August 24, 2016

Giving the Rays a Devil of a Time

I'm not gonna lie to ya. Watching games from Tropicana Field is brutal, and many of the locals seem to share that notion as they stay away on a regular basis. The ones that have ventured to this abomination of a baseball stadium haven't had much to cheer about the past two games unless they are Red Sox fans of course. There appeared to be a groundswell of Sawx fans on hand last night in the  2-1`victory that saw Clay Buchholz circa 2013. His performance warranted as loud an ovation as I've ever heard in a visiting ballpark, and I was quite happy to join them from a much more pleasing locale - my couch.

Clay is trying to buck the bullpen, and he has been looking good. Since replacing Steven Wright in the rotation he has delivered a sparkling 16.2 IP/ 5 ER/ 2.70 ERA in three starts. A divide still exists on the validity of these numbers as many, like yours truly, are waiting for the other shoe to drop. Whispers of sticking Drew Pomeranz in the bullpen have erupted which I think would be foolish. Pomeranz has also been surging in August with his outings becoming increasingly longer, and he has a longer track record of success in 2016. Still, Clay has proven to be a valuable asset as backing for the rotation with no answers available on the farm (see Henry Owens).

So who said Boston couldn't win close games? On this 7-2 road trip, the Red Sox have enjoyed 4 victories by narrow margins:in 3-2, 3-2, 2-1, and 5-3. Much of this can be attributed to the fabulous pitching they have been getting. The starting rotation has logged a 2.69 ERA for August, and closer Craig Kimbrel has been brilliant going 5 for 5 in save opportunities and limiting the opposition  to a parched .071  BA. The eighth inning remains a sticking point, though, as Matt Barnes can't seem to get his head out of his ass. Kimbrel had to come on in the eighth in Saturday's 3-2 win in Detroit, and Barnes allowed 2 runs on 3 hits in the opening game of the Tampa series. Barnes now owns a 6.34 ERA in the second half of the season.

The fact that Farrell left Price in the eight in Monday's 6-2 win at over 100 pitches told you all you needed to know on how confident he was in that eighth inning situation. Price had lowered his ERA to the lowest point it had been since his Opening Day start, and  he is hitting stride. In his past 6 starts he has a tidy 2.36 ERA. Andrew Benintendi saved the day in said inning with an incredible catch in left, robbing Steve Souza  Jr. of a 2 run homer to keep the score sheet clean for Price. Boston was able to tack on 3 in the ninth thanks in part by a two run homer by Xander Bogaerts. So when you look at Barnes unsettling effort, that game could have easily gotten away from Boston. Bogaerts dinger was his 15th which is the most by a Boston shortstop since Nomah clubbed 28 back in 2003.

While on the subject of great defense, Mookie Betts showed that he has more to offer than a lightning quick bat. In the bottom of the eighth Kevin Kiemaier's rocket down the right field line found its way to Betts in foul ground. Kiemaier foolishly attempted to take third and was gunned down by Betts. In a 2-1 game late, he was already in scoring position, but we'll take stupid baseball. Tampa manager Kevin Cash also had me shaking my head on  Logan Morrison bunt attempted with a runner on first in the fourth. Morrison had previously owned Buchholz, and to make matters worse, Leon picked the runner off first as he strayed on the attempt. In effect, Tampa's idiocy allowed Boston's defense to shine.

Boston has also become a very solid road team with a record of 33-27. The only other AL team better than five games over .500 on the road is the Blue Jays. With 22 games remaining away from Fenway, Boston needs to continue these winning ways

To the Twitter feed:

August 22, 2016

Sawx put on the Spot

Boston fielders had little to do in the first two innings as Henry Owens was offering a special - a walk or a strikeout. The strikeouts were going at a little better than two for one as Owens had walked 2 batters and struck out 5. 

Fittingly, the ground gave out under Owens after his four walk of the game. Control has always been the burr under Henry's saddle, but this one was an intentional pass to load the sacks with two out in the third. He had to pick his poison as he could have either pitched to Miguel Cabrera or J.D Martinez. The choice was Martinez and he punished the Sawx as he had been doing throughout the series driving in two for a 2-0 lead. It seem Justin Upton was just finding his range against Kimbrel when he came inches of tying Saturday's game. He made no mistake against Owens as he took his 2-0 offering out of the yard to make it a 5-0 game. Upton came back to haunt Owens again in the fifth. In another good hitter's count, Upton drilled a 3-1 pitch over the wall for his second three run homer, giving Henry a snowman in the earned run column to complete the day for him.

