Red Sox Back After Weekend Sweep

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It took a few weeks into the season, but this weekend we finally saw some semblance of the defending World Champion Boston Red Sox.  In my latest Red Sox Column To Be Named Later, I take a look at the Sox weekend sweep of the Tampa Bay Rays, along with the loss off starting pitcher Nathan Eovaldi.  As always, I look at who’s trending up, and who’s trending down.
 
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After getting swept by the Yankees in a brief two game series earlier in the week in the Bronx, the Red Sox went down to Florida to face a Rays team off to a hot start to 2019.  Though the Rays had lost 2018 Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell to the 10 day IL shortly before the start of the series, they still had new free agent acquisition Charlie Morton and AL ERA leader Tyler Glasnow scheduled to pitch in the series.  A sweep at the hands of the upstart Rays would have dropped the Red Sox to 11 games behind the Rays, and may have for all intents and purposes ended their 2019 season before it ever really started.  The Red Sox were desperate for their first series win in 2019 to just tread water.

Shop the Armed Forces Collection at MLBshop.comWith their backs against the wall, the Red Sox not only won the Rays series, they swept the Rays to climb out of last place and cut their deficit to a more manageable five game deficit.  The Red Sox overcame another mediocre performance from starter Eduardo Rodriguez in Game One thanks to strong work from the bullpen, which kept them in the game, and a reappearance of 2018 AL MVP Mookie Betts, who stroked a go-ahead homer in the top of the eighth, followed by another blast from Mitch Moreland to win 6-4.

Game Two started off well for the Red Sox, who got off to a 5-0 lead in the second inning thanks to Andrew Benintendi’s first career grand slam.  Rick Porcello rejoined with favored catcher Sandy Leon and nearly had a quality start, allowing only 2 earned runs in 5 2/3 innings.  Unfortunately relievers Heath Hembree, Bobby Poyner and Matt Barnes were unable to hold that lead, and the Sox and Rays were again tied heading into the ninth.  This set the stage for the emergence of new phenom Michael Chavis.

After a Jackie Bradley Jr. dropped a single into right field to lead off the ninth, Chavis was brought in to pinch hit for Leon.  After getting in a two strike hole to hard-throwing left reliever Jose Alvarado, Chavis smoked a laser to center which turned around Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier for a double.  The fact that a quality defensive outfield was made to look so bad on a line drive is an indication of just how hard that ball was hit.  Benintendi eventually drove in the go-ahead run with a sacrifice fly, and Ryan Brasier held the Rays down in the ninth, helped by a Christian Vazquez pick-off of Tommy Pham at first to end the game with runners on first and second. 

The win also gave the Red Sox their first series win in 2019, in their seventh series of the season.

The Red Sox looked to David Price in the series finale to earn the sweep.  Price was once again effective, giving up only two runs and striking out ten, but in only five innings of work.  The Red Sox held a slim 3-2 lead going into the eighth, but for the second straight day Barnes surrendered a home run to tie the score.  Once again the Red Sox battled back to take the lead, though it would take them three more innings to go ahead in the eleventh.  Brasier once again held the lead, and the sweep was complete.

Hopefully the sweep of the Rays will be the turning point to the 2019 season.  The Red Sox still have much work to do to overcome their 6-13 start, and injuries are starting to hit the team at a time when there is no help available in the minor leagues.  However, the manner in which this team battled against the Rays and showed a sense of urgency is a positive step in the right direction.

Playing It Loose

The loss of Nathan Eovaldi for an extended period will be felt by the Red Sox.  Eovaldi consistently lit up the radar gun in his start against the Yankees last week, and lived up to his reputation as a Yankee killer with only one unearned run over six innings.  Last Friday he was unable to straighten out his pitching arm, and was diagnosed with “loose bodies” in his elbow, the same affliction which lead to surgery early in 2018.  Eovaldi was placed on the 10 day IL, and is scheduled to undergo the same surgery this week.  He will be lost to the team for a minimum of four to six weeks, likely longer.

The Red Sox have few options to replace Eovaldi in the starting rotation.  Brian Johnson is also on the IL with elbow issues and Steven Wright is still serving his suspension for PED use, leaving Hector Velazquez as the only other pitcher in the organization outside the established rotation with a major league start.

One would have to assume that with Eovaldi’s history of arm problems (two Tommy John surgeries), the Red Sox did their due diligence and checked Eovaldi’s medical records before signing him to four year, $68M deal in the offseason.  So it is troubling that Eovaldi will be facing yet another surgery for the second straight year.  Eovaldi joins fellow starters Price and Chris Sale in a rotation where the fear always looms that their next pitch could be the one that not only ends their season, but potentially their career.


Trending Up

J.D. Martinez continued to be one of the few bright spots in the 2019 season.  In the past week the DH/OF batted .400 with an OPS of 1.120.

Colten Brewer was unscored upon in two relief innings, getting the opportunity to pitch in higher leverage situations and showing a devastating curveball.  Marcus Walden has also been picking up faith from manager Alex Cora, and had an impressive 0.82 WHIP in 4.2 innings of work last week.

Trending Down

Jackie Bradley Jr. early season struggles continued last week, batting an anemic .118 in five games with no RBI and six strikeouts.  Steve Pearce also had a rough week, batting only .125 in five games.

Tyler Thornburg has become a forgotten man in the Red Sox bullpen, with Brewer and Walden now rising on the depth chart.  Thornburg threw only one inning last week in the Patriot’s Day game against the Orioles, in which he allowed two earned runs in mop up duty in the ninth inning with the Sox trailing 6-1 coming into the inning.

Heath Hembree and Matt Barnes were also snake bitten by the home run ball last week, with Hembree allowing a home run in Monday’s loss to the Orioles, and Barnes blowing two saves on eighth inning home runs in the Rays series.

Look Ahead

The Red Sox now return home to Fenway for a long ten game home stand.  The Tigers come into town first for a four game series, followed by a three game rematch with the Rays over the weekend, and ending with a three game set against the A’s.  With Monday’s game postponed due to rain, the Red Sox and Tigers will play a day-night double header on Tuesday.  Hopefully the momentum gained in the Rays series followed the team north.


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Boston Sports Syndicate: Red Sox Back After Weekend Sweep
Red Sox Back After Weekend Sweep
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