Saturday, June 30, 2018

Game 83: Red Sox at New York Yankees (June 29, 2018)

They can still take two out of three, right? That was about as ugly a start to the series as the Red Sox could've had, especially with how well they've been playing lately. I took my oldest daughter to the batting cases after dinner so she could get some swings in before her tournament this weekend and when I saw the first couple of updates on my phone...well, let's just say I wish I hadn't. We got home and turned the game on in the fifth inning by which point the Sox were losing badly. It only got worse from there.

Eduardo Rodriguez pitched poorly in his previous start, but was till sporting a 9-2 record and had been a nice surprise for the Sox rotation so far this season. When he gave up a run in the bottom of the second on a Miguel Andujar single, I wasn't too worried. It wasn't until the fifth inning that the wheels feel off the cart for the Red Sox and Rodriguez. Gleyber Torres drove in a run on a sacrifice fly...okay, not too bad. Then Andujar hit a two-run homer...okay, now it's starting to get bad. Then, Greg Bird hit a solo homer. 5-0 Yankees, just like it was bad. While Rodriguez was the one who made the bad pitches and cost his teams the run, it also continued a strange little trend this eason where Alex Cora will hang his struggling pitchers out there to dry, leaving them in far longer than most managers. Whether it's to concede the game and limit his use of the bullpen, I don't know, but it's a curious little thing I've noticed over the course of the season. Boston avoided the ignominy of getting shut out when Andrew Benintendi doubled to drive in Mookie Betts in the fifth inning, but otherwise the Sox went down without a fight in this one. Justin Haley was on mop-up duty for the Sox bullpen and he did exactly the opposite of what a reliever is supposed to do: keep it close. First he gave up a monstrous two-run homer to Aaron Judge in the seventh; in the eighth he gave up another towering shot to Greg Bird. By that point it was 8-1 and all you could do was play for another day. The loss dropped the Sox into a tie with the Yankees and now makes the final two games of the series that much more important (and exciting).

There's not much to write home about for the Red Sox in this one. They were outhit by the Yankees 11-6 and only Mookie and new acquisition Steve Pearce had decent nights at the plate, both going 2-4. Other than Benintendi's double and a hit for Eduardo Nunez, the Boston bats did nothing. Rodriguez was awful, going six innings and giving up five runs on seven hits. He only struck out two and walked two, and Haley was just as bad. Both pitches gave up two home runs each and had the kind of forgettable game that hopefully won't come back to bite the team in October. It's not as though CC Sabathia was anything special for the Yankees...he was solid but unspectacular, but he did enough to stymie the Red Sox offense. Tonight's match up pits Chris Sale against Sonny Gray, who the Red Sox always hit hard, so hopefully they can bounce back with a win. The only thing I hate worse than losing to the Yankees is losing to the Yankees in New York. 

Friday, June 29, 2018

Game 82: Los Angeles Angels at Red Sox (June 28, 2018)

I'm pretty sure the Angels couldn't wait to leave Boston by the time this game was over. The Sox swept them in LA back in April and were on the verge of doing it again at Fenway Park heading into this game. They put a bit of a scare into Boston the night before but ultimately came away with the loss, so they were hoping to avoid the series (and season) sweep going into the finale. With Brian Johnson filling in for the injured Steven Wright, I fully expected this game to be a throwaway. I've been down on Johnson all season and didn't have much faith he'd be any better in this spot start as he has been out of the bullpen. After dinner I went for a walk with my family to enjoy the summer evening and got back in time to catch the game in between going out to the yard to chat with some of our neighbors. By the time I finally sat down for good to watch the game uninterrupted from the fourth inning on, I was treated to a pretty entertaining contest.

When the Angels went up 1-0 in the top of the fourth on Andrelton Simmons solo homer, I thought this might be the game where they finally broke through and won a game against us. Johnson had been solid if not unspectacular, going just four innings and giving up that run against just two strikeouts and a walk. However, Rafael Devers clubbed a ball to straightaway center field in the bottom of the fifth to tie it up and we had a game. Angels rookie Jaime Barria was pretty damn good in this one, but this Red Sox lineup is just relentless and they eventually wore him down. In the sixth inning, Brock Holt had a great at-bat where he battled and battled against reliever Jose Alvarez and walked with the bases loaded to bring in JD Martinez and gave the Sox their first lead of the night. They then got some much needed breathing room in the seventh when Jackie Bradley hammered a two run homer into the bullpens to make it 4-1 Boston. Bradley has been hitting great during this homestand, 8 for 17 with two home runs and some great hits. Now would is a good time for him to be getting hot at the plate. Albert Pujols drove in a run off of Joe Kelly in the eighth to cut it to two runs, but Craig Kimbrel picked up the save in epic fashion, striking out three batters and punctuating it by whiffing the great Mike Trout (who had a quiet series) for the final out. I can't finish the game recap without mentioning two fantastic defensive plays by the Red Sox outfield, one by Jackie Bradley in the first and another by Andrew Benintendi in the eighth. Both were highlight reel leaping grabs at the wall and saved runs and are yet another reminder that along with Mookie Betts, the Red Sox have the best defensive outfield in the league.

With the win, the Sox swept the season series with the Angels (outscoring them 49-12 over six games!) and picked up another half game on the idle Yankees in the division. With a one game cushion heading into the big weekend series in the Bronx, the Sox are well set up to increase their lead if they can take two of three. The first pitching match up pits Eduardo Rodriguez against CC Sabathia and should be a good one. I can't wait!

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Game 81: Los Angeles Angels at Red Sox (June 27, 2018)

With this game, we've officially reached the halfway point of the season. Eighty-one down, eighty-one to go. It feels like it's flown by yet here we are, at the end of June and knocking on the door of the All Star break. On a personal note, I can't believe I've actually written up every single game to this point. When I challenged myself to do it, I thought I could do it but also wouldn't have been surprised if it petered out at some point. Halfway through the season, I'm still as excited to do it as I was back in April and I fully intend to do it the very end of the season. Back to the matter at hand, I once again had a free night to relax and watch the game after work and dinner, and with my oldest two daughters away at a friend's house to sleep over, it was a pretty quiet night at home. Heading into this game, the Red Sox had won all four games this season against the Angels and outscored them by twenty runs. With Rick Porcello starting, it looked like that trend would continue, but this turned out to be a more interesting game the longer it went on...

For the first four innings, this game was a laugher. The Sox put up six runs in the second when they hit three home runs: first, Eduardo Nunez belted a solo shot. A little later, Sandy Leon hit a two run homer over the Green Monster, and then JD Martinez blasted a three-run shot to center field. As my son rightly pointed out, all we needed was a grand slam to complete the home run cycle. With a 6-0 lead and Porcello looking pretty sharp, it seemed like it'd be another easy game for the Sox, but the Angels had other plans. Ian Kinsler hit a solo homer in the fifth to put the Angels on board and I thought to myself "alright, no big deal, it's just a run." When the weak hitting Martin Maldonado hit a three-run homer in the sixth to make it 6-4, I still wasn't too worried although seeing Porcello give up a couple of hard hit home runs on pitches hanging over the plate was a bit concerning. The seventh inning was just a comedy of errors, though, with Justin Upton scoring when Joe Kelly made a throwing error on a Luis Valbuena infield hit. Andrelton Simmons did damage next with an RBI double that tied the game. Just like that, the six run lead was gone and we had a game on our hands. Was this going to be another case of the bullpen blowing a game that had been in hand up to that point? 

Fortunately, that didn't turn out to be the case. In the next inning, Rafael Devers doubled to drive in Nunez and give Boston back the lead. Sandy Leon, who has really been swinging the bat well lately, drove Devers in with a single. The worst part of the night came on the final Boston run in the eighth. JD scored on a wild pitch from Angels reliever Jake Jewell, but it was what happened on the play that made it hard to watch. Jewell ran toward home to cover the plate but before he got there, he slipped and his cleat got caught on the ground. As he slid forward, his leg bent awkwardly behind him and he crumpled in a heap. He was in a lot of pain and had to be carted off the field in a stretcher. For a kid who had just been called up from the minors and was in only his third (I think) big league appearance it was a bummer. Anyway, the Sox ended up with the 9-6 win and survived a scare from the Angels. Everyone in the lineup except for Mitch Moreland got a hit, and Jackie Bradley's average is now at .200. As long as he can keep it above that threshold for the rest of the season, this lineup should hopefully finally score runs on a consistent basis without over relying on the top of the order. Porcello's final line was 5.2 innings of work, where he struck out five and walked two. It was the two homers and four earned runs he gave up in his final inning of work that did him in, though. For as good as he looked in the first two innings, he labored the rest of the way to get through and needed 104 pitches to not even make it out of the sixth inning. Kelly was even worse, but luckily Matt Barnes and Craig Kimbrel were able to hold down the fort the rest of the way (though not without some drama).

