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.

Latest Red Sox homestand offers hope for winning streak

After a crucial weekend series in Tampa that resulted in a sweep, the latest Red Sox homestand presented the team an opportunity to do damage on some beatable opponents. The team remains under .500, but did start to show signs of rising up from the ashes of a losing April. Following the sweep of the Rays, optimism was abound as the fan base thought, “maybe this is when the team turns it around!” A lopsided Detroit series followed by a part of tightly contested losses to Tampa got the homestand offer to an undesirable start. A strong finish over Oakland pulled Boston back above water though. Let’s look back at the key points of each series.

Series One: Detroit (10-10), split series 2-2

  • In game one of a doubleheader, following a rainout the night before, the Red Sox Red Sox homestandhomestand started off with a strong start from Chris Sale, but a start that only saw him work five innings.
  • 2019 rising star Matthew Boyd tossed a quality start (7 IP, 3 R, 3 K) and led Detroit to a 7-4 day-game victory.
  • In game two, rookie hurlers Darwinzon Hernandez (2.1 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 4 K) and Travis Lakins (2.2 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 2 K) appeared out of the bullpen in impressive fashion in their major league debuts.
  • Much like in game one, the Red Sox offense had a quiet evening at the plate, losing 4-2.
  • In game three, the Sox bats broke out for the first time, powered by a balance attack that saw Rafael Devers, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Christian Vazquez drive in a pair of runs each
  • The Sox were also powered by Eduardo Rodriguez’s best start of the season to date (6 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 7 K) in an 11-3 laugher.
  • In the finale, the Red Sox bat’s again showed burst, leaning on a home run from rookie Michael Chavis and a two-run double from Devers, as well as quality start from Rick Porcello in a 7-3 victory.

Series Two: Tampa Bay (18-9), lose series 0-2

  • A strong start by David Price (6 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 7 K) but a poor night from the Red Sox offense in a 2-1 loss in game one.
  • In the second matchup, Chris Sale rebounded after allowing four runs in the first two innings to go seven strong. It was not enough though as the Red Sox fell to Tyler Glasnow and the Rays 5-2.
  • Charlie Morton and Glasnow both shined in their starts against Boston, allowing just three earned runs combined.
  • The loss was Sale’s fifth on the season, and he remains without a victory.

Series Three: Oakland 14-16), win series 3-0

  • With the Red Sox homestand looking like yet another setback, the team rebounded well to pound Oakland over three games.
  • In game one, another spread out offensive attack, including three RBI from Chavis and three hits from Mookie Betts, helped the Sox come back from a 4-0 deficit to claim an eventual 9-4 victory.
  • The bullpen allowed just one hit and no runs in 4.1 innings of work among the six players that appeared.
  • Game two received a gem for Porcello (8 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 8 K) as Boston rose victorious 5-1.
  • Game three featured strong work out of the stable, as six relievers combined to allow three runs.

The Red Sox are in the midst of a seven-game road trip. They will play the White Sox before stopping in Baltimore.

Mookie Betts heating up at the right time for Boston

It’s no secret that the Red Sox have not been impressive in the opening month of their title defense. After all, finishing April at a 13-17 clip is nothing short of a disappointment to start 2019. The Sox have won 7 of their last 11 and there’s been big reason for that: Mookie Betts heating up.

The 2018 AL MVP generally starts his seasons with a cold couple of weeks, and this Mookie Betts heating upcampaign was no different. Up until about two weeks ago, Betts was slashing .212/.321/.394. Those are numbers that a lot of players would be happy with. But the Red Sox right fielder is capable of much more, and that is starting to show.

Over the 11 games since, he has started to blossom back into form. He’s hit .405 (17-for-42) with five doubles, two homers and seven RBI. But not only do the numbers suggest that he is starting to find his stride, it is clear that his approach at the plate improved as well.

A change in approach has re-calibrated Betts’ bat

Mookie Betts was the topic of discussion last night when Alex Speier of the Boston Globe joined the NESN broadcast booth. Speier pointed out that Betts had been allowing pitchers to work further into counts, a deviation from his 2018 approach. Instead of jumping on a 1-0 fastball, the right fielder was letting those pitches go by. More recently, you will notice Betts not taking strikes in the box, but instead jumping all over a middling pitch and driving it. The more aggressive approach has led to Betts becoming the middle-of-the-order hitter that manager Alex Cora envisioned.

