Friday, April 14, 2017

The Red Sox Take Two Of Three From the Orioles And Pirates

It's a great time to be a Boston sports fan right now. The weather is warming up, the Bruins won their first playoff game, and the Celtics have a real chance at making it to the Eastern Conference Finals. But most importantly the Red Sox are back to playing good baseball and there's a lot to be excited about the team moving forward.

It was an interesting few days for the local nine. They returned home from Detroit having lost three of four before splitting a quick two game series against the Orioles. With the Blue Jays off to a horrendous 1-8 start it looks like Baltimore will be our biggest opponent in the AL East. I like Boston's chances of course but the Orioles have more wins over the past five years than any other American League team. It should be a good race that'll last all season. 

Finally, the team pulled off an awesome come from behind victory to beat the Pirates yesterday afternoon. The win completed the three game sweep dating back to the opening series of 2017. Yesterday's game was a make up from a week prior that was canceled due to rain. Now let's take a look at the biggest storylines from this week:

--There's something about early season comeback victories that set the tone for the rest of the year. We are not even two full weeks into the 2017 season and already the Sox have come back twice to win. That doesn't count the game in Detroit with Pablo's three run homer (eventually lost by Joe Kelly) or Sandy Leon's walk off three run homer that occurred in a tie game. This Red Sox team is so young and talented that they were always going to be a likeable bunch but combined with these exciting victories in April fans seem to be really buying in.

--Although Xander Bogaerts got the game winning hit yesterday the real hero was David Ortiz's replacement at DH, Hanley Ramirez. Hanley came up with the bases loaded and one out, and proceeded to crush a ball into the triangle out in center field. Although Markus Lynn Betts was thrown out at the plate the hit tied the game and had Fenway in a frenzy. Hanley Hustle hasn't played the field at all this year due to a shoulder injury but he seems to be really embracing his role as the DH. If he continues to hit in big spots like this the fans will embrace him as well.

--Speaking of Bogaerts I'm psyched he's starting to heat up at the plate. Over the last two games he is a combined 5-for-9 and the go ahead hit yesterday was a perfect example of his tremendous opposite field approach. The 24-year-old came into the majors with so much upside that perhaps I'm a little harsh on him when it comes to the power department. I've also always been #TeamMookie when debating the two but I of course recognize Xander is still a top five young shortstop in baseball. If he can start hitting for power this year the way he was during the first half of 2016 then the sky is the limit. For now Sox fans are glad to see him hitting at all following his terrible second half last year.

--Drew Pomeranz surprised the fuck out of me when he pitched six innings of one run ball Tuesday night. In total he gave up four hits, walked one, and struck out six. What was most encouraging to see was him hitting in the mid 90s with his fastball. A few weeks ago this guy's season was in jeopardy and now there's hope he could be the legit number three starter this team needs. For what it's worth Pomeranz has a track record of starting hot and then fading as the season goes on (probably because he should be a reliever) but Tuesday night's game was encouraging enough for me to give him a chance. 

--Steven Wright's Wednesday night start was, how do we say, not encouraging. The knuckleballer ended his "performance" with as many outs (four) as home runs allowed. In total Wright gave up eight runs and you could tell right away he didn't have it. There's all these stats out there about how the knuckle doesn't work in humidity or when it's moist out, blah, blah, blah. Personally I'm ready to move on from him as anything more than rotation depth once (if?) David Price returns. And that's not just a reaction to this past start. Everyone and their mother could see regression was coming after the first half last year.

Random Stuff:
--Eduardo Rodriguez rebounded nicely after allowing a two run first inning homer to Andrew McCutchen yesterday. He ended his day allowing two earned runs in 5 2/3 innings with eight strikeouts. I'm not sure he will ever become a top of the rotation starter since he still only has two pitches, but I'm excited to see what he can do this year if he remains healthy.

--Sandy Leon and Christian Vazquez are a combined 6-for-7 throwing out potential base stealers this year. If this keeps up any longer teams might stop trying to steal on us altogether.

--Friday night is the start of a four game AL East showdown with the Tampa Bay Rays, kicking off with Rick Porcello versus Chris Archer in game one. The series culminates with the annual 11:00 AM Patriot's Day game Monday morning, which will come in the middle of a five day stretch where a Boston sports team is playing in a playoff game every day. Buckle up.

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