Red Sox Take Down The Rays; Advance to ALCS

It finally happened, the Boston Red Sox are advancing to the American League Championship Series. After beating the Yankees in the Wild Card Game, the Red Sox take down the Rays in style to go on. After losing Game 1 in Tampa Bay, Boston clobbered Tampa in Game 2. Games 3 and 4 at Fenway were ones to remember, as Boston walked off in style in both games to win. Tampa Bay, who won 100 games this season, head home early after having an amazing 2021 season.

The 2021 postseason has been one to remember so far. Other than Boston moving on, the Dodgers and Giants have been putting on quite a show in their own series. The Braves and Brewers have also been battling it out in hopes of making it to the World Series. The other American League series, Astros vs White Sox has been interesting to watch as well. Currently, Boston has been the only team to advance to the next round.

The Red Sox Take Down The Rays In Glorious Fashion

After their epic win vs the Yankees on Tuesday night, the Red Sox went down to Tampa Bay to face the Rays. After losing 5-0 in Game 1, Game 2 saw the Red Sox offense explode. Homeruns by five players, including JD Martinez and Xander Bogaerts propelled the Red Sox to a 14-6 victory over the Rays. Following that win, they headed home to where the Fenway Faithful was waiting for them.

Game 3 had a little bit of everything from a ground rule double off of Hunter Renfroe, to Christian Vazquez’s walk off home run in the 13th inning. The momentum from that game continued in Game 4. This game was extremely special to the Red Sox, as it was also Marathon Monday. Before the game, 2013 World Series Champion, Will Middlebrooks took the mound to throw out the first pitch. From there, the offense came to life. After a back and forth battle with Tampa, Kike Hernandez became the hero.

With 2 on and 1 out in the bottom of the 9th, Hernandez had one job as he came up to bat. With Danny Santana on third, all he needed was a single to win the game. On a 0-1 count, Hernandez hit a fly ball to Austin Meadows. As the ball landed in his glove, Santana tagged up. As the throw came to the plate, Santana scored the winning run. Once again, the Red Sox take down the Rays in walk off fashion in Game 4. Now, they wait to see who they will play next.

What’s Next For Boston?

Right now, the Astros are up, 2 games to 1. After being rained out Monday in Chicago, the Astros will look to close out their series vs the White Sox on Tuesday afternoon. If the White Sox win however, then Game 5 will be back in Houston on Wednesday. Houston took games 1 and 2 at Minute Maid Park. Game 3 in Chicago turned into a slugfest for the White Sox, as they held onto one more day in the Postseason. The White Sox look to carry that momentum into game 4. Due to the rainout on Monday, they will take on the Astros on Tuesday afternoon.

If the Astros advance to the ALCS, this will be the third time Boston will face Houston in the playoffs. The first time was in the 2017 ALDS, when Houston won 3 games to 1. The last time was in the 2018 ALCS, which saw the Red Sox beat the Astros 4 games to 1. The last time the Red Sox and White Sox battled in the playoffs was back in 2005. Chicago not only swept Boston in the ALDS, but went onto win their first World Series Championship in 88 years.

The National League Side of Things…

The National League Division series has been one to remember. On one end, you have the Braves and the Brewers. On the other, are the Giants and the Dodgers. Currently, both Atlanta and San Francisco are positioned to win their respective series. Game 4 for these teams will be played on Tuesday, as the Braves look to close it out at home, and the Giants look to end the Dodgers season in Los Angeles.

After Jackie Bradley Jr. and the Brewers beat the Braves in Game 1, Atlanta came back and shut out the Brewers in Games 2 and 3. Now, they are one win away from moving onto the NLCS for the second consecutive year. As for the battle of the West, the Giants are one win away from knocking out the 2020 World Series Champion LA Dodgers. After a 1-0 victory at Dodger Stadium last night, the 2014 World Series Champions are looking to go back to the NLCS for the first time since 2014. The Dodgers are looking to head back to the NLCS and defend their title.

The National League Championship Series will begin on October 16th. Will the Giants and Braves be able to win on Tuesday, or will the Dodgers and Brewers force a game 5? Either way, it will be fun to see these four teams continue the fight this postseason.

What a Game For Alex Cora

Alex Cora danced around Aaron Boone for the entire wild card game. This was one of his better coached games all season long. For all the hype of a Red Sox and Yankees, winner-take-all game, it turned out to hardly be a contest. And it all started with a near perfectly managed game by Alex Cora.

