 20 wins, including being 13-0 at home. He also adds an ERA of 3.21 and leads the majors in strikeouts-walk ratio. You can make an argument for Chris Sale or even Toronto’s J.A. Happ, but it is really tough to argue against Boston’s bona fide ace.

More importantly than the 20th win for Porcello, this was a big game for the Red Sox. In such a crucial series, this was a statement win for them. They knocked out Toronto’s #2 starter in Marco Estrada after just 2 and 2/3 innings. While squandering some chances early, the Red Sox blew the game open with a six-run seventh inning to take it from a 5-2 game to an 11-2 game. With this win, the Red Sox can not relinquish first place by the time they leave Toronto on Sunday.

With each milestone a Red Sock gets, the fate of the team still remains the key focus. Whether it is a new record for David Ortiz, Mookie Betts’ MVP-caliber season, or Rick Porcello’s Cy Young campaign, it is all about the playoff picture at this point. Given what has happened the last two years, it is refreshing that the playoffs are what the Red Sox are focusing on. However, Friday night was for Rick Porcello, who put an exclamation point on a terrific season so far.

Why the Red Sox Need an Ace

need an ace

The Red Sox’ lack of a discernible ace has been one of the most hotly-discussed issues this spring. Whilst some fans have shown considerable frustration, a disproportionate amount have tried to glorify what is, essentially, the messy result of blowing negotiations with Jon Lester, crediting the front office for concocting a genius master plan that somehow wound up with Clay Buchholz likely taking the mound on Opening Day. Ultimately, if the Red Sox are serious about making, never mind lasting deep into, the postseason, I believe they need an ace. Right now, they don’t have one, which is a major problem.

John Farrell doesn’t see it that way. The manager has typically been very vocal in need an acebranding his rotation ‘underrated’ and expressing pleasure at his new found ability to send a proven Major League starter to the mound every day. Similarly, the media has, by and large, defended the Sox’ decision not to acquire an ace, pointing to the recent success of the ace-less Orioles and reminding people that none of the past 26 Cy Young Award winners have led their team to a World Series championship in the same year.

I understand that view. I respect that view. I just do not agree. Yes, specialized, hard-throwing bullpens and depleted offenses have diminished the need for elite starting pitching, but that need hasn’t entirely disappeared. In my opinion, every team still needs that one reliable warrior; that one defiant horse; that one true stopper anchoring the rotation. Right now, the Red Sox simply don’t have that guy.

With a 4.30 career ERA and a 1.359 career WHIP, Rick Porcello is the quintessential third or fourth starter. Wade Miley will eat innings, but his 4.34 ERA and 1.401 WHIP last year are less than inspiring. As for Buchholz, Joe Kelly and Justin Masterson? Well, nobody truly knows what to expect. They could be great; they could be horrible. There’s no way to tell.

What we do know is that none of those guys will overwhelm a rival lineup; none of them will throw the ball past opposing batters with consistent regularity; and none of them are likely to have an ERA below 3.00. In short, none of those guys is an ace befitting the Boston Red Sox.

I know we live in a highly analytical age, where an opinion unsubstantiated by sabermetric proof is scoffed at by the masses, but, quite frankly, I still believe there is a lot of value in the tangible, human, element of the game. Without doubt, there is value in having at least one starting pitcher everybody else is petrified of; one pitcher who opposing teams hope to avoid when they roll into town for a four-game series. Every great Red Sox team has had that scary warrior, that fire-breathing ace, from Roger Clemens and Pedro Martinez, to Curt Schilling, Josh Beckett and, most recently, Lester. Essentially, this current crop just isn’t in the same class, which is a sad departure from tradition.

All of the aforementioned legends were extremely adept at stopping regular season losing streaks, and each wrote a brilliant legacy in the postseason, when the value of an ace becomes truly apparent. We saw it last October, when Madison Bumgarner, a thoroughbred leader, put the Giants on his back and carried them to a third World Series title in five years. After watching such an incredible display, every baseball fan asked “who can do that for us?” With the season less than two weeks away, the Red Sox are still to provide an answer.