Not only has Betts been “attacking the strike zone” as Cora would call it, but he has also started to spray the ball all over the field. According to Speier, Betts was a heavy-pull hitter through most of the 2018 regular season. But he started to shoot the ball to the opposite field at the end of the season. Betts has multiple hits in five of his last six games, and he has used all different parts of the field to place them. In Tuesday night’s game, Betts ripped a solo homer to dead center and slapped a single between a shift to left. Throughout this scorching streak, the decorated youngster has also started to avoid the pull-heavy tendencies and starting spraying hits to the opposite field based on pitch location.

Betts is taking off and becoming one of, if not the league’s hottest, hitters. Wherever Mookie goes, the Red Sox go. If he continues to produce at this level the Red Sox will be ready to re-enter the division title race.

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.

Red Sox – Yankees: Take 1 Tonight

The biggest rivalry in sports returns tonight: Red Sox – Yankees. The Sox have three wins in their last 5 games and the Yanks have just one. Both teams have three wins at home and three wins on the road. New York is tied for second place in the AL East with the Orioles, while Boston is tied for last place with the Blue Jays. The first series between the ‘pillars of power’ will be just two games, with tonight’s first pitch scheduled at 6:35 PM/ET and tomorrow’s start at 6:30 PM/ET.

As of yesterday, all five of the AL East teams had played at least 15 games. That accountsred sox - yankees for about 10 percent of the season’s entirety. Boston’s .353 winning percentage through April 15th is the team’s worst mark since 2011. New York’s .400 winning percentage is their worst start since 2015. To say the least, things have not been going well for both clubs.

The Red Sox lost 8-1 yesterday in their series finale against the Baltimore Orioles. They have yet to win a series in 2019. Baltimore’s highest paid player, Chris Davis, who averaged 37 home runs from 2012-2017, collected his first hit and first home run of the season against Boston over the long weekend. The league’s reigning MVP, Mookie Betts, who has a batting average of just .222 this season, spoke about his struggles after Monday’s loss.

“Basically, what I’m doing is unacceptable,” Betts is quoted as saying by mlb.com. “I have to figure out a way to get something done and help the team.”

New York’s early struggles derive from a vast amount of injuries. Earlier today, they placed first baseman Greg Bird (left plantar fascia tear) on the 10-day IL. In addition to Bird, key contributors Giancarlo Stanton, Didi Gregorious, Miguel Andujar, Aaron Hicks, Gary Sanchez, and Dellin Betances are all currently on the Injured List.

Red Sox – Yankees: Who’s hot?

Boston’s most productive players entering this series are J.D. Martinez, Xander Bogaerts, and Mitch Moreland. All three hitters are log-jammed in the middle of the Red Sox lineup and are slugging over .500. Moreland’s slugging clip of .647 is good for 8th best in the American League.

The Yankees, despite being extremely short-handed, have several hot hitters. D.J. LeMahieu and Aaron Judge both obtain an OPS over .900. Clint Frazier and Gleyber Torres have OPS’ over .850 and, together, have hit a combined 6 home runs. Luke Voit is tied for 5th in the American League with 14 RBIs.

Red Sox – Yankees: Pitching has been cold

In terms of pitching, Boston’s best starter has been David Price, who has pitched at least six innings in all three of his starts. He will not pitch in this abbreviated series, though. Instead, Chris Sale (tonight) and Nathan Eovaldi (tomorrow) will take the hill. Both starters are still in search of their first win of the season.

James Paxton will make his first start in pinstripes against the Sox tonight. He too, is off to a rocky start. His ERA stands at 6.00 through 3 starts. J.A. Happ will pitch tomorrow for New York. Happ has yet to make it through five frames and his ERA sits at an ugly 8.76 clip.

Tomorrow night’s game will be streamed on ESPN’s Wednesday Night Baseball. Afterwards, Boston will have an off-day before beginning a three-game set at Tropicana Field against Tampa Bay on Friday. New York will remain at home to host Kansas City for a four-game series that begins on Thursday.