With the win and the Yankees losing, the Sox are back in first place. There's one more game against the Angels to clean up before the big showdown in the Bronx starts Friday night. I can't wait for that series, especially since the pitching match ups are set up favorably for the Sox. It should be a good series and I'm expecting plenty of great baseball from both teams. If the Sox can take two of three, they'll be set up nicely to finish the stretch before the All Star break. First, though, let's take care of business against the Angels and go for the sweep!

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Game 80: Los Angeles Angels at Red Sox (June 26, 2018)

What a new phenomenon for me: a night off where I didn't have to be anywhere or do anything after work. As much as I'm already missing coaching and the hustle and bustle of my kids' travel seasons, I had forgotten how nice it was to also have nothing to do after getting home besides eating dinner with my family and relaxing. After we ate dinner, we all went for a walk to enjoy the beautiful (and unseasonably cool) weather. When we got inside, I plopped down on the couch to watch the game while my kids went outside to play a little whiffle ball in the backyard. By the time I had watched the entire game, my kids were still outside with the floodlights on having an epic game with some neighborhood kids who had come over to join in. Isn't summer the best, especially when you're a kid?

I've made no secret here and elsewhere that Mike Trout is my favorite non-Red Sox player, so I was really excited to watch him play while still hoping that he didn't do anything too spectacular that would help the Angels beat the Sox. I needn't have worried because Boston picked up right where they left off when they swept the Angels in LA back in April. David Price got the start for Boston and while he wasn't Chris Sale-good, he was solid and continued his run of excellent performances. He threw six innings and only gave up five hits. He struck out seven and walked two and the only damage was a solo home run given up to former Red Sox Chris Young in the third inning. Otherwise, it was all Boston in this one. I knew it was going to get off to a good start when Mookie Betts hit the very first pitch of the game into the bullpen for a quick 1-0 lead. There were shades of Game 2 of the 2013 ALCS with Officer Steve Horgan reprising his iconic arms-up pose as Michael Hermasillo did his best Torii Hunter impersonation in flipping over the wall.  The star of the night was Jackie Bradley, who went 3-4 and hit a couple to the opposite field, something I and other fans have wanted to see him do for years. He has been hitting the ball very hard the last month with little to show for it, but over the past week they've been falling in which is a very good sign. He hit a two-RBI double in the second, a solo homer over the Green Monster in the third, and an RBI single in the seventh. He finished the game a triple shy of the cycle! The Sox knocked Angels pitcher John Lamb out of the game in the second when Andrew Benintendi and Mitch Moreland both drove in runs after Bradley, and they did just as much damage against Angels reliever Deck McGuire. Christian Vazquez and JD Martinez both got in on the fun when they each hit solo homers in the bottom of the fifth and sixth innings, respectively. Bradley's aforementioned RBI single in the seventh finished off the scoring as Boston cruised to an easy 9-1 win. As for Trout, the Sox held him to a 1-4 night...while I like to see the amazing things he can do, I'm glad he didn't hurt the Red Sox in any way.

Owing to scheduling quirks and the uneven number of games played, the Sox are a half game behind the Yankees in the AL East. With two more games at home against the Angels before a big series this weekend against the Yankees in New York, if the Sox keep pace then they should be in good position to do some damage in the division race...I'm hoping they can take two of three. The summer weather is heating up and so is the season; every game is starting to be more and more important. This is also when it gets the most fun to root for your team...I'm really looking forward to it!

Monday, June 25, 2018

Game 79: Seattle Mariners at Red Sox (June 24, 2018)

So that's what happens when you score runs for Chris Sale. Who knew? It was a day that was bittersweet for me as it was the end of my son's travel baseball season. We lost our final tournament game, but we played those trophy hunters tough and I couldn't be more proud of the boys. My son was so sad because he wants to keep playing this summer (as do I), and I was sad because we've been playing our best ball of the season the last few weeks and I want to keep it going. It was a great group of boys to coach and I enjoyed every bit of it. From where we started the season in September to where we're at now, the difference is amazing. However, a little break will be good for us before the fall season ramps up in August.

Chris Sale was spectacular against the Mariners in the series finale. He struck out thirteen batters and only walked one in seven innings. He gave up four hits and completely stymied Seattle, and unlike his last few starts the offense scored some runs for him. The biggest (and nicest) surprise was that Jackie Bradley went 3-3. He had been hitting the ball hard the last month and putting it in play, but they weren't dropping in for hits. I'm hoping this is the start of something good for him because if he can even get his average up to .220, it will make the bottom of the lineup that much more dangerous (he's at .189 right now, so he's got a ways to go). Rafael Devers drove in the first Boston run with a double to push Xander Bogaerts across in the bottom of the fifth. Sandy Leon, who has been swinging a pretty hot bat himself lately, followed with a sacrifice fly to drive in Eduardo Nunez. Later in the inning, Mookie Betts drove in Leon with his own sac fly to make it 3-0 by the end of the fifth. The final damage was done by Mitch Moreland, who crushed a two-run homer to center field (his 11th of the season) to make it 5-0, which is how the game ended.

As they've shown all season, the Red Sox are dangerous in the final game of a series. With this victory, they took two of three from Seattle and moved into a tie atop the AL East owing to another Yankees loss (the Yankees were swept by Tampa Bay this weekend...thank you, Rays!). For the second Monday in a row (and third this month), the Sox have an off day. It'll be some much needed rest since they'll follow it with a series against a good Angels team (with the transcendent Mike Trout) followed by a big series in the Bronx against the Yankees. That's followed by road series against Washington (have I mentioned I hate interleague play?) and Kansas City before two home series against Texas and Toronto. That will take them all the way up to the All-Star break with only one additional day off (July 5th). It's a tough stretch of games where it will be important to keep pace with the Yankees and Astros. It's going to be a fun ride, even though I'm sure there will be some frustrations along the way. That's the nature of baseball, but that's also what makes the summer season so exciting and enjoyable.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Game 78: Seattle Mariners at Red Sox (June 23, 2018)

So much for that consistency thing, huh? A night after a wild comeback win, the Sox fell back to earth and stumbled badly. I was coaching my son's travel team in our tournament all day today and only caught the last few innings of the game at the restaurant we had dinner at (believe it or not), but kept up with the updates on my phone throughout the early part. We got beaten in our first game by a trophy chasing team, but we played them tight and even held the lead after a few innings before they ran away with it. Our second game was a fantastic back-and-forth affair and we were in great position to win it in the final inning, but the game ended on a horrifically bad call at second base. The amount of booing from the stands (our team's parents/fans as well as neutral observers) was unreal, but to no avail. I've long been a fan of the human element of the game and I hope they never computerize umpires, but today we were on the wrong side of one of these calls. A good life lesson for the boys to learn, and we just have to pick ourselves up and get back at it tomorrow for our next game.

Now, for the Red Sox...I sure wish they'd learn how to play consistently. It's probably my biggest gripe with this team. Eduardo Rodriguez started this game and the way he's been pitching this season, it seemed sure that he'd keep it close so the bats could keep scoring runs. It ended up being a "no" and "no" on both of those. The Mariners went up 7-0 over the first seven innings and it never got close. The first inning blues struck again when Mitch Haniger doubled to drive in a run. Tzu-Wei Lin, playing shortstop, committed a fielding error that allowed Ryon Healy to score in the third, and Haniger did more damage in the fourth with another double that drove in two. Kyle Seager singled to bring Haniger in and it was rapidly getting out of hand at 5-0. Healy drove in another run in the sixth and Dee Gordon got an RBI on a fielder's choice in the seventh to push it to 7-0. The Sox got a couple of meaningless runs in the ninth when Mitch Moreland tripled to drive in JD Martinez, and when Eduardo Nunez drove in Moreland, but otherwise the Sox bats were quiet as they went down without a fight, 7-2.

Rodriguez only went four innings and gave up five of the Seattle runs (four of them earned). He only struck out two and walked two, which was what the Sox didn't need. Combined with the anemic offense, it was a recipe for disaster. On the other side, Mike Leake went eight strong for the M's, striking out five, walking two, and only allowing three hits and no runs. That was the kind of night Boston needed after the bullpen was depleted in last night's wild contest, but unfortunately it didn't work out for them. Luckily, the Yankees lost as well so the deficit in the division remained at a game.

