Red Sox On The Brink Of Elimination

With all the optimism September brought for the Red Sox, October is sweeping it away. Winless this month, the Red Sox are facing a harsh reality: elimination. Cleveland quickly became the setting of Red Sox Nation’s nightmares with the debacles of games one and two. After two utter disappointments, the season will hang in the balance of game three on Monday at Fenway.

Game one was seen as crucial in that the Red Sox would need to win to feel Eliminationcomfortable. With Rick Porcello going against Trevor Bauer, it seemed like a sure win for Boston. Porcello, however, dug his own grave in the third inning, giving up three home runs. Even though the Red Sox had the lead twice before that, they were never able to recover. They cut it down to one twice and stranded the tying run at third in the eighth. A gutsy five-out save by Cody Allen closed out a 5-4 Indians victory.

Down 1-0 in the series, David Price got the ball to try and tie the series. This seemed like the perfect setting for Price to “earn” his contract money after an under-performing regular season. Once again, Price couldn’t resist the urge to let us down. Adding to his atrocious postseason resumé, Price gave up five runs on six hits in three and one/third innings. If this were his last start of the season, it would only be fitting. A four-run second inning capped by a three-run home run by Lonnie Chisenhall finished off the Red Sox in game two. An injured Corey Kluber stuffed my foot in my own mouth and shut the Sox out in seven innings en route to a 6-0 victory.

The Smell Of Elimination In The Air

So now the stage is set for the Red Sox. Game three at Fenway with Clay Buchholz on the mound. Dustin Pedroia talked post game about how this performance does not embody the team. Well, it’s time to put up or shut up. Pedroia is just 1-8 this series. Also, David Ortiz, Jackie Bradley, Xander Bogaerts, and Mookie Betts are a combined 3-28 in the first two games. It’s a bit scary to think the only bright spots, offensively, in both games have been Brock Holt and Andrew Benintendi.

A rah-rah kind of speech rarely works in baseball, but if Dustin Pedroia lit a fire under his team, they’ll certainly need it. They sleep-walked in Cleveland and it’s yet to be determined whether they’ll wake up before they walk right off the cliff. History may be on their side, the Red Sox are the only franchise to ever come back from this same deficit in the ALDS twice. The first time they did that was in 1999, coincidentally against Cleveland.

After game two, it really can’t get much worse. Monday should be a slugfest. The Red Sox should get their act together and Buchholz is pitching in Fenway, so the balls should fly. That should favor the league’s best offense, but who knows with this team anymore? Let’s just hope the Red Sox save us the embarrassment of avoiding a sweep. On the bright side, if they lose this series it’ll surely be the end of John Farrell’s tenure. That is, if they have any pride at all. It’s the little things.

Red Sox Winning Streak Sets Them Apart

As of September 22nd, the Boston Red Sox have won seven games in a row. This accomplishment is noteworthy for a team that struggled through the summer. After sweeping the Yankees, the Red Sox traveled to Baltimore where they could very well sweep the Orioles. The Red Sox winning streak is not only good for the team, but it shows other teams that they are a team worthy of a World Series appearance.

Before the season started, many in the Red Sox Nation questioned how strong the team would beRed Sox Winning Streak. Last place finishes two years in a row gave fans little hope this year would be different. But players like Jackie Bradley Jr. and Mookie Betts solidified their hitting and fielding skills. Now, Bradley Jr. might finally clinch the Gold Glove Award that eluded him in 2014. Meanwhile, Betts is in the running for an MVP award.

Two unlikely heroes in the pitching rotation also emerged this season. Steven Wright and Rick Porcello came out of nowhere to prove their worth. Porcello became the MLB’s first 20-game winner this season. As for Wright, while on the disabled list, he may return to the team within days, giving opposing teams more to groan about when they face the Sox. These two pitchers, combined with David Price and the rest of the staff, are showing more potential than ever, especially with Clay Buchholz and Eduardo Rodriguez finally solidifying their game.

