Category Archives: Series Recap

Series Recap: Brewers Complete Sweep at Fenway

After Sunday’s contest at Fenway park, I knew that writing a well-reasoned recap for the series as a whole would be difficult. After all, getting swept at home against a team that’s projected to be under .500 this year in the first week of the season does not inspire much confidence, and invites the Dan Shaughnessys of the world to slam the panic button until the damn things breaks. Instead, I’ll quickly talk about the ugly, the bad, and the good, to end things on a positive note.

The Ugly

Sunday’s Strikezone

I could talk about the strikezone, but pictures certainly do it more justice, so I’ll leave it at that.
Here’s Sunday’s strikezone maps courtesy of BrooksBaseball.net:


Yeah, it was all over the place. Moving right along..

Daniel Nava

I would have put this in the “bad” column, but Nava was making a lot of solid contact on Sunday. After doing a lot of flying out the first two games, Nava hit line drives all over the field on Sunday. Unfortunately, the first two he hit found their way into the gloves of Mark Reynolds and Yovani Gallardo. Nava was finally rewarded in his 3rd at bat with a line drive double down the first base line, but was stranded at second to end the inning. He also has yet to draw a walk, but it’s still early and I’m confident in Nava’s ability to see pitches. After the series, Nava’s BABIP stands at .111, so I’m also confident that we’ll see some of those sharp line drives start falling for hits in the near future, though I doubt Farrell will keep him so high up in the lineup.

Corner Outfielder Defense

This weekend saw some pretty ugly play from both Nava and Jonny Gomes, manning the corner outfield positions. While Grady Sizemore and Jackie Bradley Jr. held their own in center field all weekend, Gomes and Nava confirmed a lot of concerns about how the outfield defense might hold up without Victorino in right field. Nava’s error in Sunday’s game served as a perfect example of this, as did Mike Carp’s misplays on multiple wall balls which only added to the meltdown that was Clay Buchholz’ outing (more on that below). Hopefully with Victorino off the DL in a week this problem will resolve itself, but until then we may just be getting more of the same from the combination of Gomes, Carp, and Nava.

Injuries

The weekend saw Mike Carp dealing with some issues, Will Middlebrooks was placed on the DL, and David Ortiz appeared to limp after his final at bat of Sunday’s outing. None of this bodes well, but it is certainly not the end of the world. Middlebrooks will do his time on the 15 day DL and be back in 2+ weeks, and Mike Carp’s issues can likely be attributed to the cold weather. Ortiz might be the most troubling, but as of now there hasn’t been much word on an injury, if any.

The Bad

Clay Buchholz

Clay Buchholz did not look good Saturday night. Quite the opposite of good in fact, as the Brewers tagged him for more hits than he’s ever given up in a start with 13 for 6 earned runs. Most concerning was his fastball velocity, sitting around 89-90 mph all night long. At his best last season, Buchholz’ fastball would sit around 93-94 mph, and when mixed in with his nasty breaking stuff made him one of the most effective pitchers in baseball. Saturday, however, the Brewers capitalized on the lost velocity and hit just about every pitch left up in the zone. While some of this can be attributed to BABIP luck for the Brewers, they were making a lot of solid contact that cannot be ignored. I’m optimistic that Buchholz will settle down for his next start after shaking off the rust Saturday though, provided some of that fastball velocity comes back and he can locate his pitches as well as he did in 2013.

AJ Pierzynski

Pierzynski was one of the more questionable signings of the offseason, but possesses the upside of being a clubhouse guy with decent enough defensive skills and a slightly above average bat. So far this season though, he has grounded into more double plays than he has actual hits. Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal wrote an interesting article about how Pierzynski rarely sees pitches or walks because of how often he makes contact, but until I see that contact generate actual results, I’m skeptical. If Pierzynski keeps up his current pace for a few more weeks, we’ll probably see the Sox call up Christian Vasquez from AAA.

The Good

Xander Bogaerts

Some worried that Bogaerts might be slow out of the gate this season, but thus far he’s been anything but slow, with a first week slash line of .412/.524/.529. He’s been an extremely productive member of the lineup, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him moved into the 1, 2, or 3 slots for the upcoming series against the Rangers. Time will tell if this pace can continue, and while it probably won’t, it’s an encouraging sign of things to come from the young shortstop.

The Bullpen on Saturday

Even though it eventually gave up the win, the bullpen was excellent on Saturday. Chris Capuano, Brandon Workman, Junichi Tazawa, and Koji Uehara combined for 5.2 IP, 0 R, 13K, 1BB. When Buchholz was not up to the task, the bullpen delivered. This was probably the most encouraging thing to happen all weekend until Jon Lester’s outing on Sunday.

Jon Lester

He may have received the John Lackey treatment in the third game of the series by receiving no run support, but Lester still tossed 7.1+ innings of 3 run ball. Along with his first start of the season against the Orioles, Lester has thrown 14.1 innings for 5 earned runs, which is about as good as you can hope from one of your best starters. The most encouraging part of this is that we may be seeing Lester at his most consistent. Coming off of his worst starts in 2013 (June), Lester has frequently been good for 7 innings of 2-3 run ball, which only adds to the case for extending him.