Spot starts from farmhands usually spells disaster for Boston. Check out the tweets below, and the first one was before Owens' start:

The offensive highlight was Andrew Benintendi's first homer as a pro as he hit a two run job in the seventh to bring Boston halfway back in a 10-5 loss. Andrew now has 7 multi-hit games in 18 appearances, and he also added a triple for a 2-4 day.
Had a bit of fun with these two storied franchises on MLB 16 the Show. I fired up all time versions of both teams and saw the Red Sox come out on top 5-2 at Comerica Park. I had Roger "The Rocket" Clemens matched up against Hall of Famer Harold "Prince Hal" Newhouser who starred for both the Tigers and the Indians between 1939-1955. Clemens went the distance in a the win, scattering 10 hits while striking out 8. His counterpart Newhouser lasted 5.1 innings allowing 9 hits and 2 runs. 

Jim Rice was responsible for the damage on Newhouser's watch with a two out bases loaded single in the third that scored two runs. Detroit answered back on Ty Cobb's solo shot in the fourth. The "Georgia Peach was a perfect 4-4 on the day. Alan Trammell added his own solo dinger in the sixth to tie the game.

Boston would put the game out of reach in the seventh. With one out, Ted Williams doubled off the wall in center off Detroit reliver Mike Henneman and was immediately driven in by a David Ortiz single. Jim Rice would then follow up with a two run homer to give him 4 RBI on the day. Rice's homer bounced Henneman from the game hanging the loss on him. He gave up 3 runs on 3 hits in only one inning of work. Plenty of fun was had with lineups like these. In the highlights below, check out Tiger great Al Kaline pegging Jim Rice at home

August 21, 2016

Porcello, Pomeranz Pick up a Pair

It's official - auditions are on for the 8th inning job. After Pomeranz's fantastic, rain shortened start, Farrell wasted no time in reacquainting Heath Hembree with the high leverage winning side of things with Boston ahead 3-1. Heath obliged with a quick clean sixth and you'd think John would get him out of there feeling good about himself. But...nah. Instead, he leaves Hembree long enough for J.D Martinez to tag a moonshot of him to narrow the lead to 3-2. Ziegler then came on and saved Farrell's misguided notion, ending the seventh inning with a strikeout and groundout.

The eighth on this night belong to Matt Barnes, and it seems Farrell still may have his help wanted sign out for this juncture of the game. Barnes regressed into his erratic phase,walking two batters which forced Farrell to call on Craig Kimbrel for the 4 out save. Craig got it by the narrowest of margins as Justin Upton almost made him pay with a deep shot to dead center. The ball missed clearing the center field fence by inches putting the tying run on second. Kimbrel got Casey McGehee to chase a wicked breaking ball for his 22nd save.

It was a very nice win for Pomeranz as he seems to be turning the corner. In the month of August, Drew is 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA. In four starts he has pitched 24 innings and given up 19 hits. He has struck out 20 batters and only walked 9. He is starting to shake of the "6 inning" label, and Boston will need him to pitch deeper, especially until they sort out their bullpen.
David Ortiz's two run shot last night was the last bit of scoring Boston was able to manage as Detroit pitching retired the last 15 Red Sox batters after his round tripper. David is having a terrific series in Detroit batting 6-8 with 2 HR and 4 RBI. On the road trip, he is mashing at a 10-18 clip with 3 HR and 7 RBI and is enjoying a 7 game hitting streak. The longest current hitting streak belongs to Dustin Pedroia. In the last 11 games, Dustin is 20-49 with 9 runs, 5 doubles and 8 RBI.

Below are some tweets on Rick Porcello. Rick was magnificent yet again in the 10-2 drubbing on Friday tying J.A. Happ of the Blue Jays for a shared lead in the AL in wins with 17. He snapped Boston's 4 game losing skid against the Tigers on his first start in Detroit since being dealt to the Red Sox. The Tigers had swept Boston in Fenway back in July, and they faltered in excruciating fashion thanks to the "Tazawa Teardown" in the series opener.

A Sunny Forecast in the Win Column?