I'm writing this recap from a darkened hotel room as my son tries to get to sleep in the bed next to mine. We've got our next tournament game mid-morning on Sunday but he's so amped up from today's games that he's restless. He did a great job today both with the bat and at shortstop...I'm so proud of him and the fact that so many other people recognize what a good player he is. Beyond that, the one-on-one time I've been able to spend with him is the best part of the whole experience. While I miss my wife and three daughters a lot and wish I could've seen my oldest play in her tournament today, the time with my son has been great. That's the best part of watching my kids grow and play the game that we all love...the bonding time I've gotten with all of them.

Now it's time for me to get some sleep as I hope that both our team and the Red Sox can salvage some wins tomorrow.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Game 77: Seattle Mariners at Red Sox (June 22, 2018)

This particularly tough stretch of the schedule continues with the Mariners making a visit to Fenway Park only five days after hosting the Red Sox in Seattle. After a long and aggravating week at work I was excited to take my oldest daughter to her travel tournament tonight to watch her play. This was important to me since I'm going to miss the rest of her tournament over the weekend since I'll be coaching my son's final travel tournament of the season two hours away this weekend and staying overnight in a hotel. Thanks once again to the marvels of modern technology, I was able to watch and keep up with the Sox game during the breaks in her games. Unfortunately, her team only played one because a massive thunderstorm rolled through and forced the second one to be cancelled. Such is life. They'll make it up Saturday before beginning bracket play. Now, on to the Sox...

Seattle has been scuffling a bit lately, so I was hoping that combined with Steven Wright starting it would lead to a solid Red Sox win. Like Chris Sale and David Price, Wright has been the victim of inconsistent run support over the past month; he's pitched great over the last few weeks but doesn't have too much to show for it. Were the Boston bats waking up in the final Minnesota game a mirage or were they back to stay? Well, they were back for at least another night as this was one of the wildest games of the support wasn't an issue in this game!

I've always said that watching a knuckleball pitcher is an exercise in extremes: he's either going to be unhittable or he's going to throw batting practice. There's no in-between. In this game, Wright was throwing BP as the Mariners quickly went up 4-0 in the top of the first when Nelson Cruz launched a three run homer followed by a solo shot from Ryon Healy. Shockingly, the Sox not only tied it up but took the lead in the bottom of the inning, all off of Wade LeBlanc who had held them scoreless in Seattle last week. First, JD Martinez hit an RBI double to drive in Mookie Betts. Mitch Moreland followed this up with an RBI single to drive in Andrew Benintendi. Brock Holt got in on the action with an RBI double to drive in JD followed by Rafael Devers driving in Moreland on a fielder's choice. Finally, Christian Vazquez hit a ground rule double to bring in Holt. Just like that, it was 5-4 Red Sox after a single inning! It didn't last long as Seattle tied it in the top of the second when Mitch Haniger's single drove in Andrew Romine. Cruz struck again with a single to drive in Dee Gordon and in an instant, Seattle was back on top. They added to their lead in the fourth when the pesky Denard Span doubled to drive Romine in before Cruz hurt Boston for the third time in this game with his second three run homer. 10-5 Seattle and it seemed like one of those games where, when the Red Sox finally woke their bats up their pitching was going to give it away. When Devers drove Moreland in with a single in the fifth, it seemed like a case of too little, too late and I was expecting another brutal loss for the Sox. They kept chipping away, though, when JD hit a two run homer in the sixth to make it a 10-8 game. For as bad as Boston's pitching was in this one, Seattle's was equally putrid. Maybe they could actually pull this off? Xander Bogaerts followed JD's homer later in the inning with a single to drive in Moreland and cut the lead to a single run. Benintendi tied the game in the seventh with an RBI single and JD followed up with a two-RBI single to finally put the Sox ahead for good. They finished off the scoring when Benintendi scored from third on a wild pitch and Eduardo Nunez followed up with an RBI, bringing in JD with a single. The final score was 14-10 in one of the wildest back-and-forth games I've seen in a long time!

There's not too much to write home about regarding Steven Wright last night. As with all knuckleballers, he was due for a bad start after how good he'd been. He went 3.1 innings, giving up ten runs on ten hits. However, the bullpen actually held down the fort, holding Seattle scoreless the remainder of the game and only allowing four hits (all off of Brian Johnson). Every single Red Sox player got at least a hit in this one, even Blake Swihart. JD Martinez had a monstrous 4-5 night with five RBI, although he fell a bit short of Seattle's Cruz who also went 4-5 and drove in seven. It was that kind of night. With the Yankees and Astros both losing, the Sox have the most wins in the league at 51 and are now only a game behind New York in the AL East. I hope that the Sox can win with a little less drama during these last two games against the Mariners, but as long as the end result is a victory I won't care. I'm just not sure I can take so much drama again so soon after this one!

Friday, June 22, 2018

Game 76: Red Sox at Minnesota Twins (June 21, 2018)

As you've no doubt gleaned from the last week, I'm fairly down on the Red Sox right now. Not in a rooting/interest sort of way; I'll always root like hell for them. Rather it's in the way I feel about how they've been playing and their chances to contend for the World Series right now. Since this final game against the Twins in Minnesota was an afternoon getaway day game, I was able to listen to it at work in my office. All I was hoping for was a win so that Boston could avoid the sweep. With Rick Porcello on the mound, I liked their chances although the way they've (not) been swinging the bats lately and stranding runners, I wasn't particularly confident it would make a difference.

Just as his fellow starters Chris Sale and David Price did, Rick Porcello gave the Red Sox yet another fantastic performance. He went seven innings and only allowed one hit while striking out five and walking one. He finished off his afternoon by retiring the final sixteen batters in a row he faced. However, unlike Sale's and Price's ultimate fates, Rick actually got some run support. They scored a run for him in the fourth when Sandy Leon drove in Mitch Moreland on a sharp single down the right field line, and another in the fifth when Mookie Betts belted an opposite field solo homer (his 19th). It was in the seventh and eighth innings when the Boston offense really exploded. In the seventh inning, Xander Bogaerts drove in two on an RBI double and advanced to third on the throw home. Rafael Devers followed up driving in Xander on a fielder's choice. In the eighth, Andrew Benintendi clubbed his 13th homer with a solo shot followed a little later by Moreland doubling to drive in JD Martinez. The final run of the day for the Sox came in the top of the ninth when Jackie Bradley drove in Brock Holt with a single to right field. The Twins picked up a couple of meaningless runs in the bottom of the ninth, but there was no damage as the Sox won this game easily by the final score of 9-2.

Everyone in the starting lineup got a hit except for Devers (who still drove in a run) and everyone drove in a run except for Holt and Martinez (who both scored runs themselves). This was just what the team needed after the last two dismal nights at the plate. Still, anyone as old as I am who goes back a ways with the Sox will remember how they always seem to explode for runs in easy games like this while struggling in closer contests. When I was younger there was always a feeling of "gee, I wish they'd save some of these runs for the next game" especially when they were already up by a lot and continued to pour it on. That's how I'm feeling right now. The explosion was nice, but I hope they can keep that sort of production up going forward and that it wasn't just a one game aberration. I'll stop nitpicking now, especially since the Sox actually head home finishing this tough road trip with a 6-4 record. When I realized that, I was surprised it was that good given how bad they looked the first two games in Minnesota and how much those middle two they dropped to Seattle still rankle. That sweep of the brutal Orioles to start this trip off really helped. It won't get any easier going forward with Seattle coming to town tomorrow night for a three game set. Let's see if the Sox can get some revenge for those two games last week and take this upcoming series. One game at a time...

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Game 75: Red Sox at Minnesota Twins (June 20, 2018)

This team. (I sighed deeply when writing that). I swear they don't like to make anything easy; of course they never have my entire life, so I suppose this is nothing new. The annual June swoon is in full bloom (hey, that rhymed!) and the Red Sox had better snap out of it before things start to get away from them. Last night I coached my son's travel team in a doubleheader that finished under the lights (which is always fun, whether you're a kid or an adult) and got home to find the Sox tied a run apiece with the Twins. Maybe I was bad luck, because as soon as I turned on the game it was all downhill.

