Witnessing the Red Sox chasing history this season has become my new favorite thing. They are fifty games above .500 for the first time since 1946. That was the year the Red Sox lost the World Series to the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games. There’s something particularly special about this year’s team though. It’s not just Mookie Betts’ .350 batting average, or J.D. Martinez’s 37 home runs as of August 13th. It’s not even the fact that they are the only team with 80+ wins so far this season. Everyone in Red Sox Nation is talking about how amazing this year’s team is.
Although everyone knew this season would be great with the acquisition of J.D. Martinez, I think it began to dawn on people that the 2018 Red Sox could become one of the best teams in franchise history when they swept the Yankees. It wasn’t just that they won all four games in the series at the beginning of August. It was what happened during the series that made people’s heads turn and jaws drop.
The first game Thursday night saw the Red Sox overcome a four-run deficit to win 15-7 on the back of Steve Pearce’s three home runs. The second game saw Rick Porcello retire the last twenty-one batters he faced for a one-hitter that could have been a perfect game if he hadn’t surrendered a home run to Miguel Andujar in the third. The third game saw Nathan Eovaldi take a shutout into the eighth inning. The fourth game, which the Yankees almost won, was the final nail in their coffin. Andrew Benintendi’s walk-off blooper through the Yankees’ defense shut down the Bronx Bombers for good.
Red Sox Chasing Destiny and History
The Red Sox are doing so well this season that I’m already thinking about how I’m going to afford World Series tickets. I foresee many weekday mornings where people will arrive at work with bags under their eyes. I foresee players on this year’s Red Sox roster taking home a Cy Young, MVP, Gold Glove, and Silver Slugger Award. Finally, I see myself skipping work to watch the Red Sox World Series parade down Boylston Street.
For better or for worse, it seems David Price is always in the spotlight. That tends to happen to someone making 30 million annually. Last year, it was the blow up with the reporters and frequent injuries that left fans wanting more. He returned late in ’17 and after a dominant playoff series against the Astros in relief, fans were excited to see what 2018 would have in store for the southpaw. So far, David Price is earning that money.
The Red Sox need Price. They need him healthy and consistent if they want to keep up with Houston and Cleveland’s rotations. They need him if they want to combat that intimidating Yankee lineup. The X-factor to the Red Sox championship hopes is indeed the starting five. The offense has been there all season. Betts and Martinez continue to wreak havoc in the minds of opposing pitching. Pitching is still key though. The Red Sox were division winners the last two seasons. However, they were outpitched by the Indians in 2016 and the Astros in 2017. In order to have any chance this year they need Sale, Porcello, and Price in peak form.
The Red Sox Need Consistency From Price
Price had a rough start to the year. He missed a start against the Yankees because of a “tingling sensation” in his fingers. The tingling sensation was determined to be a mild case of carpal tunnel syndrome. The reasoning for this was because of Price’s love for video games, particularly ‘Fortnite’. The stress the game put on his fingers and his excessive play progressed the tingling. Fans and the media ridiculed this development extensively. After acknowledging the injury, as well as saying he will tone down playing video games, he has since been lights out dominant.
In David Price’s last six outings he has not allowed more than three earned runs, averaging six-plus innings and keeping hitters under seven hits a game. He is earning that hefty paycheck. The Red Sox need him to be the innings horse he was in 2016. With Sale’s dominance, Rodriguez consistency and Porcello’s confidence, the sky is the limit for that quartet.
The Boston Red Sox failed to give its pitchers the run support they needed in their series against the Chicago White Sox. Chris Sale absolutely dominated the White Sox Friday night by striking out ten but got the 1-0 loss. The Red Sox won the second series game on Saturday. The third game though ended in a 5-2 loss with Rick Porcello taking the loss. The box score clearly shows that it wasn’t the pitchers’ fault. If anything, it’s clear they didn’t the run support they needed. You know how many runs the Red Sox scored in the entire series? Four. The starting lineup for the Red Sox failed to give their pitchers the support they needed.
Chris Sale dominated Friday night. He took a shutout into the seventh inning before giving up a run. He struck out ten for a season total of 120. It should have been an easy win for him. Unfortunately, ESPN is projecting him to go 12-10 this season. That’s not because he’s struggling on the mound. It’s because he’s only gotten four runs in support in his last three starts. Those last three starts were all losses too.
Rick Porcello Is Dominating Again, But He Needs Run Support Too
Rick Porcello is pitching like he did back in 2016 when he won the Cy Young Award. ESPN is projecting that he’ll win twenty games again this season. Unfortunately, the Red Sox’s hitters are playing like they did in 2016 when they’d leave a number of runners on base at the end of each inning.
The Red Sox can’t afford to sacrifice run at this point in the season. The New York Yankees are right at the Red Sox’s heels and they’ll run away with first place if Sale and Porcello don’t get the run support they need. While David Price is projected to go 17-10 this season, there’s no reason why the Red Sox’s number one and two starters should have double-digit losses.
