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!”