David Price was on the mound for the Red Sox and with the way he's been pitching the last month, it seemed as though they'd be able to right the ship after the hard luck way Chris Sale has been treated by the offense. Price was mostly good, going six innings. He only struck out three and walked one, but he did give up three runs on two homers. However, it still probably would have been enough (and probably should have been enough) to get the win if only the Red Sox could, you know, score some runs. Boston only mustered a measly four hits, two of which were from Mookie Betts. Mitch Moreland and Xander Bogaerts had the other two hits while everyone else went dead silent at the plate. The Twins struck first when Robbie Grossman hit a solo homer in the bottom of the first to quickly put Minnesota ahead. The Sox tied it in the top of the second when a throwing error on a Jackie Bradley hit brought in Mitch Moreland. That would be it for Boston, though. Max Kepler hit the second home run off a Price in this game, a two run shot to make it 3-1 Twins. They'd tack on an insurance run in the eighth off of Brian Johnson, who gave up an RBI double to Brian Dozier. With that, the Sox went meekly into the night, losing 4-1 and looking every bit as pathetic doing it as I'm trying to convey with the written word.

With the Yankees winning Boston is now two games behind in the division, and with the Astros also winning we're now in possession of the third best record in the league. While there is still half the season to play, this is the time when teams begin to separate themselves from the pack whether it's in a good way or not. The Red Sox have loads of talent and belong in the upper echelon of teams in the league, but apart from April they just haven't been able to string it together on a consistent basis at all. They're 32-24 since the 17-2 start and while that's not terrible, I can think of at least ten games off the top of my head that they should have won during that stretch that they somehow lost. When I hear myself saying this, it feels like deja vu because I used to say the exact same thing during the John Farrell years. Alex Cora is a better manager than Farrell, but he's still cost this team some games with his bizarre lineups and his rigid adherence to rest schedules. That's not as egregious as Farrell's baffling and inane in-game management, but the end result is far too often the same. Ditto the bullpen, which blew a ton of games during Farrell's tenure and has done the same so far this season. The Red Sox had better figure something out, and fast, because with two tough series against the Mariners and Angels coming up at home followed by a series in the Bronx looming at the end of the month, this very well could be a critical period where the season will be won or lost.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Game 74: Red Sox at Minnesota Twins (June 19, 2018)

One would think that after having a much-needed day off Monday following a tough shoulda-been-a-sweep-instead-of-a-split in Seattle that the Red Sox would be refreshed and ready to beat up on the good-but-not-great Twins. We had Chris Sale starting and surely they'd give him some run support. Right? Wrong. In a season that is rapidly starting to feel like the last two under John Farrell, the Red Sox played inconsistent and unintelligent baseball as they dropped this first game to Minnesota. With Houston recently ripping off twelve game winning streak and the Yankees winning again, we now find ourselves a game behind in the division and no longer in possession of the best record in all of baseball. A far cry from 17-2, no?

Before anyone accuses me of panicking or giving up on the season (which I most certainly am NOT doing), I do realize we're still one of the three best teams in baseball and that there are still eighty-eight games left to play; it's a long season and the Sox will still be in the thick of things come October. But it seems as though since the end of April Boston has not been able to consistently put it all together on a consistent basis. They'll have weeks where they'll play .500 ball, then a week where they win every game, and then a week where they lose two out of every three. Rinse and repeat. While other teams (i.e the Yankees and Astros) are putting together long winning streaks and beating up on the bad teams they face, it always seems as though the Red Sox are in a dogfight every night whether they're playing a good team like Seattle or a doormat like Baltimore. Combined with the often bizarre lineups Cora put out there and his stubborn adherence to the rest schedules for players, no matter how red hot they may currently be, and it's fast becoming as maddening and frustrating a season as 2016 and 2017 were, at least for me.

As for the game itself, Sale was phenomenal as usual. He pitched seven spectacular innings, striking out eleven and only walking one. He gave up two runs on three hits...what's that thing I always say about "if your starter only gives up one or two runs...?" Of course, he got no run support from the offense. They plated a run in the sixth when Rafael Devers hit a solo homer and another in the eighth to tie the game at two when Sandy Leon hit an RBI single to drive in Devers. At that point the two runs Sale had given up in the bottom of the sixth on Eduardo Escobar's two-RBI double didn't hurt. But for whatever reason known only to himself, Cora put Robby Scott, who just came off the DL, into a tie game. He has never inspired confidence as a reliever and as expected, he promptly gave up two runs in his 0.1 inning of work. Joe Kelly was equally as bad, failing to record an out as he gave up two more runs. Just like that, yet another fantastic Sale start was squandered and a 2-2 game rapidly spiraled out of control as the Sox went down in ugly fashion to the final score of 6-2. This game had it all: there was even a rare Jackie Bradley error in the outfield. Fun fact: after the game, Scott's ERA for the season was 54.00. Even better news: Alex Cora said after the game that Dustin Pedroia is "not even close" to returning from his knee injury. With the way Eduardo Nunez has been playing lately, I'd almost rather see a hobbled Pedroia out there instead of Nunez. Finally, it wouldn't surprise me at this point if Chris Sale secretly hated his teammates for the way they play when he starts. They'll score ten runs for Porcello or Pomeranz when they give up eight, but when Sale holds the other team to one or two, they'll do nothing. It's the same thing that used to happen to Pedro Martinez in the late 1990s/early 2000s (for those of you old enough to remember) and it's got to be even more maddening for the pitchers as it is for the fans.

I just don't know what to make of this team right now. They have nights where they look unbeatable and sometimes even string a few games in a row together. Then they have multiple nights where they look like the PawSox would beat them. There's been no consistency since April and it really makes you appreciate that 17-2 start. If they had even gone just 12-7 during that stretch they'd be six games behind the Yankees by now. Yes, they're still a great team and yes, they'll most likely be in play for a postseason slot, but the way they're schizophrenically playing (shut out one night, scoring ten runs the next, and so on) doesn't inspire much confidence.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Game 73: Red Sox at Seattle Mariners (June 17, 2018)

First and foremost, a happy Father's Day to all of the dads out there! I hope you were able to spend the day with your loved ones, those who call you dad and/or the man you call dad. I was fortunate enough to spend the day watching my oldest daughter's travel team play in and win their tournament! It was sweltering hot and humid with temperatures in the 90s and 55%+ humidity and we spent almost thirteen hours at the fields playing games and grabbing any scrap of shade and relief we could. There was much water and Gatorade consumed (by both players and parents!) and a lot of sweat and dirt. Through it all, I was lucky enough to spend time with my girl, not only watching her play and rooting for her and her teammates, but having some really great bonding time with her in the car and between games. She and her teammates played great all weekend and even though they were hot, sweaty, dirty, and exhausted by the championship game they played hard and fought off a very tough opponent to win the whole thing by a final score of 3-2. For the weekend, my girl hit a whopping .833 with 2 triples, 3 singles, a walk, and 3 runs scored. She also played a stellar third base and made several outs for her team. All in all, it was one of the most fun and exciting Father's Days I've ever had, capped off by having dinner and ice cream with my wife and the rest of our kids (who smartly chose to stay home in the air conditioning!). I am truly blessed and I look at Father's Day as a way to be thankful that I am my children's father as much as I'm thankful for my own dad, grandfathers, and uncles.

Now on to the Red Sox. After the previous two disasters, I was really hoping they could still salvage the series with a split. In a turnabout that was the polar opposite of their anemic showing at the plate the previous game, they exploded in this one. Mitch Moreland got things started with a two RBI single in the top of the third to push the first runs of the day across for the Sox. Rafael Devers followed this up with a three run homer and just like that, the Sox were up 5-0. However, as we saw two nights ago Seattle is more than capable of coming back from a deficit like that (and the Red Sox bullpen is more than capable of blowing a lead like that). The pesky Nelson Cruz got the Mariners on the board with a solo shot in the fourth while Jean Segura drove in a run on a fielder's choice an inning later. Thankfully, the Sox didn't let up and continued to pour it on starting with Jackie Bradley's solo shot in the seventh. Xander Bogaerts hit a home run of his own later in the inning, a two run blast that also brought in Andrew Benintendi and when the dust settled, it was 8-2 Boston. Benintendi tacked on the final Boston run when his sacrifice fly brought in Christian Vazquez. There were no bullpen meltdowns in this one and even the final Seattle run in the eighth off a Ryon Healy double didn't hurt as the Sox cruised to the 9-3 win. With the Yankees loss, the Sox are now tied atop the AL East with New York; the Yankees' winning percentage is still slightly higher, but the Sox are even in games so MLB is saying they're tied now (whereas last week they were saying the Yankees were in first in the same situation). I'll take it.

