Red Sox Comeback Against Rays

In the 118 years of the program’s existence, the Boston Red Sox never started 8-1, until now. On Sunday, down 7-2 in the eighth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays, the Red Sox scored six straight runs. This Red Sox comeback included five runs coming with two outs. Since falling to the Rays on Opening Day, the Red Sox have won eight straight and started this season better than any other team in franchise history.Red Sox Comeback

While the Sox have largely relied on their pitching through the first eight contests, it was the offense’s turn to carry the team in this one. The Rays got to starting pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez early on, as the lefty gave up five hits and three runs, all earned, in only 3.2 innings of work. Manager Alex Cora had to get creative with his bullpen in this one. He trotted out four different middle relievers before handing the ball to Carson Smith in the 8th and Craig Kimbrel in the 9th. In their lone innings of scoreless work, Smith (1-1) took home the win while Kimbrel secured his third save of the young season.

Red Sox Comeback Best Start in Program History

Down 7-2 in the eighth inning, Mitch Moreland got things started with his first double of the season, driving in Hanley Ramirez. He crossed the plate soon after on a double by Rafael Devers, his fourth of the season. RBI singles by Christian Vazquez and Mookie Betts tied the game at 7.

Andrew Benintendi has struggled to begin the 2018 campaign, batting only .154 with 6 hits. Stepping up to the plate in a game knotted at 7, with two outs and the go-ahead run on second base, he had a chance to turn the page on his rocky start.

Turn the page he did, as Benintendi knocked his first double of the year to center field, scoring Mookie Betts and putting an exclamation point on Boston’s explosive eighth inning.

Even with all of the positive takeaway’s from Sunday’s game, the Red Sox experienced a scare in the seventh inning when shortstop Xander Bogaerts was helped off the field with a  left ankle injury. After a J.D. Martinez throw from the outfield bounced away, Bogaerts slid into the stairwell of the Rays’ dugout, unsuccessfully trying to corral the ball and save the run.

Bogaerts has been the undisputed sparkplug of the Red Sox offense so far this season. Through nine games, Xander Bogaerts has hit .368 with two home runs, including a grand slam in his 6-RBI performance on Saturday. He added one hit on Sunday before Brock Holt replaced him in the seventh inning.

Injuries Can’t Cloud Red Sox Comeback

Manager Alex Cora has said that Xander Bogaerts will be further evaluated on Monday. Not only has Bogaerts put this offense on his back, but Boston’s middle infield is already undermanned with Dustin Pedroia still recovering from offseason knee surgery.

Should Bogaerts miss any time, Eduardo Nunez and Brock Holt will likely man the middle infield for the time being. While solid defensive options, their bats are undoubtedly a downgrade from Boston’s hottest hitter, especially in an offense reliant on baserunners and contact. The status of Xander Bogaerts should be followed closely, as Boston’s middle infield can’t afford any more setbacks.

The streaking Red Sox, after nine games against the Rays and Marlins, will go for their ninth straight victory in their first true test on Tuesday when the Yankees visit Fenway Park at 7:10pm.

 

The American League East Remains a Powerhouse

Once upon a time, the American League East was baseball’s most powerful division. In the early part of this century, watching the Red Sox and Yankees battle for supremacy was exhilarating. The rivalry had never been stronger. It was Derek Jeter against Nomar Garciaparra. It was Alex Rodriguez against David Ortiz. It was Theo Epstein against the American League EastEvil Empire. Every game was crucial.

That intensity was ultimately cooled, as the Red Sox won multiple championships and old Yankee Stadium was demolished. Some of the history and passion was lost, as the other teams caught up. Tampa Bay won the division in 2008 and 2010. Baltimore rode a renaissance to the crown in 2014. Toronto even won the American League East last year, as the old duopoly was dismantled.

A New Era in the American League East

This year, in a new world order, four teams have a legitimate shot at winning the division as mid-September approaches. And while the division has changed irreparably from the halcyon days, few divisions in Major League Baseball can match the American League East for quality. It’s still by far the most difficult division to win.

