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.

Time to worry about the 2019 Boston Red Sox

The 2019 Boston Red Sox have officially instilled worry and concern in a city and region that have high hopes for a repeat championship season in Boston. After getting swept by their arch-rival New York Yankees last night in a 5-3 loss, the Red Sox have now fallen to 6-13, good for dead last in the American League East. The old proverbial baseball of “it’s still too early to panic” may ring true. However, the signs of improvement of this team have been far and in between so far this season.

What is wrong with the Red Sox?

In order to really assess what’s wrong with the Red Sox in 2019, one should look closely2019 Boston Red Sox at the root of the issue of this team. The overall attitude of this team entering Spring Training simply put was way too cavalier, dare I say too cocky/arrogant. To be brutally honest, the attitude and mindset of the team started with both Dave Dombrowski and Manager Alex Cora. Dombrowski was too casual and lackadaisical in not making improvements to the pitching staff, and now the pitching staff currently has the worst run differential in Major League Baseball.

Alex Cora is not free of blame in this at all. After all, he enforced the idea of the starting pitchers not having a heavy workload in Spring Training considering the workload the pitching staff had last October. That idea has backfired big time, none more than with Chris Sale as he is 0-4 with an 8.50 ERA. The bullpen has not fared any better, as they entered today ranked 22nd in Major League Baseball in bullpen ERA.

Red Sox’ mental errors are costing this team

One of the hallmarks of 2018 Boston Red Sox was their ability to do all of the little things right. However, in 2019 the Red Sox have committed some outrageous mental errors in the field that has cost them ballgames.

One example was when the Red Sox were on their season-opening 11 game road trip in Oakland, playing the Athletics on April 4th. Jackie Bradley Jr. and Mookie Betts are two Gold Glove-winning outfielders; which is part of what made this particular instance so maddening for Red Sox fans. Stephen Piscotty hits a 361-foot fly ball to right centerfield, Bradley Jr. and Betts were converging on the fly ball. Bradley Jr., being the centerfielder, should have called off Betts to make the catch. Instead, Bradley Jr. and Betts looked at each other as the ball drops in and hops over the wall for a ground rule double.

This one example is a microcosm of issues this team has had throughout this season. The hitters have not been as aggressive in their offensive approach at the plate. As a result, the team has is batting .229, which is 20th in Major League Baseball. They are struggling to reach base as they have a team On-Base Percentage of .300, which ranks 21st in Major League Baseball.

Can the 2019 Red Sox turn this season around?

The Red Sox have too much talent not to be able to turn their season around. Yes, the season is still young. Yes, the team is struggling in all facets of the game. It’s only 19 games into the season, yet it is hard not to be concerned with this team moving forward. This team can turn their season around, but they will need to do it now.

Alex Cora’s Sophomore Season in Boston

As Alex Cora enters his sophomore season in a Red Sox uniform, it’s hard not to point out how he is the fifth manager in Major League Baseball to win a World Series in his first year. Many have tried, and many have failed. The last time such a feat occurred was in 2001, when Bob Brenly was manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks. The best part of that World Series? Watching the Yankees lose.

With the Red Sox winning their ninth World Series Championship on October 28th, 2018,sophomore season it’s hard not to wonder what this season will bring. Will Cora help this team win back to back championships? Only time can tell. The last time such a feat occurred was from 1998 – 2000, when the New York Yankees won 3 years in a row. Since then, some teams have been close, but none have accomplished it.

From Player to Manager…

When the Red Sox handed out those beautiful World Series rings on Opening Day, Cora’s had two mini trophies on it. One from 2007, and one from 2018. In case people have forgotten, Cora was the utility infielder that Dustin Pedroia looked up to in 2007 while Cora was a member of the Red Sox. Also, he wore number 13 for the Red Sox.

Like many managers in baseball, such as Brad Ausmus and Rocco Baldelli, Alex Cora also spent time on the field, playing for the Dodgers, Indians, Red Sox, Mets, Rangers and Nationals. He also was the bench coach when Houston won the World Series in 2017.

So, who was the first Red Sox manager to also be a former player? Hall of Famer Jimmy Collins, who led the Red Sox (known back then as the Boston Americans) to their first World Series back in 1903.

From 1 to 47…

When Alex Cora officially became the Red Sox manager on November 2, 2017, he became the 47th manager in the organization’s history. When you go from top to bottom, Cora is one of a handful of managers who made it to his second year at the helm.

The only manager to make it past 10 years at the helm is Hall of Famer, Joe Cronin. Cronin spent 13 years as a manager for the Red Sox. Cronin also played for the Red Sox from 1935 until 1945. Back then, it was popular for players to also be managers. Cronin, who was a seven time All Star, has his number 4 retired by the Boston Red Sox.