What a difference a day makes. The Sox couldn't buy a hit the last game and in this one they belted thirteen of them. Every starter had at least one in this game except for Mookie Betts, who looks like he's still trying to get back into rhythm after his long layoff from injury. Benintendi continues to be incendiary and went 3-4 with an RBI and 2 runs scored. Bogaerts and Devers each had two and it's great to see their power returning on a regular basis...ditto Jackie Bradley who has had a few homers over the last week. On the other side of the ball, Eduardo Rodriguez is quietly having a phenomenal season. He picked up another win and ran his record to 9-1 (am I the only one who didn't realize he'd already won this many games?!). He pitched six innings, striking out nine and only walking one. He gave up two runs on six hits and has stealthily been having one of the best seasons among Red Sox starters. If they're going to keep getting quality pitching from him and Steven Wright at the back end of the rotation, the Sox will be right there in the thick of it come October. For now, it's on to Minnesota as the road trip continues.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Game 72: Red Sox at Seattle Mariners (June 16, 2018)

What is it that I always say about how "if your starting pitcher only gives up one run, you'd damn well better win the game?" And how many times have I written that this season? Far too many if you ask me, and the Red Sox gave me another reason to fume on this tangent. On a day when I had to coach my son's travel team in a doubleheader on an absolutely scorching hot and humid day, I was looking forward to cooling off in the AC and watching the Sox bounce back from the previous night's debacle and win this one against the M's, but they obviously had other more unfortunate plans.

There's really not too much to write about with this one. Steven Wright was again fantastic, pitching seven solid innings and only giving up a single run in the third inning on an RBI single from Nelson Cruz. Wright gave up that single run on five hits while striking out four and walking two. Unfortunately, for whatever reason Seattle starter Wade LeBlanc completely stymied the Red Sox offense. He only gave up two hits (yes, you read that correctly...TWO hits) and struck out nine Boston batters without allowing a single walk over 7.2 innings. The only Sox who got on base were Mookie Betts and Eduardo Nunez, both of whom reached on singles. That's it. Game over, Seatttle won 1-0.

I know I had said going into this series that'd I'd be happy with a split, but if you look at this game and the blown victory from the previous night, the Sox could have (and should have) easily taken the first three games of this series. While they're still in great shape on the season overall, it's starting to get frustrating when they string together losses like this. I need to see them play with some urgency and some fire because I haven't seen that over these first three games in Seattle. Here's hoping they can salvage a split and win tomorrow's finale before heading off to Minnesota. 

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Game 71: Red Sox at Seattle Mariners (June 15, 2018)

To borrow from a happier, more famous moment in baseball history: "I don't believe what I just saw!" On a Friday night where my youngest daughter's softball season came to an end (we just didn't have it and got knocked out of the playoffs but finished fourth out of thirteen teams) and where my family went out to see a movie afterward (Incredibles 2...wonderful!), we got home and turned the game on to see the Red Sox leading 6-3. They seemed to have the game well in hand so imagine my surprise when I woke up this morning and saw what the final result was!

I watched the middle innings of the game on TV before succumbing to sleep, something which I needed to do since I had to coach my son's travel team the next morning on a day that's going to top out around 95 degrees with some nasty humidity. I did follow updates on my phone when I was out with my family and saw that the Mariners took a quick 3-0 lead in the first two innings. Jean Segura hit a solo homer in the first followed by Ben Gamel driving in a run on a fielder's choice in the second. Mike Zunino got an RBI in the same fashion a couple of batters later and just like that, Rick Porcello had given up three early runs. Brock Holt drove in the first Boston run with an RBI single in the third which was followed by a fielding error on a Mitch Moreland hit to bring in Mookie Betts and Brock Holt. In an instant, it was tied at three. When Xander Bogaerts crushed a three run home run immediately after to put the Sox up 6-3, it looked like they were well on their way to the easy win. They'd knocked James Paxton out of the game and put up six runs in a hurry. Surely they'd hold on for this victory, right? have been watching the middle relievers all season, right?

The remainder of this game was like watching a slow motion car crash. Seattle picked up a run in the fifth on a Mitch Hangier single to chip away at the lead and Zunino hit a solo homer in the seventh to cut it to 6-5. In the bottom of the eighth, Denard Span (him again?!) hit an RBI double to drive in two and just like that, it was suddenly 7-6 Mariners. Span had hurt the Sox earlier this season when he was with the Tampa Bay Rays, and now he hurt them again after his trade to Seattle. That's how the game ended as Boston somehow managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in this one. With the Yankees winning (can they ever lose on the days we actually win?!) the Sox are tied in the win/loss column but still in second place based on winning percentage. 

Rick Porcello wasn't particularly sharp but he was adequate in this one. He went six innings and while he gave up four runs, he also struck out nine and only walked one. It was the bullpen that completely and utterly blew this game. The always wretched Heath Hembree walked one and gave up a run in the seventh while the Jekyll and Hyde experience that is Matt Barnes had his Mr. Hyde moment, giving up two runs in his inning of work. Alex Cora also trotted a strange lineup out, with the red hot Andrew Benintendi sitting and the struggling Eduardo Nunez at DH. Still, the lineup certainly produced enough to put six runs up on Seattle and should have been more than enough for the win. Also, I understand (even if I don't agree with) Cora's approach to resting guys throughout the season, but to bench a guy who has been hitting as well as Benintendi has been just because it was his "scheduled" day off seems ludicrous to me. You don't take a bat as good as that out of the lineup and potentially mess up his rhythm at the plate just because it was penciled in for him to rest that day. The kid is 23 and healthy...playing him in this game wasn't going to hurt him.

This one is over and done so I'll stop agonizing over it now. While it was frustrating, it's time to move on to the next one. I'll be looking for the Sox to bounce back tonight and grab a convincing win (I hope).

Friday, June 15, 2018

Game 70: Red Sox at Seattle Mariners (June 14, 2018)

I fully expected to watch very little of the series against Seattle what with the late west coast start times, but last night I was inadvertently in the perfect situation to watch almost the entire game. My youngest daughter's softball team had another playoff game for me to coach and we won it handily. We play two more tonight and if we win those, we play for the championship Monday! After her game, my oldest daughter's travel team had a scrimmage at the diamond directly next us so we moved over there to watch. They played a full seven innings and while we lost the scrimmage, my girl went 2-3 with a double, single, RBI, run scored, and walk hitting out of her usual spot second in the order. By the time we got home, it was 10pm and none of us had eaten dinner since the first game had started at 6pm. We threw the Red Sox game on the TV, I ordered some pizzas, and we had a late dinner and watched the game. Good thing the kids are on summer break from school...I was the only one who had to be up early this morning!

The Mariners have been playing great ball this season and have surprised the American League and especially the AL West by passing the Astros for first place in that division. It's always tough to play on the road, especially against a good team, and heading into this one I was hoping for the Sox to get a split. They got that off to a good start when Jackie Bradley hit an RBI double in the top of the second to drive in Rafael Devers. The Mariners' Guillermo Heredia drove in their first run in the fifth on a sacrifice fly to tie the game. The hero of the night was Xander Bogaerts who socked his tenth homer of the season, a solo shot, to put the Sox ahead 2-1 in the top of the sixth. That's how the game would end as Boston held on for a tough but satisfying victory. With the Yankees winning, the Sox continue to find themselves a game ahead in the standings yet in second place. Eventually this will correct itself but it's still such a strange (and frustrating) situation to be in!

The Sox outhit the Mariners nine to six with four guys contributing two hits each: Xander, JD Martinez, Devers, and Christian Vazquez all had two hits while Bradley had the other Boston hit. As for the pitching, David Price continued to pitch great as he went seven strong innings striking out seven, walking none, and only gave up the one run on five hits. That ran his record to 8-4 and lowered his ERA to 3.76. If he can keep this up and the Sox continue to get the production from Eduardo Rodriguez and Steven Wright at the back end of the rotation that they've gotten over the last couple of weeks, they'll continue to be among the best in the American League. They're certainly a better starting rotation than the Yankees which should be a huge advantage come playoff time (assuming Sale, Price, and Porcello can finally start winning games in the postseason).

With two more softball playoff games to coach tonight, it looks like I might be in good shape to stay up late again to watch game two of this series!

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Game 69: Red Sox at Baltimore Orioles (June 13, 2018)

For the series finale, the Red Sox had a 3pm start time; seeing as it was a getaway day with the next series starting in Seattle, it made sense. And it was another day and another weird lineup from Alex Cora. This time Mookie Betts was back and hitting leadoff as normal, but Brock Holt was at first base. I'm at the point where I'm going to give up trying to understand Cora's logic when it comes to the lineup and batting order, but as I said in the beginning of the season I do wish he'd settle on a more or less finalized version to give the team and players some consistency. It's probably not going to happen, though, so I guess I'll just keep complaining about it as the season goes on!