Well, this is the second time I have tried to see if my prophecy was correct, and once again, I'm greeted with a "This Game is in Rain Delay" screen on MLBTV. It is movie night at my house on Saturday nights, so I have trouble tuning into the action for the night games. Earlier in the evening, I penciled in the lineups for tonight into MLB The Show 16 to see what I could possibly expect, and I must say, I enjoyed the results.

Drew Pomeranz ran into a spot of trouble in the first as his was tagged for a three run homer by Victor Martinez. Boston inched back in the second with a RBI single from Aaron Hill then took charge in the third with homers from Bryan Holaday and Xander Bogaerts. Xander, as can be seen above, had a huge game as his dinger was of the two run variety 

The Tigers rallied in the fourth as Mookie Betts misplayed a ball that was sliced down the right field line by Erick Aybar allowing Ian Kinsler to score all the way from first to tie the game 4-4.

The Red Sox would immediately answer Detroit  just as they did back in the second inning. Betts, who had goofed on the Aybar double atoned for his mistake. After Bogie grooved a one out double, Betts laced an RBI single to put Boston in front for good.

The Boston bullpen was called upon in a dicey situation in the seventh. Pomeranz had gotten one out but gave up a single to Erick Aybar . With Miguel Cabrera coming up, I then gave the ball to Heath Hembree. Cabrera would single off Hembree which put runners on the corners with one out, but Heath then got Victor Martinez to ground into an inning ending double play.

The offense then kicked into high gear in the ninth allowing me to save Craig Kimbrel for another day. Holaday and Bogaerts struck again, this time for RBI doubles and Mookie Betts clubbed a two run shot Barnes pitched a clean eighth and stayed on in the ninth for the save Pomeranz would go 6.1 innings giving up 9 hits and striking out 4 while only allowing 1 free pass. He settled down quite nicely after a difficult first inning and this enabled Boston to climb back into the game. Highlights are below.

Well, I can see the game has come back on and Hembree is now on for Pomeranz. Good to see I'm thinking right along with John (I can't believe I just said that). Obviously, the rain delay put me off an inning but as long as we get the "W", it's all good. Heath just set down the Tigers, and it's on to the seventh. Time to return to reality

August 19, 2016

Kudos Clay; Tazawa Go Away

There's nothing like a cleansing rain along with boatload of runs to help you forget a shitty bullpen. That's what we were treated to in Baltimore as Boston extended their winning streak to 6 games in an 8-1 laugher only to have it end in the hands of the dubious duo of Junichi Tazawa and Brad Ziegler in yesterday's 4-3 loss.

Ziegler gave up his second bases loaded walk in as many appearances as he was unable to stem the tide against the Tigers in an 8th inning cock up. It is also time to put Junichi Tazawa on the "Physically Unable to Retain a Lead" list, joining Fernando Abad in a troubling trend. I was once staunchly against the idea bringing Jonathan Papelbon back to the fold, but I now figure "What the hell?" He can't be any worse than what has been advertised as of late.

It may seem like I'm a John Farrell fanboy here, but I'm just trying to be logical in what has been an illogical practice used by all Major League teams with regards to their top bullpen arm - the closer. It's easy to say Farrell arsed the game up, but when you look closely, what he did was certainly not out of the ordinary. Going into the 8th Boston had a 3-1 lead, and with Matt Barnes unavailable, Farrell goes to the once reliable Tazawa who has fulfilled this role successfully before. Yes, Junichi has been struggling but what else was he going to do? Ross had already pitched the seventh, and he had Ziegler to back him. The real issue with this thinking is that you don't give your best bullpen arm a chance to save the day. When Tazawa went into his tailspin, Kimbrel should have come into the game. Ziegler has been slumping, and John went to the well once too often. However, the common practice in baseball today is to let your eighth inning guy get you to the closer which drives me nuts. I'll be willing to bet that 90% of the other managers would have done the same thing Farrell did. The closer is basically for the ninth - PERIOD! So, what I'm saying here is it might be a bit shortsighted to blame Farrell for SOP in many bullpens across the Majors.I remember John pondering at the start of the season that he might be a little more unconventional with his bullpen, but at that time, he had an embarrassment of riches with Carson Smith, and Koji Uehara. Now, Farrell may have to be even more creative with less talent.

Getting back to Clay for a moment, it looks as though Boston was wise to hang on to him. He delivered his first quality start since , giving up 9 hits to go along with 3 walks, 3 strikeouts and 4 earned runs.

Now for some Twitter tidbits you should know: