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.

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.

Player Positioning: Red Sox Hitters

We’ve only seen twelve games this season, which accounts for a measly seven percent of the long, 162-game stretch. However, it is never too early to start analyzing how players are performing. Here is a look at each of the Red Sox hitters’ player positioning with the team.

Player Positioning: Catchers

Christian Vazquez – .185 BA, .612 OPS, 4 runs, 5 hits, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 2 walks, 7 k’s, 1 SBPlayer Positioning 

The Puerto Rico native had a double and a home run in the team’s first 2 games, but has cooled off since, with just 1 extra-base hit in his last 5 starts. Vazquez is valued more as a leader on defense. His most starts in a season came in 2017 when he had 99. Look for him to set a new career-high in that department with the departure of Sandy Leon.

Blake Swihart – .353 BA, 1.009 OPS, 4 runs, 6 hits, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 1 walk, 4 k’s, 0 SB

Some could make a case for Swihart’s player positioning role to increase. I would have to agree. A former first-round draft pick in 2011, the backstop is finally in a position to earn more playing time with the team. The most games he has started in a season was 84 back in 2015. He has always been known to have potential as a slugger, and he is proving it now. In four starts thus far, Swihart has 3 runs, 5 hits, 2 extra-base hits, and 3 RBI.

Player Positioning: Corner infield

Mitch Moreland – .257 BA, 1.036 OPS, 5 runs, 9 hits, 4 HRs, 10 RBI, 5 walks, 7 k’s, 0 SB

“Mitchy Two Bags” has started 2019 on fire, which has been necessary with his platoon partner, Steve Pearce, beginning the campaign on the Injured List. Moreland, now in his third year with Boston, is slugging .686 through 12 games. He won the Red Sox their first game of the season back on March 29 with a pinch-hit, 3-run homer. With Devers struggling, look for Moreland’s left-handed bat to remain in the lineup as much as possible.

Rafael Devers – .250 BA, .622 OPS, 7 runs, 11 hits, 0 HRs, 0 RBI, 5 walks, 9 k’s, 1 SB

The youngest slugger in the lineup is Devers, who is 22 years old and is in his second year. Cora decided to deploy the third baseman in the three-hole to start the season. The decision warrants much hope and promise from skipper to slugger. ‘Rafy’ had a strong opening series against Seattle, with 6 hits and 4 runs, but has just 5 hits and 3 runs in six games since.

Player Positioning: Middle infield

Dustin Pedroia – 4 PAs, 1 hit

Pedroia started yesterday’s home opener against the Blue Jays. It was his first start since May 29th of last season. He grounded into a double play in his first at-bat. In his last at-bat in the 9th inning, he smacked a liner to right field for a base knock to start a rally. He looked rusty, and while it will take some time for the 35-year-old to get caught up to speed, it was encouraging to see him back in action.

Xander Bogaerts – .263 BA, .839 OPS, 6 runs, 10 hits, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 8 walks, 8 k’s, 0 SB

Bogaerts is a cog at shortstop, especially after signing a long-term extension in Spring Training. He had opened the season with at least one strikeout in six straight contests, but has not struck out in any of the past five games. Instead, he has collected six walks.

Player Positioning: Outfield

Andrew Benintendi – .261 BA, .662 OPS, 4 runs, 12 hits, 0 HRs, 5 RBI, 4 walks, 12 k’s, 1 SB. 

“Benny” led off in all four games against Seattle, then batted second in the next four games against Oakland, and then got switched back to leadoff for three games against Arizona. He has been disappointing for the most part – registering the second most strikeouts on the team. Before yesterday’s 0-for-5 performance, however, he had strung together 4 straight multi-hit games.

Jackie Bradley Jr. – .171 BA, .404 OPS, 3 runs, 7 hits, 0 HRs, 1 RBI, 2 walks, 13 k’s, 2 SB

Also in the discussion for most disappointing start out of the gate is Bradley. “JBJ” has a team-high 13 strikeouts. His defense is what clearly keeps him in the lineup. He won his first Gold Glove in 2018, and also stole a career-best 17 bags. His career OPS of .718 is likely Bradley’s ceiling for this season. He is clearly cold right now and will need a streaky change to come into effect as the season moves forward. It has happened before.

Mookie Betts – .255 BA, .831 OPS, 10 runs, 12 hits, 3 HRs, 7 RBI, 5 walks, 10 k’s, 0 SB.

Like Benintendi, Betts has been shifted around by manager Alex Cora. He has batted second in the lineup in 8 of the 12 games and, on Friday night, manned center field in place of Jackie Bradley Jr. Betts looked shaky in center. He seems much more comfortable in right field, his Gold Glove position. To support the claim, he threw out an Arizona baserunner “by a mile,” according to WEEI play-by-play commentator Joe Castiglione. After starting the season 4-for-15 with no extra base knocks, Betts has compiled 3 doubles, 3 home runs, and 7 RBIs since.

