Red Sox Rest of Season Outlook

It finally feels like the Red Sox season started last week with the combination of big wins against the Rays and Yankees and the offense firing on all cylinders. There’s no denying that Chris Sale laid another egg with his chance to sweep the Yankees, but let’s not overlook the fact that the Sox dominated the Yanks. In the first 3 games of the weekend series, they outscored them 38-13. The bats came alive, Mookie Betts is starting to round into his MVP form, and they got three very solid pitching performances out of their 3 thru 5 starters, Rick Porcello, Andrew Cashner, and Eduardo Rodriguez.

As we head into yet another huge week of games against the Rays, who are .5 games ahead of Boston in the wild card standings, another 4 game set against the Bronx Bombers, and the trade deadline on Wednesday, this is a crucial stretch in determining where this team will end up at the end of the season.

As we evaluate this team moving forward, I think it’s pretty clear they don’t need to make any additions to the offense. Most people know it’s been a bit of a disappointing year for Mookie and Andrew Benintendi, but it looks like both of their bats are finally waking up. We saw Mookie put on an electric performance last Friday night when he slammed 3 dingers and went 4 for 5. Benintendi has raised his average almost 20 points over the last week or so. If these 2 can stay hot and live up to their expectations, their offense is still as good as any team in the league. Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers are in the midst of career seasons and have carried this offense for the most of this year. JD Martinez continues to rake and his batting average is creeping back up close to .300. Couple all this with the return of Mitch Moreland platooning at 1st and Christian Vazquez in the middle of a career year offensively and their offense will continue to carry this team in the dog days of summer.

The starting rotation while inconsistent at times seems like it’s been moving forward after the trade for Andrew Cashner back on July 13th. Eduardo Rodriguez is tied for the AL lead in wins and looks to have settled in as the 3rd starter. David Price has been mostly consistent this year despite his inability to ignore the media (read up on his ongoing feud with Dennis Eckersley if you want to know more about that). Rick Porcello, while struggling mightily at times with his 5.55 ERA, continues to eat up innings per usual. Andrew Cashner looks like a serviceable 5th starter who can be used out of the bullpen if/when they get to the post-season.

This leaves one guy yet to be mentioned, Chris Sale. If the Red Sox end up missing the post-season, much of the blame should be pointed at Sale. His current record now sits at 5-10 with an ERA of 4.26. If he sat at 10-5 like an ace of his normal caliber, the Sox would be in the running to take another AL East crown. Personally, I still believe Sale can return to his dominant form in time for the playoffs and lead the pitching rotation in September and October. There are still positive signs that he can turn the corner. He’s 2nd in the AL in strikeouts which illustrates that he still has his swing and miss stuff. He’s  also 6th in the league in WHIP. If he can cut back on his HRs, and avoid the blow-up inning he seems to have every few starts, there’s no reason he can’t dominate like the past few seasons… it’s just a little scary to say this with the calendar about to flip to August.

Anybody who’s followed this team throughout the year knows adding an arm or preferably two to the bullpen is probably the key to making another run to a World Series. I look at the bullpen and hardly know who these guys are… and for good reason since they’ve been horrible for much of the season. The only guy I really believe in right now is Brandon Workman, who’s been very reliable with an ERA of 2.08 in 47.2 innings pitched. Other than Workman, it’s been a crapshoot as to what you’re going to see from the rest of the crew. I’m hopeful Matt Barnes is starting to turn a corner, as he hasn’t given up a run in July. They also just got Nathan Eovaldi back from the Injured List and have decided to put him in the bullpen (since the pickings are so slim out there). We all saw Eovaldi’s upside last October, so this move could work well in the long run. He’s been rusty so far in his 3 appearances since he was activated off the IL, throwing 2.2 innings and allowing 5 earned runs. But he hadn’t pitched since April 17th and hadn’t pitched out of the bullpen since last October, so some rust is to be expected.

The Sox still desperately need help in the ‘pen. The name they continue to be linked to is Edwin Diaz. Diaz is only 25 years old and is currently the closer for the Mets. New York traded for him in the offseason. He’s been a major disappointment to date with a 4.95 ERA and a WHIP close to 1.5. With that being said, a change in scenery could be good for Diaz. Last year he led the majors with 57 saves and had an ERA of 1.96. He constantly throws in the high 90’s and has a very effective slider. While he would still cost the Red Sox a top prospect, his down season may allow them to buy low on Edwin compared to last offseason when the Mets traded for him, coming off his 57 save season.

There are plenty of other options out there as well, such as veterans Greg Holland who recently got removed from the closer role with the D’Backs, Ken Giles who’s closed for the Blue Jays this year and has an ERA of 1.54, but hasn’t been in many high leverage situations (as the Jays are one of the worst teams in baseball), and Shane Greene who has been one of the best relievers in baseball to date and earned his first All-Star appearance with the Tigers (the worst team in baseball).