Red Sox Winning Streak Signifies World Series Potential

It’s all but certain that the Red Sox are going to the playoffs. Yes, perhaps that’s bit of a bold statement to make at this point, but there’s reason to believe it. Throughout the entire season, other baseball writers and me have commented on the Red Sox inconsistency. Hitting dominated, but pitching didn’t produce. Then pitching dominated for a while, but hitting couldn’t provide enough run support. Fans held their breath going into August as fans and writers alike speculated where the Red Sox would land in the standings. Now that they are playing better than ever, it is becoming safer to assume that Boston will see the Red Sox in the playoffs.

The winning streak won’t last forever, but it doesn’t have to. All the Red Sox have to do now is win the last game of the season, and top it off with another parade through downtown Boston.

The Red Sox Are Built for Sustainable Success

The Red Sox are edging closer to their first division title since 2013. At various times in recent memory, that seemed impossible. Too many collapses. Not enough nerve. But as the leaves change color and autumn truncates summer, things are falling into place just nicely this time. The offense is unstoppable, and the pitching has improved. Boston is galloping away with the American League East, and that may be the case for many years to come.

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This current success is rooted in fairly recent failure. The Red Sox have made just one postseason appearance since 2009. They’ve finished in last place three times since then, including the past two seasons, while winning eighty games has proved difficult. Managers have changed. Front office members have been fired. New players have arrived on bloated contracts. Yet, through it all, hope still pervaded, for an exciting group of prospects received playing time in which to hone its craft. Now, we’re seeing the fruits of that labor at the Major League level, and it’s pretty magical.

How the Red Sox Built a New Core

In darker days, back when Pablo Sandoval flailed at off-speed junk or Bobby Valentine lost control, we heard so much about the new core developing below. Well, it’s finally here. And it’s finally attuned to big league ball. Mookie Betts has over 200 hits, 30 home runs, 100 RBI and 20 stolen bases. Xander Bogaerts has 20 bombs of his own and he led the league in batting average earlier this season. Jackie Bradley Jr. may finish with 30 homers and 100 RBI with a late surge, complimenting his all-world defense. These players have an average age of just 24. They’re great, and they’re going to be around for a very long time.

Around that nucleus, there are more layers of young Red Sox talent. Andrew Benintendi is just 21, but his grace, poise and ability belies that fact. Yoan Moncada needs further refinement, but his raw skills saw him promoted to Boston before turning 22. Meanwhile, Eduardo Rodriguez has slowly returned to form, and he may be the Red Sox’ third playoff starter. Then we have Blake Swihart and Christian Vazquez, one of whom will eventually become the starting catcher at Fenway Park.

Few Teams Can Compete With This Talent

Quite simply, no other team in the AL East can match that cadre of young, cost-controlled, Major League-ready talent. Toronto is a strong opponent, but many of their aging stars will soon hit free agency. The Yankees are transitioning to a youth movement, and their farm is loaded. But in developmental terms, New York is probably where Boston was in 2014. Many of those bright young players still have a lot to learn, and that can be a painful process. Meanwhile, Baltimore relies on a veteran core, and Tampa Bay is so far removed from contention as to be almost irrelevant.

The Red Sox will have tremendous flexibility moving forward, as these players should remain in Boston for many years. However, right now, veterans like David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Rick Porcello and Dustin Pedroia are providing valuable experience and leading the Red Sox back to contention. That blend of youth and know-how is crucial. It may just result in a deep championship run, if the magic dust doesn’t run out.

Whether the Red Sox win it all this year or not, fans can rest assured that other opportunities will arise in future years. At one point, just a few short years ago, that was a distant dream. Yet now, after building through the tough times, sustainable success is once again on tap in Beantown. It should be fun to watch.

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.

Red Sox Cannot Catch a Break

Boston let out a collective gasp when Red Sox rookie Andrew Benintendi sprained his leg this past week. “Say it ain’t so!” seems to be the Red Sox motto this season. Injuries have plagued others players like Blake Swihart, Chris Young, Brock Holt, and Koji Uehara. These injuries haven’t only kept our best players out of the lineup, but have kept the Red Sox from securing first place. With the Baltimore Orioles falling behind, the Red Sox have a strong chance to capture first place. But as of late, it seems like the Red Sox cannot catch a break.