Player Positioning: Designated Hitter

J.D. Martinez – .326 BA, .936 OPS, 6 runs, 15 hits, 3 HRs, 8 RBI, 5 walks, 6 k’s, 0 SB

The back-to-back 40 home run bruiser has been Boston’s best hitter in the early going. “Just Dongs” leads the team in hits, on-base percentage, and total bases. He has also slugged 3 home runs already.

Player Positioning: Platoon hitters

Eduardo Nunez – .167 BA, .367 OPS, 2 runs, 5 hits, 0 HRs, 3 RBI, 0 walks, 3 k’s, 2 SB

“Nuny” has arguably been the most disappointing Red Sox at the plate. He has one extra-base hit in 31 PAs. A former All-Star, he has lacked confidence in the box and while playing the field (mostly second, one game at third). With Pedroia’s activation yesterday, expect Nunez’s player positioning to revert back to a reserve role.

Steve Pearce – 7 PAs, 1 hit (double), 4 k’s

Last year’s World Series MVP has appeared in just two games. He roped a double to deep left in his first game in Oakland. The Red Sox signed Pearce to a $6.5 million, one-year deal in the offseason. He came over from Toronto last July and posted a .901 OPS down the stretch. His bat and experience are extremely valuable to this team.

Brock Holt – 19 PAs, 1 hit, 1 RBI, 2 walks, 7 k’s

The utility man is currently on the Injured List after “being poked in the eye by his son,” per NESN.com. ‘Brockstar’ quietly had his best statistical season in 2018, posting a .774 OPS in 367 PAs. It will be interesting to see how long Holt is held out for and how the team is playing when he comes back. Holt’s player positioning could either continue as the team’s backup second baseman or slot back into his more familiar “service role.”

Weekend Wrap-Up: Sox Salvage One Victory In Arizona

The Red Sox weekend wrap-up began Friday night in the desert with the opening contest of a three-game set against the Diamondbacks. Rick Porcello started his second game of the season. Porcello, after allowing 4 earned runs against Seattle in his first start two Sundays ago, got shelled again. He gave up 7 earned runs in 4.2 innings. What was encouraging to see, however, was the right-hander’s emotions when he returned to the dugout following the bottom half of the 4th inning. A camera showed him throw a Gatorade cooler against the dugout wall. It was nice to see some nerve from Boston’s lousy start to the season. Porcello, now in his eleventh season, has never accumulated an ERA above 4.92, nor a WHIP above 1.53.

Porcello was relieved with two outs in the 5th by Brian Johnson. Johnson, like Porcello,weekend wrap went on to allow 7 earned runs himself, including a grand slam, in just 1.1 innings. When the left-hander finally exited the game after the 6th, the score was 14-1 Arizona.

The Red Sox ended up scoring seven runs in the final two innings. The game was still far out of hand, though. Final score: D-backs 15, Sox 8.

Weekend Wrap-Up: Sox lose a tight one in second game of series

Saturday’s game was another loss, but this time much closer, 5-4. The Red Sox scored first for the third consecutive game. They put up three runs in the top of the 2nd inning. One of those runs was knocked in by pitcher David Price, which was his first career RBI. The Sox could not hold the lead, however. The D-backs responded promptly in the inning’s bottom half with four runs off Price to take the lead.

The game’s next run was not scored until the 7th inning when Mookie Betts drove in Jackie Bradley Jr. with a sacrifice fly to right field. Arizona 4, Boston 4.

The D-backs had a runner on second base, Eduardo Escobar, with one out in the bottom of the ninth. Then Nick Ahmen hit a grounder under Moreland’s glove at first. Escobar came around third base and headed home for the winning run, only to be thrown out by Betts on a one-hopper. Carson Kelly was up next and socked a liner down the left field line that scored Ahmed easily from second. No throw. Final score: Arizona 5, Boston 4.

After losing Saturday’s game, the Red Sox fell to 2-8, which tied the franchise’s worst start through the first ten games.

Weekend Wrap-Up: Boston bullpen captures the team’s first shutout

Manager Alex Cora elected to start reliever Hector Velazquez in the series finale yesterday. The decision proved to be a good one. The right-hander pitched 3 innings and allowed no runs on one hit. The final six innings were handled by Brandon Workman, Marcus Walden, Matt Barnes, and Ryan Brasier. Just two hits and one walk were permitted. Walden and Barners each pitched two innings. Brasier earned his second save of the season.

Mookie Betts was given the day to rest. Mitch Moreland supplied the team its only run of the game. He sent a ball over the fence in the 7th inning for a solo shot. It was Moreland’s third homer of the campaign.

The Sox have their first break of the young season today. They get back to it tomorrow afternoon in the team’s home opener against the Blue Jays.

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.