Last night I coached my youngest daughter's team in their third tournament game. It was a hard fought battle that saw us come back from an 11-0 deficit to pull within a run. Heading into the bottom of the last inning we were down 12-11, had all of the momentum, and looked like we would take the game, but the other team stopped us and we came up just short. Yes, we got screwed by a couple of blatantly incorrect umpiring calls and yes, the other team was cutthroat in a way that beggared belief for 8U softball, but we were so proud of our girls. Since it's double elimination, we're still in it and play again tonight so I'm looking for us to bounce back with a win. I was grateful for the early Red Sox start time: I was able to listen to the first few innings on the radio (i.e. my phone) at work and then watch the rest of the game when I got home before heading the ball fields to coach.

Unlike the last time he pitched, Chris Sale did get some run support in this one. He went six innings and struck out nine while walking four and only giving up two hits. He was charged with only a single earned run on a batter that Brandon Workman inherited after he left the game. The way Sale left the game was fairly comical: he'd been squeezed all afternoon by home plate umpire Brian Knight and was lifted in the seventh after walking two batters on very questionable calls. After Cora gave him the hook, he started barking at Knight when walking to the dugout and promptly got tossed. He then continued to berate the ump from the dugout before heading into the clubhouse. I love to see that fire and intensity, especially from our best pitcher. As far as the Red Sox offense, Mookie got things started with a solo homer in the third to give the Sox an early 1-0 lead. Xander Bogaerts returned the favor by driving in Mookie with a sacrifice fly in the fifth. Boston added two more runs that inning on RBI singles from Rafael Devers and Eduardo Nunez. To cap off the scoring, JD Martinez crushed yet another opposite field homer, his 22nd, in the seventh. Apart from a sac fly to drive in a run in the bottom of the seventh, Baltimore didn't do anything at the plate, only getting four hits to Boston's nine. With the 5-1 win and the Yankees loss, the Red Sox find themselves in the peculiar position of being a game ahead of the Yankees in the standings, but still in second place based on being 0.002 percentage points behind New York (by virtue of having played six more game). In my more than thirty years of following baseball, I can't recall ever seeing a situation like this. Very bizarre!

I'm glad the Sox swept the Orioles after that disastrous series against the White Sox; they picked up three valuable wins and have some good momentum heading into a very tough part of their schedule. First up will be the surprising Seattle Mariners who are leading the AL West and are playing great baseball. The first matchup of David Price against Felix Hernandez looks like a good one on paper...I hope Price can continue to pitch as well as he has lately and keep the Sox close. The only downside to these next four games are the late start times. West Coast games starting at 10pm are always tough and with as busy as I've been lately and with as little sleep as I've gotten it'll be a challenge, but it's one I'll do my best to meet head on. Maybe I should start placing bets on which inning I'll fall asleep in for each game? 

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Game 68: Red Sox at Baltimore Orioles (June 12, 2018)

That's more like it, Red Sox! I coached my youngest daughter's softball team in their two tournament games last night so I didn't get home to watch the Sox game until the last half, but what I saw on my phone updates had me very pleased. Before I get to recapping the game, please indulge me as I recap my daughter's team's games last night. I'm so proud of these 7 and 8 year old girls for how they played. We went into the tournament with the second best record in the league and played against a very good team for the first game. After getting in an early hole, we rallied and pulled away for an easy 12-6 win. The second game pitted us against the team that was in first who had been beating up on the rest of our league all season. They had already beaten us this season and when we went down early to them 4-0 our girls started to get down. I and the other two coaches kept their spirits up and reminded them we finished with the same record as them (they were ranked higher because they had the head-to-head tiebreaker). We started chipping away at the lead: after the second inning it was 4-2 and we exploded for four runs in the third to go up 6-4. We added another in the top of the fourth to go up 7-4 and victory seemed within reach until our opponents scored three quick runs to tie it at 7. It looked like they were going to score the winning run but we made a great out at third base to preserve the tie. In extra innings, we plated one run and then held them off in the bottom of the fifth, getting the last out on a pop fly to win 8-7 and take sole possession of the top seed in the tournament. We play again tonight, but I'm not exaggerating when I say that it was one of the best games I've ever seen/coached any of my kids playing. The girls on both sides played their hearts out...the hitting was great, the defense was great, and the best part for me was seeing how much fun they were having the whole time. The smiles, the cheers, the looks on their faces when they made a great play or a great hit...THOSE are the moments that make coaching kids so worthwhile. It was a great life lesson for the girls, too, on never giving up and trying your very best. I'm so, so proud of all of them!

Thanks for letting me digress a back to the Red Sox. The first thing that caught my eye before the game started was what a bizarre lineup Cora put out there. No Mookie Betts (understandable...need to ease him back in), with Nunez as the DH...leading off?! I have no idea what the thought process was behind that, but okay. When Baltimore's Joey Rickard hit a solo homer in the bottom of the first it seemed like it was going to be another one of those nights, but Rafael Devers put that fear to rest when he belted a two-run shot in the top of the second to put the Sox up 2-1. Andrew Benintendi stayed scorching hot and smacked a solo homer (his twelfth of the season) in the third to add to the Boston lead. Of course, as is their wont the Sox gave it right back the next half-inning when Danny Valencia drove in Rickard with a single. However, Benintendi struck again with another RBI, this time walking with the bases loaded to bring Brock Holt in. A rare balk happened in the next inning, bringing Christian Vazquez home. In the sixth, Vazquez hit an RBI single to drive in another run and suddenly it was 6-2 Red Sox. It was a good thing, too, because it got a bit dicey in the bottom of the ninth when Mark Trumbo crushed a two-RBI double off of Craig Kimbrel to cut the lead in half. Kimbrel settled down enough to preserve the 6-4 win against the pesky O's.

Eduardo Rodriguez pitched a solid game, going 5.2 innings and only giving up two runs. He only walked two and struck out four while allowing eight hits. He threw 109 pitches and while he wasn't spectacular, it got the job done. I sure would like to see the Red Sox starters routinely go deeper into games and pitch six, seven, eight innings and give the bullpen a break. That's probably a pipe dream as this is the way pitching in MLB is today, sadly. With the news yesterday that Carson Smith will be having season-ending shoulder surgery (all from slamming his glove down in the dugout...remember?) the already shaky bullpen needs as much rest as it can get. At the plate, everyone on the Sox had a hit except for Jackie Bradley. By clinching the series against Baltimore and keeping pace with the Yankees, the Sox remained tied atop the AL East and have a chance to go for the series sweep with Chris Sale on the mound today. Here's hoping they can actually score a run or two for him this time!

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Game 67: Red Sox at Baltimore Orioles (June 11, 2018)

That was a marathon game, wasn't it? Even though the Sox have played longer games, this one felt like a slog once the pitcher's duel ended after the seventh inning. I had a rare night off with no games or practices to coach, so in a way this was a nice long game for me to relax and watch to the bitter end. The fact that it took such a Herculean effort to beat the team with the worst record in the majors means this wasn't one for the scrapbook, though.

The big news of the night was the return of Mookie Betts after two weeks out. Oh, how the Sox offense has missed him and unfortunately, it still does because there was absolutely nothing going on at the plate in this game. Part of that was due to the excellent pitching duel between Red Sox starter Steven Wright and Baltimore starter Dylan Bundy. Wright made it through 6.2 innings and only allowed four hits against five strikeouts and three walks. He was lifted in the seventh when he loaded the bases with two outs, but Joe Kelly came in to get a big strikeout which kept the O's off the board. Bundy went eight innings for Baltimore, only allowing three hits against seven strikeouts and two walks. Both teams had their chances, especially once it went into extra innings, but it wasn't until the top of the twelfth inning when a runner finally crossed the plate. Brock Holt drove in the first run on a sacrifice fly to center field to bring Xander Bogaerts in. Rafael Devers advanced to third on the play and was driven in by Jackie Bradley via another sac fly. That's how the game would end as Craig Kimbrel picked up the save to preserve the 2-0 Red Sox win.

Mookie was 1-5 in his return but I expect it'll take him a little time before he's back in his groove. For the first nine innings of the game, the Sox only had three hits and four baserunners and it was almost all by Benintendi (2-3 and a walk, getting on base three times to that point). Only Bogaerts joined Benintendi in having a two hit night, while Devers made up the final Red Sox hit. By the time the game went into extras, it didn't look like either team wanted to win as both clubs couldn't get anything going at the plate. Sometimes that's how baseball is, but it's more than a bit concerning that the Red Sox had to expend such effort against a truly awful team like Baltimore. Since the Yankees lost, Boston moved  into a tie for first place. With Eduardo Rodriguez and Sale pitching the next two games, as long as the Sox can start hitting again they should be able to make some hay (and let's just forget about what happened in Sale's last start, shall we?). They'd better, because after the Baltimore series the degree of difficulty in the schedule goes up exponentially. One game at a time, one game at a time...

