The Dodgers Return to Fenway for a World Series Rematch

The last time we saw the Dodgers was game five of the World Series in Los Angeles. It is a game many in Red Sox Nation will never forget. From the stellar performance by David Price, to Steve Pearce’s home run, one of many. Oh, and my personal favorite, when Chris Sale struck out Manny Machado to win it all. Now, here we are, nine months later for the World Series rematch.

While Boston is looking to climb higher in the American League East, the Dodgers areworld series rematch looking to continue their success this season. The Dodgers, who are 60-32 in the National League West, are looking to not only seek revenge on the Red Sox, but look to return to the spotlight in October.

A Highly Anticipated World Series Rematch

As mentioned above, the last time we saw the Dodgers was back in the World Series. October 28th to be exact. While the Red Sox ultimately won it all on the West Coast in game five, you would have thought that they were playing in Boston. The Fenway Faithful came out in full support of the Red Sox that night, and for the parade that followed.

The match up was perfect in every sense. From Alex Cora managing a team in his rookie year, to Dave Roberts managing in Dodger blue, every game was critical. Now, here we are, about to embark on a three game set at Fenway Park. Though it’s not October, it will have an October feel like never before.

Game one will feature Eduardo Rodriguez going up against Kenta Maeda. Rodriguez will be looking for win number ten on the season. The last time Rodriguez faced the Dodgers was at Dodger Stadium in game four. In that start, he went 5.2 innings, allowing four runs, including a home run to Yasiel Puig. Maeda also pitched in that game, going 1/3 of an inning allowing one run on two hits.

Game two will feature Chris Sale vs Ross Stripling, while the finale will feature David Price vs Hyun-Jin Ryu. All three of these games are critical to the Red Sox as they get closer and closer to the trade deadline. Also, after the series against Los Angeles, they will face Toronto for four games before heading to Baltimore.

The Return of Joe Kelly and Rich Hill

Last time we saw Joe Kelly he was in a Red Sox uniform, surrounded by his teammates after winning the World Series. The next time we saw him was on a duck boat in Boston with the World Series trophy. Now, he will be returning to Boston in Dodger blue for a World Series rematch, and receiving his well deserved World Series ring.

Not only did he trade in the red for the blue, but he traded in the number 56 for the number 17. Since signing a three year deal with Los Angeles back in December, Kelly has pitched in 30 games, going 3-3 with a 5.28 ERA. He has pitched in 30.2 innings while striking out 37 batters. The former Red Sox and Cardinal pitcher last pitched on July 6th against the San Diego Padres, pitching one inning and striking out two batters. Unfortunately, neither strikeout was to Manny Machado. Sorry Red Sox fans.

Another familiar face is Rich Hill. The Milton, MA native will be returning to Fenway Park in Dodger blue as well. Hill pitched for his hometown team from 2010-2012, and in 2015. Right now, he is in his fourth season with Los Angeles. Although he isn’t with the Red Sox organization anymore, Hill and his wife are in the process of raising one million dollars for Mass General Hospital to support research for a rare genetic disease that claimed the life of their young son. During the series, the Red Sox organization will be assisting the Hill family with their campaign.

First Homestand of the Second Half

This homestand is crucial for the Red Sox. With the Yankees and Rays tearing it up in the American League East, the Red Sox need to keep their heads above water. Also, we are a few short weeks away from the trade deadline. Last time the Red Sox won the World Series, 2014 saw the team sell most of their rotation. Pitchers such as Jake Peavy and Jon Lester were traded off. From there, the front office kept selling, causing many in Red Sox Nation to panic. Will we see that again this July 31st? Only time can tell.

It’s Time To Say Goodbye To JBJ

The Red Sox invested $8.55 million dollars in their starting center fielder this season. They drafted Jackie Bradley, Jr. in the first round (40th overall) back in 2011. Although JBJ has been one of their better home-grown players, along with Betts, Andrew Benintendi, Dustin Pedroia, Matt Barnes, his numbers to start this season should help explain why Boston’s hitting statistics rank in the bottom third of American League teams. Bradley is 9-for-64 this season (.141 batting average). He has struck out 21 times compared to 5 walks and has just 2 extra-base hits. Time has come to officially say goodbye to JBJ.