At the beginning of last week, there were some whispers that the Red Sox might be sellers at the trade deadline and take calls on studs Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez. Or at least look to deal an arm like Rick Porcello to a team who was looking for a veteran starter. Taking 2 of 3 from the Rays, along with the dominating series against the Yankees has helped remind everyone that this team still can return to the World Series and in no way, should the front office consider selling at the trade deadline.

Buckle up Sox fans it’s going to be a wild week/ last 2 months of the season. As old friend Kevin Millar used to say, “Cowboy Up!”

 

Believe it or not, Now is NOT the time to completely give up on David Price

I’m probably going to catch a lot of grief for this post, and deservedly so. The man who people call the Mental Midget, the Gutless Coward, and the Worst Postseason Pitcher of all time, has done more than his share of work to earn these demeaning nicknames. He has failed in the postseason for the Rays, Tigers, Blue Jays, and now Red Sox, time after time. With last Saturday’s nightmare performance, his record as a starting pitcher in the post-season fell to 0-9 in 10 starts with an ERA of 6.03. His teams have lost all 10 games he has started.

It’s truly remarkable to ponder how a pitcher with his track record of success in the regular season can continue to falter every time he’s trotted out as a starting pitcher in October. Let’s focus on the immediate concern, which is Price’s role against the Astros in the ALCS. This is where people are going to call me crazy, but Price is going to need to play a very important role for the Sox to win this series.

As of right now Price is slated to start Game 2. If Sale and the Sox struggle in Game 1, you never know, they could still end up bringing Price out of the bullpen instead of trusting him in a must win Game 2. I know I sure as hell would be very skeptical if they trotted out Price to start the 2nd game of this series, after dropping Game 1. Throw out a guy who’s never won a post-season game, to try and ensure you don’t fall down 0-2 going back to Houston against the defending World Champs. Yeah, no thanks!

Last year against the Astros in the ALDS, Price pitched out of the bullpen due to an elbow injury. Price was dynamite in the series pitching 6.2 scoreless innings against the ‘Stros. As we all know, the Astros would go on to win the World Series despite Price’s dominance in that post-season series.

Price pitched very well against Houston in this year’s regular season. In June he went 6 innings against them (in Houston) with 7 Strikeouts and 3 Earned Runs allowed. Then about a month ago, at Fenway, he went 6.1 with 10 K’s and 2 Earned Runs in what was one of his best outings of the season. The bullpen would go on to blow that game for him (surprise surprise). It’s at least promising to see him have some success against the Astros, compared to his putrid career record against the Yankees. That’s one mental hurdle that he’s hopefully already over, headed into this series.

Just as important as Price’s success against Houston, the Red Sox may not be able to constantly roll Rick Porcello and Chris Sale out of the bullpen in important situations, like they did in the Yankees series. Sale is going to be called upon to start 2, maybe 3 games in this series, depending on how it trends. Porcello, may see 2 starts as well, which would limit his exposure in the bullpen.

All of this leads to the point that the Red Sox are going to need to get something out of Price in this series. As mentioned before, it appears his first shot will be as a starter in Game 2. If he fails to impress once again, I have zero doubt that he will be relegated to the bullpen moving forward. If that’s the case, he’s going to become the team’s “long reliever” out of the pen. He could be counted on to get some big outs early (or late) in games if any of the starters face trouble later on in the series.

Eduardo Rodriguez may have been made for the long reliever role had he not earned his way into the doghouse with Alex Cora. This was after his lack of effort to cover first base back in Game 2. Aaron Judge hit a ground ball to first, that should have been an out. Instead it turned into an undeserved infield single due to E-Rod’s laziness.

New York Yankees' Aaron Judge, right, is safe at second after a single off Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez during the seventh inning of Game 2 of a baseball American League Division Series,Saturday, Oct. 6, 2018, in Boston. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Photo Credit: MassLive

Cora called out E-Rod out after the game for his effort or lack thereof. He then had him come out to pitch the 9th inning of the Game 3 blowout against the Yanks in which the Sox were leading 16-1. This was a clear sign that Cora isn’t currently pleased with Rodriguez.

You can hate on David Price all you want. I think even he, would agree to some extent, that it’s well deserved. But at some point “every dog has their day.” At some point Price is going to go out there and win a big post-season start or come out of the bullpen and be the x-factor in a series. For all the bad things we say about him, it’s never a matter of him not caring or dogging it on the mound (like Mr. Eduardo Rodriguez, who’s now dogged it a few times this year). It’s a matter of him getting too stressed on the mound. It appears he almost cares too much.

Despite all the failures, the Sox need Price to step up in this series whether as a reliever or starting pitcher. He’s going to play a major role… for better or for worse, that remains to be seen. As a Red Sox fan, wouldn’t it actually be a great story if he came out in Game 2 of the ALCS and threw a gem? Then he follows it up with a strong performance later on in the series or in the World Series? Here’s to hoping David Price finds a way to finally begin to earn our respect and make us forget about his post-season struggles for the next few weeks.

GO SOX!!