Coming off of a mediocre 4-3 week and a dispiriting series loss to the Rays, things didn't get any less important for the Red Sox. They were neck and neck with the Texas Rangers for a Wild Card spot as they went back to Fenway Park to host them for four games to kick off the week. It sounds crazy to call a mid-June series critical, but if Boston wanted to keep their postseason hopes alive, they'd need a strong showing against a surprising Texas squad in order to keep pace in the standings.
(6/10 vs. Texas Rangers): It was very important for the Sox to get off to a good start here in this series and Chris Sale did his part in shutting down the Rangers for seven innings. Carrying a 2-1 lead into the ninth, the Red Sox bullpen (this time Matt Barnes) did what they always do and blew the lead in the ninth inning to go down 3-2. Miraculously, Brock Holt tied the game with an RBI in the bottom of the inning; however, later in the inning he ran through a stop sign at third and was easily thrown out at home sending the game into extra innings. There the bullpen botched it again when Ryan Brasier gave up the go-ahead run to Texas and sent the Sox down to a 4-3 defeat. A terrible start to the series and a perfect microcosm of this maddening Red Sox season.
(6/11 vs. Texas Rangers): Everybody was looking for a rebound after the brutal way the Sox lost the night before, but there was little hope when AA call up Darwinzon Hernandez was announced as the starting pitcher. He looked alright in the first but couldn't throw a strike to save his life in the second. Texas took the lead but Boston tied it up at three before the wheels fell off the cart. The new nadir of the season (a phrase I've had to write entirely too many times so far this year) was when Hunter Pence, on bad legs, hit a two-run inside-the-park home run on a ball that Brock Holt horrifically misplayed and then didn't run after. Even worse was Mookie Betts, who should've been backing up the play, showing no hustle in trying to get to the ball. It added up to a disgusting 9-5 loss that made me feel as bad about the Red Sox as I ever have in my life.
(6/12 vs. Texas Rangers): Hunter Pence gave the Rangers another early lead and it seemed as though the Sox were going to get their doors blown off in this series and fall under .500 on the season, but Andrew Benintendi wasn't going to let that happen. He almost singlehandedly kept the team in this game and heading into the eighth inning the Sox clung to a one-run lead. That was until, you guessed it, the bullpen botched things again. This time Brandon Workman gave up the game-tying single to Elvis Andrus which knotted the score at three. Thankfully, Rangers reliever Jesse Chavez couldn't find the strike zone and after loading the bases with no outs, he walked Mookie Betts to send the winning run to the plate. It was a much-needed 4-3 Red Sox win and while winning via a walk-off walk was kind of lame, Boston needs all the help they can get at this point.
(6/13 vs. Texas Rangers): With David Price pitching in this series finale, I actually felt pretty good about the Red Sox chances. Unfortunately, for as great as he's been this season he just didn't have it in this one, only lasting 1.1 innings and surrendering six runs. Luckily, on this night the offense had his back. After going down into a 6-1 hole, Boston exploded for six unanswered runs, all on home runs, and won this game 7-6 to salvage a series split. It wasn't the prettiest game (and I think there are entirely too many home runs being hit across Major League Baseball), but as I've said before they all look the same in the standings.
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(6/14 at Baltimore Orioles): It was then on to Baltimore for three games against the lowly Orioles. There was no reason for the Sox not to sweep these three games and they got right down to business in the opener. After allowing a Trey Mancini solo homer in the first, Eduardo Rodriguez settled down and the Sox got to work on the O's pitching. They scored thirteen runs, most of them coming on home runs (again, too many although I won't argue with the result) and this one was never in doubt. Even the obligatory late-inning run given up by the bullpen didn't matter as the Sox cruised to an easy 13-2 win.
(6/15 at Baltimore Orioles): Xander Bogaerts broke up a scoreless game in the sixth inning and the Sox built a 3-0 lead which was promptly cut to 3-2 by Baltimore. Led by JD Martinez who has been crushing the ball over the last week, Boston plated another three runs and held on to win this one 6-2. It wasn't pretty, but it got the job done. Even better, Chris Sale again had a great outing in allowing only two runs while whiffing ten batters. Even accounting for his slow start and the bad luck he's had where the offense hasn't given him any run support (hence his dismal W-L record), he's been phenomenal over the last month and a half.
(6/16 at Baltimore Orioles): Brian Johnson, newly returned from his stint on the injured list, got the ball for the regularly scheduled "bullpen game" start in the rotation. The Sox entered the eighth inning clinging to a 2-1 lead before (stop me if you've heard this one before) the bullpen blew it. Marcus Walden allowed the tying run in on a wild pitch and Travis Lakins surrendered the go-ahead run on an RBI single. It seemed as though the Red Sox would lose the game (and the sweep), but unlikely hero Marco Hernandez tied the game in the ninth with a solo home run to send the game into extra innings. In the tenth the Red Sox exploded for five runs and an 8-3 lead which seemed more than enough. Unfortunately, the bullpen still couldn't make it stick and they (i.e. the terrible Josh Smith) gave up two solo home runs before ending the game. 8-5 Boston for the win and series sweep.
Quick Hits: 5-2 this week is exactly the kind of week the Sox needed to have, although the way those first two games against Texas went it could have (should have?) been even better. Texas is a team the Sox are chasing for the Wild Card right now so the split means they didn't lose any ground, but they didn't gain any either. The sweep of Baltimore was simply taking care of business by beating a bad team they were supposed to beat, nothing more. Still, they head into this coming week with a five-game winning streak and some good momentum. The most promising thing this week was the offense where several guys are getting hot at the right time. Xander has never stopped killing the ball this season, but JD, Jackie Bradley, Benintendi, Rafael Devers, and Brock Holt all swung really good bats over this stretch. If only Mookie Betts could get going, who knows what this offense would look like? The bullpen continues to be a major concern though, continually giving up late runs (the eighth and ninth innings are their Achilles heel)...no lead is safe and no deficit is surmountable when the relief corps enters a game. This coming week starts off tough with three road games in Minnesota against the league-leading Twins which will be a real test of whether this Sox team is finally back or if it's just another minor peak before another valley. After that it's back home for a weekend series hosting the Blue Jays. The Red Sox picked up 1.5 games in the standings this week so another winning week would go a long way toward keeping their slim chances in the division alive.
39-34 record, 3rd in AL East (5.5 GB the Yankees)
39-34 record, 3rd in AL East (5.5 GB the Yankees)
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