In total, eleven former Red Sox managers are in the Baseball Hall of Fame – Cronin, Collins, Ed Barrow, Lou Boudreaux, Billy Herman, Joe McCarthy, Dick Williams, Hugh Duffy Frank Chance, Bucky Harris and Cy Young. Out of these eleven Hall of Famers, only one has their number retired. In total, two former managers have their number retired by the Red Sox. The first being Cronin, the second is Johnny Pesky, whose number 6 was retired in 2008.

Cora’s former Red Sox manager, Terry Francona comes in second in the Red Sox organization in wins. During his eight seasons as a Red Sox manager, “Tito” went 744-552, while winning two titles in Boston.

Can Cora Make It All The Way?

Since the beginning of the season, the Red Sox have been on a bumpy road. As they continue with their homestead against Toronto and Baltimore, one can only wonder what will happen next.

Many fans in Red Sox Nation hope that Cora has some magic up his sleeve when it comes to going back to the postseason. Only time can tell how this season will go.

Will The Stars Align For The Red Sox?

With the 2019 season underway, many eyes are on Alex Cora and the Red Sox. As they open this season, one of the things to wonder about is will the stars align for them come October? Most of the 2018 World Series Champions are on the Red Sox roster, and the question of repeating is on their minds. The last team to win back-to-back World Series titles was the New York Yankees from 1998 to 2000.

This past offseason, the front office brought back key members Nathan Eovaldi and Worldstars align Series MVP, Steve Pearce. With that, the Red Sox saw a few members of their bullpen leave. However, if you look back at past Red Sox offseasons following the World Series win, this wasn’t too bad.

 

Like many who have won the World Series before the 2018 team, the offseason was short, and Spring Training lagged on. Now, the regular season has begun, and onto the West Coast we go.

Opening Week on the West Coast

The Red Sox open the season on the West Coast, facing the Mariners, A’s and Diamondbacks. However, if you look at the rest of the American League East, they’re all playing either at home, or within the division. The Yankees are hosting the Orioles, and both the Blue Jays and Rays are at home. The Red Sox, however, won’t be back home until April 9th against the Blue Jays.

For many, that seems like a long time, and it honestly is. While Baltimore is also on the road, they get to be at home on April 4th.

You would think that since we just won the World Series, the Red Sox would have started at home, or close to home. However, Major League Baseball releases the schedule late in the season.

The Questions…

What will happen when Pedroia comes back? When will he come back? Who is our closer?

These are the questions that linger… Plus, there are more, I’m sure.

Pedroia is expected to be back shortly after the season begins. Who knows when exactly that will be, however, it’s more like what will he bring to the table. Last season, the Red Sox had Brock Holt, Eduardo Nunez and Ian Kindler at second base. This season is still a mystery when it comes to second base.

The discussion as to who will be the closer has been going on since the offseason. As of now, it looks like Matt Barnes could be it for the Red Sox. As for the bullpen, that’s still a question mark, and has been for quite some time.

Coming Home

As mentioned before, the Red Sox won’t be back in Boston until April 9th. From there, the new banner will make its debut behind home plate, and the Fenway Faithful will be welcoming the team home. Also, there won’t be any 10pm games for quite sometime, as the Red Sox begin their quest to repeat against the American League East.

The Red Sox Need to be Active at the Trade Deadline

As the Red Sox grow closer to the halfway point, and the trade deadline, in the 2018 regular season, they have given us all a pretty good idea of what’s working, and what isn’t. Back on June 11, the Sox went on a nice four-game win streak which included a sweep of the Baltimore Orioles. They went on to lose four of their next five, splitting a series with the Seattle Mariners and falling to the Minnesota Twins on consecutive nights. They salvaged their third contest against the Twins and then took two of three from the Mariners.

At 34-40, the Twins are not a team the Red Sox should be losing a series to. Meanwhile, theTrade Deadline Mariners, at 48-31, are within reach of the Houston Astros (52-28) atop the AL West standings. Boston’s recent inconsistency and their ongoing grapple with the Yankees atop the division leave this team in need of action at the trade deadline.

Trade Deadline Action: Relief Pitcher

I’ve lost track of how many games this bullpen has lost. At this point, this should be a no-brainer for Dave Dombrowski. The woes in Boston’s bullpen have been no secret this season. Carson Smith recently had season-ending surgery after throwing his glove. Tyler Thornburg is still trying to get healthy, and still hasn’t taken the mound in a Red Sox uniform. Heath Hembree and Brian Johnson, both with ERAs north of 3.80, have simply not pitched well at all. And to top it off, Craig Kimbrel and Joe Kelly will both hit the free agent market at the end of this season. Kimbrel and Kelly, along with Matt Barnes and Hector Velazquez, have emerged as the only serviceable arms in Boston’s bullpen.