The Red Sox started the season in strong fashion. Jackie Bradley Jr., Mookie Betts, andRed Sox Cannot Xander Bogaerts’ bats were on fire. The pitching rotation was amazing. The bullpen was unstoppable.

Then the injuries started.

Brock Holt got another concussion. Chris Young went onto the DL. Josh Rutledge got hurt. Koji Uehara hurt himself. Blake Swiart hurt his leg. Joe Kelly got hurt. Craig Kimbrel got hurt. Meanwhile, the Red Sox swayed back and forth in the AL East between the Blue jays and Orioles. Just like me with past romantic relationships, anytime they seemed to finally gain an advantage they’d blow it.

Red Sox Cannot Get A Break. Is There Still Time To Recover?

I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again. I really think John Farrell needs to go. While injuries have put a huge dent in the amount of wins the Red Sox have accumulated this season, he hasn’t helped. I’ve questioned Farrell’s relief pitching choices more than once. Two pitchers who haven’t been injured much are Clay Buchholz and Junichi Tazawa but you wouldn’t know it based on their poor performance this season, and Farrell keeps using them. While Buchholz is starting to “coming around” a little, for lack of a better term, Tazawa isn’t getting much better.

The Red Sox are in a much stronger position than many think to reclaim first and keep it. The pitching rotation is coming around (finally), the relief pitchers are finding a groove, and the hitters are learning from mistakes. There’s no reason why that can’t begin to gel over and solidify.

The Red Sox cannot catch a break. They’ve been like a tarp flapping in the wind since June. They now have a chance to tie themselves down and focus on making it to the playoffs. Let’s hope they tie themselves down as tightly as possible.

Dustin Pedroia: Resurgent Season

Plenty of members of the Red Sox organization have had turnaround seasons in 2016, but maybe none has been more important than Dustin Pedroia. Pedroia now serves as the catalyst for this team, with Mookie Betts moving to the clean-up spot for the near future. His importance in the infield as well as in the clubhouse have been well-documented, but his bat has also come back to life this season.

Since winning Rookie of the Year in 2007 and MVP in 2008, the narrative on Dustin Pedroia has Pedroia been the same: he is a guy who gives it all he has. He’ll play great defense (with his four Gold Gloves) and is a great leader off the field. However, he has been mainly inconsistent at the plate since then. On top of that, Pedroia’s career has been littered with injuries. He had major surgery in every season from 2010-2014. Also, he has had six major surgeries in the last nine seasons. The fact that he has stayed healthy has been the main reason why he has returned to his former success.

Pedroia’s Resurgence At The Plate

Since 2012, Pedroia has hit over .300 for an entire season once, when he hit .301 in 2013. 2013 was a good season for him, combining the .301 average with 42 doubles and 84 RBI. He also finished seventh in the MVP voting that year. Other than that, it is no secret that he has underperformed the past five seasons. When he’s healthy, he’s been productive and the Red Sox win. In 2013, he had those exemplary numbers in 160 games and the Red Sox won the World Series.

After that season, the numbers have not come quite as easily to Pedroia. In 2014 and 2015, Pedroia batted a subpar (by his standards) .278 and .291 respectively in a combined 228 games. In 2016, he has played in 121 of the Red Sox’s 125 games. Also, he has hit .305 with 55 RBI and 30 doubles this year. Although he said he hates batting leadoff, he sure has a weird way of showing it. In his 55 at-bats leading off this season, he is hitting a whopping .364 with four doubles and six RBI.

Pedroia has stepped up to do something some veterans would not. He is in a position he is not comfortable with (batting leadoff) and thriving. Because of his turnaround, like in seasons past, the Red Sox are finally winning again. Right now, the Red Sox are in a playoff position and the resurgence of Dustin Pedroia is a key reason why.