When we think of Jackie Bradley, Jr., we think of the best defensive center fielder inSay Goodbye baseball. Truth be told, Bradley has won just one Gold Glove, which came last year. Bradley has been the regular center fielder for the Sox since 2014, the year after the team won their eighth World Series championship. He took over for Jacoby Ellsbury, who signed a seven-year/$153 million-dollar contract with the Yankees that offseason.

In the five seasons that Bradley has been manning center, the AL Gold Glove has been awarded to the likes of Adam Jones, Kevin Kiermaier twice, Byron Buxton, and Bradley, respectively. Bradley’s teammate Mookie Betts has won a Gold Glove in right field for three years running.

Bradley’s OPS numbers from 2014-’18 read like this: .531, .832, .835, .726, .717. He has averaged a .239 batting average over that span. His best season as a hitter came in 2016, when he started alongside Betts in the All-Star Game. That year, he posted career highs across the board: 156 games – 94 runs – 149 hits – 26 home runs – 87 RBI – .835 OPS – 271 total bases.

Compared to other top AL center fielders in 2016, Bradley finished second in RBI, third in runs, home runs, and WAR, and fourth in batting average. The following season, in 2017, he sank from third to seventh in runs and batting average. Also, individually speaking, his OPS dropped more than one-hundred points, he hit 9 less home runs, and his WAR dropped from 5.3 to 2.2. Last year, in 2018, Bradley saw his OPS drop again. His .234 batting average was his worst since his rookie year. Some might believe that downward trends like this should have authorized the Red Sox to say goodbye to JBJ some time ago.

Say Goodbye To JBJ: Always been a streaky hitter

A .926 OPS, 14 home runs, and 55 RBI in 2016’s first half are really what earned Bradley an All Star appearance in 2016. However, in the season’s second half, his numbers changed drastically. His OPS fell nearly two-hundred points (.728). He posted just 20 extra base hits after collecting 36 from April-July.

When looking at his overall career, JBJ is a .257 hitter at Fenway Park. His road batting average, however, sits at an ugly .216 clip. When facing right-handed pitchers, his career OPS of .734 warrants an average hitter. Against lefty’s his OPS drops to .664.

At this moment, tough to cut ties

Waiving or trading JBJ right now might not make the most sense, but sitting him more regularly would be smart. Betts has plenty of experience in center field. Benintendi is comfortably the everyday left fielder. Perhaps J.D. Martinez, the team’s DH, would entertain more starts in the outfield. Brock Holt, who is currently on the Injured List, has experience playing the outfield, as well as Steve Pearce.

The Red Sox have a plethora of talented hitters: Betts, Benintendi, Martinez, Pearce, Mitch Moreland, Rafael Devers, Michael Chavis. The more manager Alex Cora can get this group in the lineup card, the more runs will cross the plate. With more talent (Pedroia and Eduardo Nunez) due back to the lineup in the impending future, the Red Sox should say goodbye to JBJ.

Player Positioning: Red Sox Hitters

We’ve only seen twelve games this season, which accounts for a measly seven percent of the long, 162-game stretch. However, it is never too early to start analyzing how players are performing. Here is a look at each of the Red Sox hitters’ player positioning with the team.

Player Positioning: Catchers

Christian Vazquez – .185 BA, .612 OPS, 4 runs, 5 hits, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 2 walks, 7 k’s, 1 SBPlayer Positioning 

The Puerto Rico native had a double and a home run in the team’s first 2 games, but has cooled off since, with just 1 extra-base hit in his last 5 starts. Vazquez is valued more as a leader on defense. His most starts in a season came in 2017 when he had 99. Look for him to set a new career-high in that department with the departure of Sandy Leon.

Blake Swihart – .353 BA, 1.009 OPS, 4 runs, 6 hits, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 1 walk, 4 k’s, 0 SB

Some could make a case for Swihart’s player positioning role to increase. I would have to agree. A former first-round draft pick in 2011, the backstop is finally in a position to earn more playing time with the team. The most games he has started in a season was 84 back in 2015. He has always been known to have potential as a slugger, and he is proving it now. In four starts thus far, Swihart has 3 runs, 5 hits, 2 extra-base hits, and 3 RBI.