The Perfect Lineup

Red Sox manager

With J.D. Martinez unavailable with a sprained left ankle, Cora was able to get a better defense-oriented lineup in. It wound up paying huge dividends as Schwarber got the start at DH. He took Gerrit Cole deep in the third, which gave the Sox a three run lead, and sent Fenway into a frenzy. Martinez’s absence also allowing Kike Hernandez to start in center, collecting an assist on the play at the plate with Aaron Judge in the 6th. Both offensively and defensively, Cora’s moves paid off. However, pitching is where Cora’s moves really shined.

Nathan Eovaldi Did More Than Enough

The choice for starting pitcher was perfect. Nathan Eovaldi was nails. He struck out 8 through 5 and a third innings, allowing no walks. He threw one bad pitch to Rizzo and let up an infield hit to Judge. That was enough for Cora. A lot is made in the postseason about a manager’s decision to pull his starter. Just last year in Game 6 of the World Series, Kevin Cash was scrutinized all offseason about his decision to pull Blake Snell too soon. People said Eovaldi needed to go deep because the bullpen hasn’t played well down the stretch. However, you can leave a starter out for too long. Red Sox fans remember the 2003 ALCS Game 7 when Grady Little left Pedro Martinez on the mound against the Yankees a little too long. Cora trusted his bullpen, and it worked as Ryan Brasier got the final two outs of the inning. That wasn’t without a little excitement on the Stanton Single, but it worked out.

All The Right Moves

From then on, Cora was pushing all the right buttons with Tanner Houck in the 7th and Hansel Robles in the 8th both throwing 1-2-3 innings. Houck’s stuff was nasty, collecting 2 strikeouts. Robles came out in the 8th and retired the side quickly, including striking out Anthony Rizzo who had the big hit for the Yankees to that point. The Red Sox bullpen was putting pressure on the Yankees bullpen to remain perfect. That pressure would eventually get to them. After working 5 walks from the Yankees bullpen, the Red Sox offense grinded out 3 more runs late to distance themselves from their rivals.

Cora Sends A Message

Alex Cora called upon Garrett Whitlock to get the final three out of the night. Perhaps a little wink to the Yankees organization, as Whitlock was selected from the Yankees in the Rule 5 draft this past offseason. With the lead being what it was most managers would usually call upon a lesser guy to finish it. Not usually wanting to waste an arm as valuable as Whitlock’s. However, this is the Yankees, and Cora has never shied away from sending a message. Stanton did end up hitting a solo homerun in the 9th, but Whitlock quickly locked it down for the victory. Message sent. It’s now on to Tampa Bay to meet the Rays in the Division Series. But what a game it was for the Sox Manager.

The Battle of the East Continues in the ALDS

After the Red Sox took down the Yankees in glorious fashion Tuesday night, the battle of the East continues as the Red Sox head to Tampa Bay to take on the AL East Champion Tampa Bay Rays. Tampa Bay, who led the East with an impressive 100-62 record, will host Boston on Thursday night at the Trop. The other ALDS game will be played at Minute Maid Park, with the Astros hosting the Chicago White Sox. It will make for a very interesting day for baseball. The National League Division Series begins on Friday, with the wild card winning Dodgers facing the Giants, and the Brewers facing the Braves.

Tuesday night was one for the ages, as the Red Sox took down the Yankees, 6-2 at an electric Fenway Park. Nathan Eovaldi and the Red Sox did not disappoint. Eovaldi went 5.1 innings, allowing 4 hits, 1 run, and striking out 8. The Red Sox offense, thanks to Xander Bogaerts and Kyle Schwarber home runs, knocked out Gerrit Cole in the third inning. From there, it was smooth sailing for the Red Sox, as they attacked Yankees pitching. Former Yankee prospect, Garrett Whitlock locked down the win in the ninth to seal the deal.

east continues

The Battle of the East Starts at Tropicana Field

Thursday night’s matchup will be one that will define this best of three series. The Red Sox, coming off their epic win on Tuesday night, will have Eduardo Rodriguez starting game one. The AL East Champion Rays will have rookie Shane McClanahan going up against a red hot Red Sox offense. Both teams have faced each other a lot this past season, with the Rays edging out the Red Sox 11-8 in 2021. Boston, who finished with a 92-70 record, hopes to knock out the Rays in the ALDS. Tampa Bay on the other hand, is looking to advance and get back to the World Series after loosing last season against the Dodgers.