So what are Boston’s options at the trade deadline? The most popular name in circulation is the Orioles’ left-hander Zach Britton. Baltimore looks to be in a complete and total rebuild at 23-54 on the year, so they are as viable a trade partner as they come. Britton underwent Achilles surgery this past offseason and has only appeared in seven contests this year. However, he is just two years removed from consecutive All-Star appearances and a fourth-place finish in CY Young voting. As it stands, Brian Johnson is the only southpaw in Boston’s bullpen, so Britton would be a massive addition. His contract expires after this year, so it would make sense for the Orioles to get some value out of him while they can.

Baltimore has another relief pitcher set to enter free agency. Brad Brach, a right-hander, has appeared in 32 contests this year with ten saves. Britton is the much more attractive option and is linked to several other teams as the trade deadline approaches.

Trade Deadline Action: Right-Handed Hitting

Since the Red Sox designated Hanley Ramirez for assignment on May 25, Boston’s lineup has been missing some pop. Ramirez hit .330 in April but fell into a major slump in May before his departure. While Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez have shouldered much of the offensive workload, the Yankees have as much firepower, if not more.

The Sox have a few different options in terms of what position to go after to fulfill this. They have shown some interest in Adrian Beltre, the veteran third-basemen currently employed by the Texas Rangers. The Rangers are in the AL West basement and are another legitimate trade partner. Beltre’s hitting .309 with 25 runs batted with Texas so far this year and won a Gold Glove in 2016. He would be warmly welcomed back for a second stint in Boston as an alternative to the streaky Rafael Devers at third base. Manny Machado is another popular name on the rumor mill, but his financial demands and lofty asking price make it a long shot.

They could also look to the outfield. Jackie Bradley Jr. continues to struggle at the plate and having outfield depth that can swing the bat come October could be instrumental for a playoff run. The Orioles’ Adam Jones is an obvious candidate, given his expiring contract and the situation in Baltimore. Mark Canha of the Oakland Athletics is on Boston’s radar as well. Canha is batting .253 with 27 RBI and 10 home runs on the year.

The 2018 trade deadline is July 31. The Red Sox continue their back-and-forth with the Yankees in the division, and the right move or two could go a long way in their quest for another AL East crown and World Series run.

Steven Wright Needs A Permanent Rotation Spot

The Boston Red Sox are in a tight battle with the New York Yankees for superiority in the AL East, and that won’t change anytime soon. It’s time to stop letting Drew Pomeranz take the mound and give Steven Wright, one of the league’s only knuckleballers, a permanent spot in the starting rotation.

Steven Wright joined the Red Sox at the trade deadline in 2013. After acquiring the Steven Wrightknuckleballer from the Cleveland Indians in exchange for Lars Anderson, the Sox only used Wright in ten contests over his first two seasons with the club. Wright found a niche in 2015 as a reliever, going 5-4 with a 4.09 ERA in 16 appearances. After a last-place finish in the AL East that year, the Red Sox entered 2016 with a revamped starting rotation. Wright was a part of this makeover, and he capitalized on his first season as a full-time starter. In 24 starts, he went 13-6 with a 3.33 ERA, 127 strikeouts, and four complete games. Wright’s breakout 2016 season also landed him a spot on the American League All-Star Team.

After consecutive last-place finishes, the Red Sox went 93-69 in 2016 and looked to have mended their rotation with the signing of David Price, the CY Young season of Rick Porcello, and the rise of Boston’s newest knuckleballer. Wright’s reign was short-lived, however. The following May, he underwent surgery to restore cartilage in his left knee and missed the remainder of 2017.

His problems followed him into the 2018 season. In March, the league suspended Wright for 15 games for violating the MLB’s personal conduct policy. Having completed his suspension on May 14,  Wright returned to his ballclub, but without a starting job. The culprit? Drew Pomeranz, who became a starter in Wright’s absence in 2017.

I will give credit where credit is due. In 2017, Drew Pomeranz looked every bit deserving of a spot in the Red Sox rotation. He went 17-6 with a 3.32 ERA and 174 punchouts and was a key cog in helping the Sox replicate their 2016 record of 93-69. And to begin this season, there was no justifiable reason to demote Pomeranz. He pitched as well as Wright did in his All-Star season, if not better.

Steven Wright Got His Groove Back

But now, over 60 games into the year, Steven Wright needs his spot back. Drew Pomeranz has allowed at least two earned runs in every single one of his starts this season. In eight starts, he is 1-3 with a staggering 6.81 ERA. And most recently, the team placed Pomeranz on the 10-day disabled list with tendinitis in his left bicep. Steven Wright made his first start of 2018 on June 5th against the Detroit Tigers. Throwing seven shutout innings with six strikeouts and just two hits, he reminded everyone what they’d been missing out on. On June 11th, Wright followed it up with another scoreless start against the Baltimore Orioles, surrendering just four hits in six innings of work. The knuckleballer has not allowed a run in 22 consecutive innings, and his ERA is down to 1.21 on the season.

The numbers alone are compelling enough. The knuckleball is a rare commodity in today’s MLB, and Wright’s superior numbers and novelty pitch make him all the more worthy of a starting job for this team.