Monday, June 11, 2018

Game 66: Chicago White Sox at Red Sox (June 10, 2018)

Remember when I said that anything less than a sweep of the lowly White Sox was a disaster? Well, here we are on Monday morning and yes, it was a disaster. It was a cold and rainy Sunday for me and my were cancelled and we stayed inside and relaxed all day. It was a perfect setup to watch the Red Sox but given how it turned out, I almost wish I hadn't witnessed it.

With 8-2 Rick Porcello on the mound, it seemed as though the Sox would build off of the comeback win the day before and take this series before heading out on the road. However, the disturbing tendency Boston has had lately of giving up runs in the first inning continued when Porcello gave up an RBI double to Jose Abreu to quickly put the White Sox up 1-0. Rafael Devers tied it up in the bottom of the inning with an RBI single of his own, but in the third inning Porcello walked in a run (something that is brutal to see no matter what level you're playing at) and gave up another in the sixth. The 3-1 Chicago lead certainly didn't seem insurmountable although the way Boston has been swinging the bats lately, perhaps it should have. When Andrew Benintendi scored on a fielding error in the seventh to pull Boston within a run, it looked like the comeback was about to begin, but despite loading the bases twice late in the game, the Red Sox couldn't capitalize (where have we heard this before?). To add insult to injury, Chicago added two insurance runs in the top of the ninth off Matt Barnes when Daniel Palka scorched a two RBI double to center field. The final score had the Red Sox going down in defeat 5-2.

We all know it's a long season and that it doesn't do to overreact, but this weekend's series against a White Sox team that had only won 20 games coming in was, in one word, pathetic. Embarrassing is also another fitting way to describe it. While Porcello wasn't great, he wasn't bad either, and usually on a day when your starter only gives up three runs you should be in decent shape. It's just that they couldn't muster any offense all day and the lack of timely hits is what really killed them. I had said a week ago that the team's depth showed that they could weather the absence of Mookie Betts and that's been true to a point, but this weekend's lifeless display against an awful team showed that they've perhaps reached the limit of how long they can go without Mookie. They're damn lucky that the Yankees also lost so that they didn't lose any ground in the division. I also wish Alex Cora would stop trying to shoehorn Blake Swihart into the lineup every day. Whether it's been his call or there's been a push from management to try and boost his trade value, Blake just looks lost out there and is not helping (and oftentimes hurts) the team. Looking at the bigger picture, this team continues to bad trend of playing down to the level of their competition and of failing to take advantage of bad teams (especially at home).

This season is starting to take on a weird vibe whereas a month ago it seemed like this was the antithesis of the last two John Farrell-led years. 2018 is starting to feel a lot like the Farrell years where the Sox were in contention all year but never felt like they gelled. That cohesive and fun feeling they had throughout April feels so long ago now, doesn't it? It does to me at least.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Game 65: Chicago White Sox at Red Sox (June 9, 2018)

I still had a bad taste in my mouth from the previous game as I got ready for the Sox to play this one. I had coached my son's team's final rec league game in the blazing heat in the morning and then drove an hour to watch our oldest daughter play in her travel tournament all day, so I was watching and following the Sox from the road. If they couldn't get a win against an awful White Sox team when Sale pitched out of his mind the night before, I admit I wasn't so confident that they'd win this one with David Price on the mound.

It looked like it was going to be more of the same when Price gave up two runs in the top of the first on an RBI double to Jose Abreu and a fielder's choice to Kevan Smith. JD Martinez knocked in the first Red Sox run in the bottom of the inning when he grounded into a double play but was safe at first on a throwing error which allowed Andrew Benintendi to score. Jackie Bradley tied the game in the second when he hit a solo home run and just like that, it was 2-2. It seemed to have all the makings of a sloppy, poorly pitched game on both sides, but Price clamped down and the White Sox didn't get on the board again. The tie was broken in the bottom of the fifth by (who else?) JD when he crushed his 21st homer, with Xander Bogaerts on base, to right field. JD has hit more homers this season to the opposite field than he's pulled which is remarkable and almost unheard of. That would be it for the bats in this game as the bullpen sealed the 4-2 Red Sox win.

Price's final line was six innings pitched, six strikeouts, three walks, and two runs given up on five hits. After JD's go-ahead home run, Joe Kelly, Matt Barnes, and Craig Kimbrel nailed down the win for the Sox. They remain a half game behind New York in the division with one more against Chicago before they start the rugged part of their schedule. Hopefully they can keep the momentum going from this one and take the final game of the series behind Rick Porcello. One more it too much to ask that the freaking Yankees lose once in a while on the days that the Red Sox win?! 

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Game 64: Chicago White Sox at Red Sox (June 8, 2018)

We have a new contender for worst loss of the season for the Red Sox. On a night when Chris Sale did everything you'd ever want out of your ace, the Sox turned in one of their most pathetic and embarrassing performances of the season. I turned the game on when I get home after coaching my youngest daughter's softball game and I couldn't believe what I was seeing. It still blows my mind to think about this game even after a little time has passed.

There's not much to write about for this one. Sale pitched eight full innings, striking out ten and walking one. He gave up one run, in the seventh inning, and for his troubles he got the loss. It's been an old saying of mine for years and years and I know I've said it here and elsewhere, but if your starter is only giving up one or two runs, you'd damn well better be winning those games. Especially when they're against one of the worst teams in the league in the White Sox, a team that is intentionally tanking the season and going through a tear-it-down-to-the-studs rebuild. Even worse is that Boston only mustered a measly three hits the entire night: one from Andrew Benintendi, one from Andrew Bogaerts, and one from Rafael Devers. The lone Chicago run came on an RBI single in the seventh from Trayce Thompson. Sale deserved better and so did Red Sox fans.

I place an equal amount of blame on Alex Cora in this one. Yes, the Red Sox are still one of the best teams in the league and yes, he's a huge step up from John Farrell as a manager. But he has a maddening tendency to over-rest players and after the way he seemed willing to just throw away that final game against Detroit, I expected better for this series. He put one of the weakest lineups of the season out on the field (and that's saying something!) and he's managed the last two games as though they were up ten games on the Yankees in late September and the playoff seeding was set. Well, now they're behind New York! Someone online during the game said that Boston is going to have the most well-rested team to miss the playoffs and while it was in jest, there's a kernel of truth to it, especially if they keep doing what they're doing. As I said yesterday, the schedule gets absolutely brutal for the rest of the month following this White Sox series. I proclaimed, somewhat exaggeratedly, that anything less than a sweep of the lowly White Sox would be a disaster. I guess the Sox put it to me right away with this debacle, huh?

Friday, June 8, 2018

Game 63: Detroit Tigers at Red Sox (June 7, 2018)

This one had the feeling of a game the Sox were kind of intentionally throwing away from the get-go, didn't it? It sure did to me, at least. Alex Cora gave the start to Jalen Beeks who has been tearing up AAA with the Pawtucket Red Sox, and while the timing seemed a bit strange, it was the resulting performance and the reaction to it that made me scratch my head. When I sat down to turn the game on after coaching my son's travel team practice, the Sox were already down 5-0 and didn't seem too bothered about it which didn't make me too excited to keep watching (but I did anyway).

Beeks gave up five runs in the top of the first in a variety of ways. He gave up RBI doubles (Jeimer Candelario) and RBI singles (John Hicks) and home runs (Leonys Martin) and just like that, the Sox were in a 5-0 hole. Strangely (or perhaps not so strangely), Cora left the kid in there to pitch four full innings. Beeks gave up another run in the third on a Jose Iglesias RBI double, while the Sox only mustered a single run in the bottom of the first on Andrew Benintendi's 11th home run. Xander Bogaerts drove in another run on a fielder's choice in the fifth, but that was it for Boston. Detroit tacked on a meaningless run in the eighth when Iglesias drove in another and the Sox went down meekly on this night, 7-2.