Player Positioning: Corner infield

Mitch Moreland – .257 BA, 1.036 OPS, 5 runs, 9 hits, 4 HRs, 10 RBI, 5 walks, 7 k’s, 0 SB

“Mitchy Two Bags” has started 2019 on fire, which has been necessary with his platoon partner, Steve Pearce, beginning the campaign on the Injured List. Moreland, now in his third year with Boston, is slugging .686 through 12 games. He won the Red Sox their first game of the season back on March 29 with a pinch-hit, 3-run homer. With Devers struggling, look for Moreland’s left-handed bat to remain in the lineup as much as possible.

Rafael Devers – .250 BA, .622 OPS, 7 runs, 11 hits, 0 HRs, 0 RBI, 5 walks, 9 k’s, 1 SB

The youngest slugger in the lineup is Devers, who is 22 years old and is in his second year. Cora decided to deploy the third baseman in the three-hole to start the season. The decision warrants much hope and promise from skipper to slugger. ‘Rafy’ had a strong opening series against Seattle, with 6 hits and 4 runs, but has just 5 hits and 3 runs in six games since.

Player Positioning: Middle infield

Dustin Pedroia – 4 PAs, 1 hit

Pedroia started yesterday’s home opener against the Blue Jays. It was his first start since May 29th of last season. He grounded into a double play in his first at-bat. In his last at-bat in the 9th inning, he smacked a liner to right field for a base knock to start a rally. He looked rusty, and while it will take some time for the 35-year-old to get caught up to speed, it was encouraging to see him back in action.

Xander Bogaerts – .263 BA, .839 OPS, 6 runs, 10 hits, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 8 walks, 8 k’s, 0 SB

Bogaerts is a cog at shortstop, especially after signing a long-term extension in Spring Training. He had opened the season with at least one strikeout in six straight contests, but has not struck out in any of the past five games. Instead, he has collected six walks.

Player Positioning: Outfield

Andrew Benintendi – .261 BA, .662 OPS, 4 runs, 12 hits, 0 HRs, 5 RBI, 4 walks, 12 k’s, 1 SB. 

“Benny” led off in all four games against Seattle, then batted second in the next four games against Oakland, and then got switched back to leadoff for three games against Arizona. He has been disappointing for the most part – registering the second most strikeouts on the team. Before yesterday’s 0-for-5 performance, however, he had strung together 4 straight multi-hit games.

Jackie Bradley Jr. – .171 BA, .404 OPS, 3 runs, 7 hits, 0 HRs, 1 RBI, 2 walks, 13 k’s, 2 SB

Also in the discussion for most disappointing start out of the gate is Bradley. “JBJ” has a team-high 13 strikeouts. His defense is what clearly keeps him in the lineup. He won his first Gold Glove in 2018, and also stole a career-best 17 bags. His career OPS of .718 is likely Bradley’s ceiling for this season. He is clearly cold right now and will need a streaky change to come into effect as the season moves forward. It has happened before.

Mookie Betts – .255 BA, .831 OPS, 10 runs, 12 hits, 3 HRs, 7 RBI, 5 walks, 10 k’s, 0 SB.

Like Benintendi, Betts has been shifted around by manager Alex Cora. He has batted second in the lineup in 8 of the 12 games and, on Friday night, manned center field in place of Jackie Bradley Jr. Betts looked shaky in center. He seems much more comfortable in right field, his Gold Glove position. To support the claim, he threw out an Arizona baserunner “by a mile,” according to WEEI play-by-play commentator Joe Castiglione. After starting the season 4-for-15 with no extra base knocks, Betts has compiled 3 doubles, 3 home runs, and 7 RBIs since.

Player Positioning: Designated Hitter

J.D. Martinez – .326 BA, .936 OPS, 6 runs, 15 hits, 3 HRs, 8 RBI, 5 walks, 6 k’s, 0 SB

The back-to-back 40 home run bruiser has been Boston’s best hitter in the early going. “Just Dongs” leads the team in hits, on-base percentage, and total bases. He has also slugged 3 home runs already.

Player Positioning: Platoon hitters

Eduardo Nunez – .167 BA, .367 OPS, 2 runs, 5 hits, 0 HRs, 3 RBI, 0 walks, 3 k’s, 2 SB

“Nuny” has arguably been the most disappointing Red Sox at the plate. He has one extra-base hit in 31 PAs. A former All-Star, he has lacked confidence in the box and while playing the field (mostly second, one game at third). With Pedroia’s activation yesterday, expect Nunez’s player positioning to revert back to a reserve role.