 

Right now, the American League East has a combined winning percentage of .523. That’s the best in all of baseball. The National League Central is second at .505. Meanwhile, the National League East currently has a joint winning percentage of just .487 among its five teams. While romping to a playoff berth is always preferable, this may suggest a competitive advantage to whichever team eventually emerges from the American League East. That team will be more battle-tested than any other, having beaten three other teams to the crown.

The Fight for a Title

The Red Sox and Blue Jays currently sit atop the division at 77-61. Baltimore lurks just one game behind. But this is actually becoming a four-team race, because the Yankees continue to surge despite trading away three of their best players in July. The Bombers are in fourth place with a 72-65 record, just four-and-a-half games behind the leaders. That may seem like a lot at this stage, but the Yankees are closer to first place than all but one second-place team throughout baseball. Whether people like it or not, New York is in this thing, too. And that makes for a compelling finish to a bizarre season.

September is full of inter-division games. The Red Sox will play six against Toronto, seven against Baltimore, seven against New York, and three against Tampa Bay. Each division rival faces a similar schedule, with one more interleague series thrown in for some of them. Therefore, this thing could change on an almost hourly basis until the death.

With multiple games affecting the standings each night, scoreboard watching will be imperative. One streak, either positive or negative, could have massive consequences at this point, for a variety of teams. Only the best will survive, as the battle for October reaches boiling point. Let the strongest team emerge victorious.

The Next Red Sox Ace is Here

6 IP, 5 Hits, 2 ER, 2 BB, 10 Ks, 3.00 ERA. Not a bad debut for the new Boston Red Sox ace, David Price.

Command looked pretty good early on, especially having to deal with the cold temperatures at game time. Of his 103 pitches thrown, he threw 71 for strikes and worked both sides of the zone. He employed a nice mix of his fastball, curveball and change-up tored sox ace keep Francona’s Indians off-balance.

One thing I did notice was the velocity on his fastball. Price routinely sat in the 94-95 range in 2015, but Tuesday’s debut had him sitting in the 90-92 range, while topping out at 93.9.

But let’s not hit the big red panic button just yet. Game time temps were hovering around 34 degrees so that most certainly played a big role in the drop of velocity as well as it being his 1st start of the year. With temps expected to be around 55 degrees for the Red Sox Home Opener, and Price’s 2nd start of the season, I anticipate the velocity to reappear sooner than later.

What to Expect From the Red Sox Ace Moving Forward

Consistency, that’s what you can expect to see moving forward. David Price’s next start will be the Sox Home Opener on April 11th. In 11 career starts over at the Fens, Price is 6-1 with a 1.95 ERA, in 74 innings. Look for Price to not only build on those stats, but also thrive.

Now I don’t want to get ahead of ourselves and talk postseason play, because quite frankly on paper this team is not postseason material, but everyone’s big concern when they heard Price was coming to Boston was his postseason numbers. Hard to disagree with most fans when you look at what he’s produced in 14 postseason appearances.

2-7, 5.12 ERA , 63.1 IP, 62 Hits, 36 ER, 11 HR.

Are those numbers “ace worthy”? Not by any means, but it begs the question, why can’t he produce in the postseason? Well, for starters in the 2013 ALDS against the Sox, the Rays offense combined for a dismal .225 batting average. Right there, if your team is not producing offensively that automatically throws the world’s weight onto the pitcher to keep you in the game.

In last year’s ALCS match up with the Royals, the Jay’s offense didn’t fare much better— hitting a combined .234 batting average. Do we see a pattern?

Now I’m not saying offense is the key to a pitchers success, but if your hitters are not hitting and putting runs on the board what more can a pitcher do for the team? I would love to hear someone come up with a good explanation because I have not figured one out yet.

Instead of focusing on the postseason though let’s live in the now. David Price is your Red Sox ace and he’s not going to take that responsibility lightly. He’s going to go out to that mound every 5th day and prove to not only the Sox brass that he belongs here but the fans as well that he’s the real deal and he will help the Sox achieve their goal of reaching October baseball.

So David, and Astro (Price’s dog)…Welcome to Boston. Enjoy riding your bike through the city, explore the city and all its offerings. And for God’s sake, lead us to the promise land.