Eduardo Rodriguez will have the ball in game one vs the Rays. This season, he was 13-8 with a 4.74 ERA. In 32 games, 31 starts, he pitched in 157.2 innings with 185 strikeouts. Rodriguez is 0-0 with a 8.10 ERA in 8 postseason games. He’s pitched in 10 innings, with 11 strikeouts The rookie, Shane McClanahan will take the ball for the Rays. He was 10-6 with a 3.43 ERA in 25 games, all starts this year. In 123.1 innings, McClanahan had 141 strikeouts. Last postseason, he made his MLB Debut in Game 1 of the ALDS vs the Yankees. He’s 0-0 with a 8.31 ERA in 4 postseason games. In 4.1 innings, he has struck out 4 batters.

Around The Postseason

The Battle of the Lances begins Thursday afternoon as Houston hosts Chicago in the ALDS. Lance Lynn will have the ball for the White Sox. Houston appointed Lance McCullers Jr for the start. In 2021, Lynn went 11-6 with a 2.69 ERA in 28 starts. In 157 innings, he struck out 176 batters. McCullers Jr went 13-5 in 28 starts this season for Houston. He had a 3.16 ERA in162.1 innings, with 185 strikeouts.

The National League Division Series begins on Friday. The Milwaukee Brewers will be hosting the Atlanta Braves, while the San Francisco Giants will be hosting the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers, who beat the St Louis Cardinals in a pitchers duel, won the Wild Card Game on Wednesday night in walk off fashion. With the score tied 1-1, Chris Taylor drove a 2-1 pitch to left field for a 2 run homerun to knock out the Cardinals.

Nathan Eovaldi is the Guy

Boston’s playoff hopes are still alive. Whether the Red Sox will get the first wild card spot, the second, or miss the playoffs entirely nobody knows. With the Yankees, Blue Jays, Mariners and Sox all fighting for two spots and all within a game of each other. It still is anyone’s guess on who takes the remaining two playoff spots in the American League with only two games left for each team. If the Red Sox can hold on to one of those spots, I feel it is clear which pitcher should take the mound to start on Tuesday, October 5. That Pitcher is Nathan Eovaldi.

Why Not Sale?

Eovaldi

As a Red Sox fan, your instinct might be to pick your biggest name if it comes down to one game. Most Red Sox fans will say, ‘Chris Sale should get the ball.’ Well, those people are wrong. Since coming back from surgery this season, Sale has posted a 5-1 record with a 2.90 ERA in 8 starts. He’s also collected 45 strikeouts in 40 inning this season. Those are really good numbers, but it is a small sample size. So, the stats come with a bit of an asterisk when you compare with starters who pitched all year long. However, one could make the argument to go with the hot hand. Sale has been hot since returning to the major leagues. Why not Chris Sale then for a one game playoff? He has a 5.76 career ERA in the playoffs. He has one win in 7 playoff games, including 4 starts. Despite being and “Ace,” Sale hasn’t always been an Ace when the games are at their most important. He’s by no means a bad choice for a big game. Part of why Sale seems to fall off come playoff time is his heavy workload every season. He only threw 40 inning this season. 60 if you count his rehab starts. However, it’s not about Sale not pitching, but more about just having a better choice in the rotation right now.

A Big Game Pitcher

Nathan Eovaldi’s pitching can speak for itself as to why it should be him toeing the rubber on Tuesday night. He’s had a good season for the Sox. He’s won 11 games, struck out 195 batters over 182 innings and put up a 3.75 ERA. Good numbers, and enough to send Eovaldi to his first All-Star game this year. He’s also one of the few starting power pitchers that can consistently touch 99 with his fastball even in the later innings. However, even more than just the pitcher he regularly is, Eovaldi has a way to just turn the dial way up when the games matter more. In the 2018 playoff run Eovaldi has an ERA of 1.61 in 22.1 innings pitched. He collected two wins on two starts and his one loss when he pitched six innings in relief in Game 3 against the Dodgers. Even though Eovaldi got the loss that game, those kinds of gutsy performances are exactly why Nathan needs to take the ball for the wild card game. In that same playoff run he pitched a big Game 3 in the ALCS against the Houston Astros. Going six innings, collecting 4 strikeouts while giving up only two runs for the win. A game that turned the series for the Red Sox and they never looked back. He also pitched Game 3 of the ALDS going seven innings giving up only one run and striking out five against the Yankees in Yankee Stadium. The team you’ll probably be playing if you do make the wild card game.

See You Tuesday Night

Maybe I’m getting a little ahead of myself here, but fate is in the Red Sox hands right now to make the wild card game. The thought of who to save has to be in Alex Cora’s head right now. I’d bet anything that he’s going be looking Nathan Eovaldi’s way for the big game. He has to.

Looking at the Red Sox Wild Card Chase

With 23 games remaining, the Red Sox currently hold one of the two spots in the AL Wild Card. The Red Sox sit a half a game behind the New York Yankees for the top spot. So if the playoffs started right now, the Red Sox would travel to New York for the Wild Card game. 

Rafael Devers homers twice as Red Sox beat Cole, Yankees

The Wild Card is still relatively new in Major League Baseball, as it was first adopted in 1994, and it was changed to the current format in 2011. The Wild Card is played between two non-division winners with the best record in their respective league. 

With the Red Sox being eight games behind the Tampa Bay Rays for the division lead with just 23 games left, they would need a lot of help to catch the Rays for the division crown. So realistically, the top Wild Card spot should be what Red Sox fans are rooting for. 

The teams the Red Sox need to keep an eye on are Mariners, Athletics, and Blue Jays. The Mariners currently sit three and a half games behind the Sox for the second Wild Card spot. With Toronto and Oakland each four games back. 

Good news for the Red Sox

The good news for the Red Sox? They again will control their own destiny, which they have for the majority of the season. They had chances to bury the Yankees, as well as build their division lead on Tampa earlier this season, but fell short. This time, falling short is not an option, because that could mean falling out of the playoffs. 

The Red Sox will see both the Mariners and Yankees prior to the season’s end. With series against the Rays, and White Sox also in that span, the Red Sox will need to win these series against the teams hot on their tail for the Wild Card spot. The Sox also need to take care of business against sub .500 teams. Boston will see the 43-92 Baltimore Orioles six times before the end of the season, they will also see 56-80 Washington Nationals three times. Those are nine games the Red Sox need to take advantage of. 

Sox need to dig deep

The Red Sox are facing their most difficult hardship of the season in the middle of their Wild Card push. They have sent 11 players to the COVID-19 related injury list in just one week. 

The Red Sox have stayed afloat, and have won six of their last ten games despite all the absences in their line-up. But it doesn’t get any easier. The next two series for the Red Sox will be the AL East leading Tampa Bay Rays, and the AL Central leading Chicago White Sox. 

The Red Sox split the series with Tampa Bay last week, in the heart of their Covid outbreak. So we know it is possible for this team to find ways to win despite being short handed. 

Kyle Shwarber: First Baseman

On Friday night in Cleveland, Kyle Schwarber made his first start at first base for the Red Sox. Schwarber looked a little clunky and maybe a little nervous to play the position, but the first game went off without a hitch. Throughout his career with the Cubs and earlier this year with the Nationals he was an outfielder. It will be interesting to see moving forward how much time he will get at first base, and how quickly he can adapt to his new role.

Kyle the On Base Machine

Since being traded to Boston from the Nationals, Schwarber has played mostly a mix of left field and designated hitter. After returning from his stint on the injured list (IL) Schwarber hasn’t missed a beat offensively. He was always known as a power hitter, but people always wonder what you’re going to get out of a guy who is returning from the IL.

Schwarber’s ability to work the count and get on base has mostly been on display so far. However, he’s still clubbed a few timely home runs to remind everyone why the Sox traded for him. In 14 games with the Red Sox, he has a .326 batting average with an on base percentage of .483 and has already drawn 14 walks. His two home runs and only three runs batted in might be disappointing so far for some. However, his lack of RBI’s is offset by his nine runs scored. The power will come, but right now he is still producing by making pitchers work, getting on base, and scoring runs. This is something this team has lacked for the past month.

In the Field

Who plays everyday and what will be huge down the stretch if this team not only wants to make the playoffs but make it far in the playoffs? Ideally, you’d like the Sox to have Verdugo, Hernandez, and Renfroe be the everyday outfielders. They have played great defense all year and all have made significant contributions with the stick this season. Ideally, you’d like to have J.D. Martinez be the everyday DH. Not a good fielder, but the type of guy you need in the lineup everyday if you want to make the playoffs. If Schwarber can make the right adjustment and learn first base and become a serviceable everyday first baseman then that is huge for the push to October.

The Playoff Race

We’ll just have to wait and see how Schwarber, and this team does down the stretch. The Red Sox currently hold the second wild card spot 2 games behind the Yankees and 2 games ahead of the Athletics. The offense needs to turn it around in September for the playoff race, and Schwarber will be a big contributor to that. It’s just a question of can he learn first base well enough in time, so we don’t have to play musical chair with all the position players.