Steve Pearce – 7 PAs, 1 hit (double), 4 k’s

Last year’s World Series MVP has appeared in just two games. He roped a double to deep left in his first game in Oakland. The Red Sox signed Pearce to a $6.5 million, one-year deal in the offseason. He came over from Toronto last July and posted a .901 OPS down the stretch. His bat and experience are extremely valuable to this team.

Brock Holt – 19 PAs, 1 hit, 1 RBI, 2 walks, 7 k’s

The utility man is currently on the Injured List after “being poked in the eye by his son,” per NESN.com. ‘Brockstar’ quietly had his best statistical season in 2018, posting a .774 OPS in 367 PAs. It will be interesting to see how long Holt is held out for and how the team is playing when he comes back. Holt’s player positioning could either continue as the team’s backup second baseman or slot back into his more familiar “service role.”

Huge Win For The Red Sox: Opportunity To Split Series Today

What a huge win for the Red Sox last night! Although the team remains in last place in the AL East, the victory snapped their four game losing streak. With the 6-3 victory over Oakland, Boston improved to 2-5 on the season.

The Sox won the game in the 9th inning when Mookie Betts doubled off the third baseHuge win bag. Two runners scored. Andrew Benintendi, next up, scored Betts with a stand up triple. Boston entered the bottom half of the inning with a 3-run lead and handed the ball to Ryan Brasier, who closed the door and gave the Sox their much needed second win of the season.

The game started slowly, as the first 3.5 innings were quite uneventful – one run was scored by the A’s in the 2nd on an infield RBI single by catcher Nick Hundley.

The A’s scored again in the fourth when Ramon Laureano sent a Nathan Eovaldi curveball into orbit. The home run traveled 438 feet, well beyond the center field fence. Other than the Laureano home run and lack of command, 4 walks allowed, Eovaldi pitched decently. He was pulled after five innings. He accumulated 96 pitches, but just 51 strikes.

Swihart, on his 27th birthday, goes 3-for-4 in huge win for the Red Sox

Boston had tallied just one hit before Blake Swihart put them on the board with a solo shot in the fifth. Oakland’s lead was cut to two.

Sox tie it up

Clutch hitting and superb pitching out of the bullpen is what fueled last night’s huge win for the Red Sox. In the 6th inning, Betts led off with a walk. Two batters later, Rafael Devers grounded the ball to A’s second baseman Jurickson Profar for a potential double play. But, Profar overthrew shortstop Marcus Semien. The ball had to be chased down by third baseman Matt Chapman and Betts was able to then advance to third without a throw. Both Betts and Devers were safe.

J.D. Martinez walked on five pitches to load the bases and Mitch Moreland came to the plate. A’s manager Bob Melvin replaced starter Marco Estrada with left-hander Ryan Buchter. Moreland jumped on the first pitch and doubled down the right field line. Two runs scored and the game was tied.

Red Sox relievers Colten Brewer and Matt Barnes pitched the following three innings (6, 7, and 8). They recorded a combined four strikeouts, all of which A’s hitters went down swinging.

After the game, manager Alex Cora’s energy was uplifting. While speaking to reporters, he said, “When we pitch, we have a chance to win the game … The energy was better today, the whole day … We need to start playing clean baseball, better baseball.”

Red Sox activate Pearce ahead of today’s game

Steve Pearce will have a chance to make his 2019 debut now that he was activated off the Injured List today. Sam Travis was sent down to Triple-A Pawtucket.

The series finale is today. After trailing in the each of the first three games, Boston has somehow found a way to win two of the four games. Eduardo Rodriguez takes the mound in an important second start for the southpaw. He is opposed by fellow left-hander Brett Anderson. First pitch is at 3:37 PM/ET this afternoon. Enjoy the day game Sox fans!

Shockingly Poor Start For The Red Sox

Not what you expected to happen, right? The Sox played four meaningful games in March, one last night, and now it’s April 2nd. The team lost 3 of 4 in Seattle and were shut out last night in Oakland. To say the least, 2019 has been a shockingly poor start for the Red Sox.

The starting pitching has been horrific. Chris Sale, Nathan Eovaldi, Eduardo Rodriguez,shockingly poor start Rick Porcello, and David Price have now all pitched. The results are ugly: 26 earned runs and eleven home runs allowed in 21 innings. The bullpen has not been much better. The club’s eight relievers have all been used, and in 20 innings, have surrendered 20 hits, 7 earned runs, 4 home runs, and eight walks. Matt Barnes has collected the team’s lone save.