The loss actually put the Yankees ahead in the division based on winning percentage (since the Sox have still played more games than them) and while I understand wanting to get Beeks some big league experience, it kind of left a bad taste in my mouth. From the moment I saw the starting lineup, this game screamed throwaway and that's what Cora seemed to be going for. He didn't pull the kid after the disastrous first inning and he certainly didn't put the best lineup out there behind him: no Bradley or Holt, and starting Blake Swihart, Sam Travis, and Eduardo Nunez all on the same night? JD Martinez also left the game late with the same back tightness he had earlier in the week, although after the game he said it was just precautionary and not as bad as it was last time (which is a relief). Since the Sox were so cavalier about tanking this game, they'd better sweep the White Sox, who are one of the worst teams in all of baseball, at home this weekend because after that series they've got an absolutely BRUTAL schedule: a tough road trip against two good teams (Seattle and Minnesota) and the lousy Orioles (who always seem to play them tough) followed by home series against the Angels and Mariners before they go back on the road to face the Yankees and Nationals. That is a tough stretch of games where all the teams they'll face are either first in their respective divisions (Washington, Seattle, New York for now) or within striking distance (Minnesota and Los Angeles). The only dog in that entire stretch are the woeful Orioles. Give the competition over the next month and how tight the division race with New York is going to be, the Sox had better hope this "meaningless" game against Detroit doesn't come back to bite them in October.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Game 62: Detroit Tigers at Red Sox (June 6, 2018)

Sixty-two games down, one hundred to go. Can you believe it? I can't. When I came up with this crazy idea to write a game recap and season diary for every Red Sox game this season, I swore to myself that I'd do it for as long as I could but also added the caveat that it may very well peter out after a certain point due to how busy I was or how much my desire waned. I'm happy to say that I haven't missed a single game and I'm as excited as ever by this team and the season they're having. Here's to the next hundred games...and hopefully beyond!

After returning home from my business trip late yesterday afternoon, it was good to spend time with my family...even after only three days, I'd missed them so much. My wife and I then went to watch our oldest daughter's practice for her new travel team and then it was time to watch the Sox. I was expecting another good outing of Eduardo Rodriguez and he didn't let me down (although I wish he could go deeper into games), but what really pleased me was how the offense, still missing Mookie Betts and Dustin Pedroia, continued to roll. The Tigers got on the board first when former Red Sox shortstop Jose Iglesias drove in Jacoby Jones to make it 1-0 Detroit, but that was the only run they'd get as the rest of this game was all Red Sox. Christian Vazquez had a big night, driving in the first run for Boston on a double in the third. The red hot Andrew Benintendi drove in Vazquez with a double of his own which was followed by Xander Bogaerts doubling to drive in Benintendi and Jackie Bradley. Just like that the Sox were up 4-1, but they weren't finished. Benintendi hit his tenth home run of the season, a solo shot, in the fifth while Vazquez struck again with his own solo homer in the seventh. Sam Travis finished off the scoring for the Sox in the bottom of the eighth with an RBI single to drive in Mitch Moreland. The seven runs were plenty for Rodriguez who went 5.2 innings on 107 pitches, striking out five and only walking one. The bullpen took care of the rest and the Sox cruised to the easy 7-1 win. Benintendi and Bogaerts going off in this one weren't the surprise; that would be Christian Vazquez and it was nice to see him have a big night. If he can keep it going and Sandy Leon continues to stay hot, the bottom of the Sox order (along with the resurgent Bradley) will be dangerous. Rafael Devers also seemed to break out of his weeks-long slump, going 2-4 with a run scored. 

While the win was the fourth straight for the Sox and they have the best record in the majors at 43-19, the infernal Yankees also won so the Sox lead in the division stayed at one game. The margin for error in this division is going to be so slim that I predict all it's going to take is for one team to go on a small losing streak of 3-4 games for the lead to open up. Hopefully it will be Boston who expands that lead because whoever finishes second in this division is going to be a Wild Card with a better record than the other two AL division winners.

And now, onward to the next one hundred games!

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Game 61: Detroit Tigers at Red Sox (June 5, 2018)

I'm writing this game recap from the road as I've been traveling for work this week, but nothing can keep me from watching the Sox (or writing about them!). After a long day of work, dinner, and a few drinks with my colleagues, I retired to my hotel room to watch the Sox on my phone. There was news earlier today that Drew Pomeranz was placed on the DL, so Steven Wright got the start in his place. As with most knuckleball pitchers, Wright is either unhittable or he's up there pitching BP. Luckily for the Red Sox, on this night he was the former.

Before I get to the offense, I want to point out what a great job Wright did and how different he was to Pomeranz. Wright went seven innings and only gave up two hits. He threw 96 pitches and stuck out six against three walks. And, he worked quickly; this game was finished in less than three hours. Compare that to Pomeranz who labors to throw 90+ pitches in four or five innings and gets hit a lot harder and you'll see why my call for switching Drew to the bullpen and Wright back to the rotation doesn't sound so crazy after all. This game was also the return of Brandon Workman who hadn't pitched yet this season. After Hector Velazquez pitched a scoreless eighth inning, Workman closed the game out with a hitless ninth. For the game, the Sox had ten hits while holding the Tigers to only three.

So what about the offense? The Sox rolled to an easy 6-0 win and got contributions from a lot of guys. The Sox jumped all over Tigers rookie starter Artie Lewicki in the first when JD Martinez hit his league leading 20th homer, a two-run shot to give them a quick 2-0 lead. They added two more in the fourth when Eduardo Nunez and Rafael Devers both drove in runs, although Devers' RBI came on a fielder's choice double play with the bases loaded and no outs. The Sox loaded the bases again with two outs later in the inning but came away empty handed. It didn't matter, though, as they kept Detroit off the bases and plated two more runs in the fifth when Xander Bogaerts hit a solo homer and Brock Holt drove in a run on a fielder's choice. That 6-0 lead would hold and help the Sox go a game ahead of the Yankees in the division. Jackie Bradley also had a two hit night which tells me the last couple of games were probably just a normal dip and that he's on one his hot streaks for the time being.

I realize that the Tigers aren't particularly good this year, but the fact that the Sox have been able to win or split every series they've played in the absence of Mookie Betts tells me this team is even deeper and more dangerous than we thought. If they can play this well with Mookie, Dustin Pedroia, and Pomeranz out, with Chris Sale not pitching at his best, and still have the best record in baseball, then there's no telling what they can do when everyone is back contributing. 

Monday, June 4, 2018

Game 60: Red Sox at Houston Astros (June 3, 2018)

The Red Sox provided a great end to the weekend. Sunday was pretty great: the weather was awesome, I got to spend the afternoon coaching my son's travel team in their doubleheader, we got to meet Patriots legends Adam Vinatieri, and my daughter's travel team won a medal for winning their bracket at their tournament. We had dinner, watched some of the Women's College World Series, and then the Red Sox finale against the Astros. Again, no Mookie and no Pedroia, but it would prove to be no problem as the Sox offense exploded and they picked up a hard fought split.

The Red Sox momentum from the night before carried over as they got on the board first again when Mitch Moreland crushed a ball over the center field fence with Andrew Benintendi on base in the top of the first to stake them to a quick 2-0 lead. The always dangerous George Springer answered with a solo shot of his own in the bottom of the inning, but Benintendi answered with his own solo homer in the fifth to make it 3-1 Red Sox. Brock Holt, who has done a nice job over the last couple of weeks, stayed hot with a 2-RBI triple in the sixth before he was driven in by Blake Swihart and just like that, the Sox were up by five runs. Alex Bregman has hurt Boston in this series and he did it again when he knocked two in with an RBI single in the seventh, but that was all Houston would get as Holt drove in another in the eighth. Heck, even recent call-up Sam Travis contributed, driving in Sandy Leon and Xander Bogaerts with a two-RBI single in the ninth. It got a bit tense in the bottom of the ninth when Heath Hembree walked two batters in a row, but he managed to survive and closed out the win without giving up any runs (like I always say, no lead is safe from Hembree). While the Yankees were rained out yesterday, the win still kept the Sox in second place since they’re 0.002 percentage points behind the Yankees having played six more games than New York thus far. The quirks of a long baseball season...

It's been great to see the Sox offense produce in the absence of Betts. Benintendi has been carrying a lot of the load and he went 2-5 with an RBI and two runs scored, but just about everyone contributed. Boston had fifteen hits while Houston only had five, and everyone chipped in apart from JD Martinez (who left the game in the ninth with what looked to be tightness in his back...concerning...) and Jackie Bradley (three strikeouts...I hope he's not reverting back to his early season form!). Bogaerts went 2-5, Holt was 2-4, Travis, Leon, and Swihart all had a hit, and Moreland and Eduardo Nunez both went 3-4. And I haven't even talked about the pitching yet...Rick Porcello went 6.1 innings, striking out five and walking two. All five Houston hits were off of him and he gave up three runs (two of them earned). Matt Barnes and Hembree kept Houston hitless for the final 2.2 innings of the game. With no need to use Kimbrel and an off day Monday, he should be fresh and ready to go when the Sox start their next series against the Tigers.

All in all, a successful series against the Astros which showed all of us that the Sox are for real and will be a contender to be reckoned with all season.