Hanley Ramirez Adjusting to Left Field

HANLEY RAMIREZ

Back in 2005, the Boston Red Sox gave their top prospect, a 21-year-old shortstop named Hanley Ramirez, a double promotion sending him from AA up to the big leagues. A September call-up Ramirez was, after hitting hitting well late in the year. He made just two big league appearances that year, striking out in both of his at-bats. That off-season, he was dealt alongside Anibal Sanchez in the Josh Beckett trade.
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Ten years later, Ramirez is a career .300 hitter in his big league career and has established himself as one of the top shortstops in the league. Reuniting this off season were Ramirez and the Sox—only this time Ramirez will be playing a completely new position.

hanley ramirezOnly ever playing third base and shortstop in his big league career with 11 appearances at second base in the minors, he will be taking on an entirely different task now as the Boston Red Sox starting left fielder.
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Already down in Fort Myers, Ramirez is working closely with first base coach Arnie Beyeler who is helping him learn the position that he is giving his best efforts to conquer.

“I’m here to work on some little things and get better every day. I’m happy to be here early,” Ramirez told the Boston Globe. He also said that this was the earliest he had ever arrived to Spring Training.
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Known for his bat, Ramirez is consistently among the top hitters in the big leagues. Last year he hit .283 with a .369 OBP and 13 home runs in 128 games for the Los Angeles Dodgers. He also managed to hit 35 doubles and steal 14 bases, posting a 3.5 WAR in a highly productive season.

Getting Ramirez’ bat into the lineup will be important for the Red Sox and from the looks of it, his defense should be sufficient enough in order for that to happen.
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“He knows the footwork and he knows the game. We’ll need to work on throws and just get repetition,” Red Sox first base coach Arnie Beyeler told the Globe. “It will happen over time. I’m happy with how everything is going.”

Red Sox Start New Streak; Beckett Tosses No-No and Cubs Sign Manny

Josh Beckett

Was the Panic Button at the ready? Were we ready to push that panic button? Ten losses in a row. Worst slump in 20 years! Three straight series sweeps. Two veterans on the disabled list. Maybe the only good thing to come out of loss number ten is that there was a bench-clearing incident in Tampa, and maybe, just MAYBE, that can light a spark under this team.

To add salt to the wound, Josh Beckett spun his first career no-hitter. Beckett struck out six, walked three and didn’t come close to allowing a hit against a lineup that included two former NL MVPs and four former All-Stars, as he led the Los Angeles Dodgers to a 6-0 victory over the Phillies in Philadelphia today.

For a little more salt thrown in, Chicago Cubs GM Theo Epstein just signed Manny Ramirez as the new player-coach for the Triple A Iowa Cubs. In a statement issued by the Cubs, Epstein said “While Manny is not and will not be a fit on the Cubs’ major league roster, we do think at this stage of his life he’s a nice fit as a mentor for some of the young talented hitters we have in the organization. Manny will coach full-time and play part-time in a limited role that does not take at-bats away from our prospects.”

“If he shows there is still some magic in his bat, perhaps he will find his way to the major leagues and help another team, but that is not why he is here. We are thrilled that he wants to work with our young hitters and make a difference.”

Can you imagine Manny imparting advice to the Cubs prospects? “Yo, listen, when you make the show and need some time off, tell Theo your grandmother died. It worked for me three times in Boston.”

But we digress. It’s a shame that punches weren’t thrown in Tampa Sunday. That could have shaken the Sox out of their slump perhaps. The incident took place after Yunel Escobar advanced to third base on the pitch following his two-run double that gave the Rays an 8-3 lead in the seventh inning. After he was awarded the base on defensive indifference, Escobar began pointing and shouting toward the Boston dugout.

When little Yunel got his wish and the Sox dugout responded, he couldn’t hide fast enough behind his third-base coach or the third base umpire. He also wanted NOTHING to do with Jonny Gomes, who bolted in from left field. As a matter of fact, Escobar probably ran a further distance from the Red Sox than he did going from home to third.

The bottom line is this, perhaps throttling little Yunel would have been the igniter this team needs, because these are not good times for the defending World Series Champions, but with two wins in a row over the Atlanta Braves, is the tide turning?