In regards to hitting, reigning MVP Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi, who bat one-and-two in the lineup, both have on-base percentages (OBP) of .250. Only Mitch Moreland, Xander Bogaerts, and J.D. Martinez own an on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS) over .800. In comparison to other teams, Boston ranks in the top-5 in all hitting categories, but in the bottom-5 in most pitching ranks.

Now that we know all of that, we must address the key question, which is: what is going on with the Red Sox and why have they come out “flat” after winning the World Series last year?

Pitching is the problem

The starting pitching, besides Price’s performance last night, have not given the offense a chance to get going. 7 runs were allowed in the first 3 innings of game-1, 3 runs through two innings in game-2, 2 runs in the first inning of game-3, and 9 runs through 3 innings of game-4.

In 2018, the Red Sox were the only team that qualified for the postseason to have four hitters (with at least 500 plate appearances) record an OPS of at least .830: Betts, Benintendi, Martinez, and Bogaerts. First baseman Steve Pearce, who played in just 50 regular season games with the team down the stretch, recorded a .901 OPS. One could attribute Betts’s .598 OPS, Benintendi’s .375 OPS, and Pearce’s absence (calf injury) to the poor start for the Red Sox.

Also in 2018, Boston was the only team (postseason eligible) to have a player save more than 40 games with a WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched) less than 1.00. That player? Craig Kimbrel – he is not back with the club this year. Kimbrel’s presence in the bullpen could factor in nicely moving forward and take some pressure off relievers.

Poor attitude

One factor to the shockingly poor start for the Red Sox that cannot be measured by statistics is their attitude. Their leader, manager Alex Cora, was asked during postgame if there was any concern following the team’s loss last night.

“Not really. It’s five games. When you go through stretches like this, it (stinks) that it’s early in the season, but yeah, we have to pick it up.”

Cora’s nonchalant demeanor is not changing the way the team is approaching games. The top of the lineup needs to get going. Cora announced today on MLB Network that Betts will move back to the leadoff spot. The starting pitching now starts its second turn. So far this season, Sox pitchers have allowed the most runs in the American League. They rank second-to-last in earned run average (ERA) and batting average against (BAA). In addition, Boston is the only AL team to not record a quality start.

Tonight’s first pitch is at 10:07 PM/ET. We’ll see if things start to change this evening in what has been a shockingly poor start for the Red Sox.

Red Sox Update: Two Days Until Opening Day

With two days until Opening Day in Seattle and with ample activity occurring in the past week, here is a quick Red Sox update. Chris Sale signed a 5-yr/$145 million contract on Saturday to remain with the team through 2024. Also on Saturday, the Red Sox made the final cuts to their bullpen. Darwinzon Hernandez was sent to Double-A Portland, while Bobby Poyner and Marcus Walden were optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket. Manager Alex Cora stated that Jenrry Mejia would not make the Opening Day roster as well.

Bullpen is set…for now

The Sox bullpen will consist of Matt Barnes, Ryan Brasier, Colten Brewer, Heath Hembree,Red Sox Update Brian Johnson, Tyler Thornburg, Hector Velazquez and Brandon Workman to begin 2019.

On Monday, Sandy Leon, who had been with the Red Sox since 2015, was placed on waivers. Later that day, Rick Porcello was hit in the head with a ‘comebacker’ by Cubs catcher Willson Contreras. He “laughed” it off and stayed in the game. What?!?

Arguably the most substantial news happened last Wednesday. In an interview with reporters, reigning AL MVP Mookie Betts was asked about Angels outfielder Mike Trout’s new record breaking contract. “I love it here in Boston. It’s a great spot. I’ve definitely grown to love going up north in the cold. That doesn’t mean I want to sell myself short of my value.”

Also in this Red Sox Update

It was announced very early this morning that reigning World Series MVP Steve Pearce will begin 2019 on the Injured List (IL) due to a left calf injury. Sam Travis will serve as Boston’s backup first baseman in Seattle.

Just over a week ago on March 18, Cora announced that second baseman Dustin Pedroia will also begin the season on the Injured List. Pedroia could make his debut on April 9th on Boston’s first home game of the season versus Toronto.