We are just five games into the 2018 season, but right now things look good for the Red Sox. We’ve seen one turn through the starting rotation so far and although it doesn’t mean much, there is reason for optimism. The pitching so far has shown us a glimpse of just how good it could be. In five games, the Red Sox have given up a total of 12 runs. Half of those runs came in the first game alone when Joe Kelly and Carson Smith melted down to ruin Chris Sale’s gem. Out of the 12 runs, only three have been given up by the starters. Making it even more impressive is that the two men at the back end are not the usual guys. Hector Velazquez and Brian Johnson did their jobs to come in and be not just effective, but very good, in spot-starts.
At the front end of the rotation, we saw Chris Sale, David Price and Rick Porcello form a three-headed monster in consecutive starts for the first time since they’ve been together. Again, it’s too early to get excited but things have certainly looked encouraging.
The one thing you can come back and challenge about this is the fact that they are facing anemic lineups. The Rays and Marlins both look like Triple-A clubs, which may have something to do with the lack of offense. If you want to look at it that way, that’s perfectly fine and consistent with being a Boston sports fan. However, all you can ask is for the Sox to take care of business against whomever the opponent is. That is what they have done thus far.
The next go-round for the rotation will be similar as Sale will get the Marlins tomorrow to kick it off. After that it’ll be Price, Porcello and Velazquez going against Tampa Bay in the opening series at Fenway. Finally, Brian Johnson will face a test against the New York Yankees next week. That’s when we’ll start to get a gauge on how things are going to go on the mound.
The Boston Red Sox suffer from a problem to put runs on the board. It became a problem after the 2013 World Series. It’s only gotten worse since then. For a few years now their hitters can’t seem to come through in clutch situations. They leave too many runners on base. In fact, as of July 26th, the Red Sox rank 24th out of the 30 MLB teams that leave runners on base at 7.03. Seeing the Red Sox reverting to their inability to post runs concerns Red Sox Nation. This problem comes as the New York Yankees seize on a chance to retake the lead in the American League East.
The Red Sox captured first place in the AL East last month but can’t quite hold a comfortable lead. They’ll win a few games in a row, then Rick Porcello will lose a game and the Red Sox find themselves on a losing streak again. A lot of fans blame Porcello for his lackluster pitching this season. According to the Boston Herald, the Red Sox have scored two or less runs for Porcello in 10 of of his 20 starts this season. The offense scored two or fewer only four times in 33 starts last season. So to say that the Red Sox slump falls on Porcello’s shoulders isn’t entirely fair. In fact, it’s not as much the pitching staff’s fault as much as it’s their hitters’.
The Red Sox Reverting To Their Old Ways Will Cripple Them
Several viable teams are contending for a spot in the 2017 playoffs. The Houston Astros will surely give the Red Sox a run for their money. The Seattle Mariners, beating the Red Sox in the first two of a three-game series, will also contend for a spot. With the Red Sox reverting to their old ways of bad offense, now’s the time to rethink strategy.
Let’s start with getting rid of John Farrell. It would jolt the team into some kind of pro-active approach to the game. It would also send a message to the rest of the team that no one is immune to change (David Price is finding that out the hard way). They need a manager like Crash Davis from Bull Durham. Someone who will call out the Lollygaggers and snap them into some real action. Do that and you’ll see more runs on the board!
The Red Sox are within a game or two of capturing first place. It’s miracle in its own right if you consider the Red Sox dead weight. Pablo Sandoval isn’t panning out. Sandy Leon’s flash in the pan hitting last year isn’t carrying into this season. Rick Porcello leads the league in losses at 9. If the Red Sox are going to capture first place they need to cut some of their dead weight and they need to do it yesterday.
The Red Sox are playing great baseball. Josh Rutledge is holding his own at third. Andrew Benintendi is a contender for the Rookie of the Year Award. Mookie Betts is leading the Red Sox with 12 homers. Chris Sale is as masterful as ever. But with the Red Sox dead weight that consists of Sandoval, Porcello, and Leon, it’s hard for the team to play better, and they certainly can.
The Red Sox Are Winning the Late-Inning Games
The Red Sox were among the league leaders last year with runners left on base and runners left in scoring position. It seemed like the Red Sox gave up once they fell behind. We’re not seeing that attitude this season. Back-to-back walk-off wins against Philadelphia last week proved that the Red Sox can play under pressure. What’s even better is that players like Benintendi are the ones coming through in the clutch.
Red Sox Dead Weight Is Dragging The Team Down
It’s not always easy to cut dead weight. Players like Pablo Sandoval and Rick Porcello have such big contracts that it’s hard to find another team that’ll pick them up. In other instances no one wants them. But the Red Sox should just rip off the band-aid and shed these players before the All-Star break. Keeping them around is like putting raisins in oatmeal cookies. They just get in the way.
There’s a great scene in the film Moneyball where Billy Bean, played by Brad Pitt, goes against expert advice and cuts a number of players, including Jeremy Giambi. These players weren’t panning out. They were dead weight on the field and a distraction in the clubhouse. While the plot of Moneyball and the reality of the Red Sox are completely different, it’s a lesson that the Red Sox could learn something from. The front office needs to stop coming up with excuses and make some difficult decisions.