 

It’s hard finding positives in a weekend like this one, but there were definitely positives to be found. Plenty of baseball left to play this year, and the Sox will look to turn it around against the Rangers on Monday with John Lackey on the hill.

 

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Series Grades: Baltimore

The Red Sox wrapped up a very solid opening series against Baltimore with a 4-3 win on Thursday night. Both the starters and the bullpen already looked locked in, and most of the lineup looks the same way. Great way to start the year.

OVERALL GRADE: A

Hitters Overall: B

Designated Hitter: B+

All he needs to do is hit, and that’s essentially what Papi did against the Orioles. Ortiz had a rough go of things in the first game of the series, but he came through with a big home run in the middle game and recorded 3 singles in the finale.

Catcher: C

A.J. Pierzynski had a serviceable debut to his career in Boston,  but it would be nice if he could improve upon his 2/8 start to the season. If Pierzynski can have similar numbers to what he posted last year he will end up being another positive free-agent pickup. David Ross had a solid game 3 as he reached base twice, but he was also not able to stay in front of a Brandon Workman pitch that cost the Sox a run in the 6th.

First Base: A-

Mike Napoli had a solid series against the Orioles; most importantly he provided 4 big RBI in the second game of the series. Napoli picked up right where he left off last season — hitting for extra bases and striking out.  He did make an error in the 9th inning of game 2 that made Koji’s save a bit more difficult than it should have been, but the Sox had a 4 run lead at the time of the error so we’ll let him off the hook.

Second Base: A

Dustin Pedroia played all three games of the series, and he came out of the gate swinging a red-hot bat. Pedroia had 2 hits in the first game and 4 base hits in game 2 (to go along with a sweet diving stop), and in the third game he had a 1-out double in the 9th but was left stranded by David Ortiz and Mike Napoli. Overall, the Sox will always take a 7-hit series from their franchise player, so keep up the good work Pedey.

Shortstop : A-

Xander Bogaerts had a fantastic start to his year. The Rookie Shortstop sensation reached base 8 times in the series and provided a great boost to the lower part of the lineup. His bat will likely see him moving up in the lineup in the near future.

Third Base: C

Will Middlebrooks struggled with the bat in the first two games of the series, but he picked up his first two hits (one of which was a double) in game 3. Middlebrooks is a player who’s spot in the lineup in relatively safe for the time being, but he needs to keep having positive at bats like he did in the third game if the Red Sox lineup is going to be as potent as it was last year. His glove looked a bit iffy at times in the series as well, but he played relatively solid overall.

Center Field: B

Grady Sizemore started the first two games of the series in center and it was great to see him back in the big leagues. In the first game he went 2/4 and produced the Sox only run, but he failed to reach base in the second game. As we noted after Opening Day, if he could keep up a consistent bat and remain healthy it will very much help make up for the loss of Jacoby. Jackie Bradley Jr. started the third game and managed two hits (one of which produced a run). Hopefully he can hit better than last season, and if he can he will pick up some much needed playing time over the course of the year.

Left Field/Right Field: B-

These spots were manned by a platoon of Jonny Gomes, Daniel Nava, Mike Carp and Jackie Bradley Jr. The platoon at these positions (mostly in left field, as Shane Victorino played right field most of the year) was a key aspect of the deadly offensive attack from last year, so it would be nice if Farrell could again maximize the output from these positions by using a rotation of the players listed above. They had a solid series, and they’ll have their ups and downs throughout the year, but mostly it was just very fun to see Gomes hitting leadoff in the last game.

Pitchers Overall: A

Jon Lester: A 

Lester was masterful in his 7 innings on Opening Day. The Sox ace threw 104 pitches, and the only 2 runs he gave up were off of a double play ball by Delmon Young in the 2nd and a long ball by Nelson Cruz in the 7th.  Lester fanned 8 Orioles batters, and he did a great job of mixing pitches — PITCHf/x says he through 5 different pitches today. He got into some trouble in the early innings, but was able to work out of it well. Overall, the Sox couldn’t have asked for any more from Jon in his first start of the regular season.

John LackeyA-

Lackey pitched an extremely solid 6 innings in the second game of the series, and he picked up the Red Sox’ first win of the year. The Orioles’ only runs again came off the bat of Nelson Cruz (a 2-run shot in the 4th), and Lackey only allowed 2 other baserunners during the rest of his time on the mound. Just like Lester, Lackey could not have pitched any better — aside the fact that his pitch count was a bit high by the 6th inning.

Felix Doubront: B

Doubront had a solid outing in the last game of the series. He ran into a bit of trouble in the 4th inning, but managed to stop the bleeding after only giving up 2 runs. If the Sox starters can manage to hold the opposition to 2 runs per game every time out this year, it’s going to be a very fun 2014. That wont happen, but it was still very fun to watch the first three starters go this week.

Bullpen: A

The boys in the ‘pen only gave up 1 run in three games. ‘Nuff said.

 

Series with Dodgers On Deck

Bold Series Predictions: The Sox are going to find a way to take 2 of 3 from the Dodgers in this weekend’s series, Xander Bogaerts will get his first career hit against Hyun-Jin Ryu, and Dennis Eckersley will set a new personal record by saying “cheese” 50+ times in a single broadcast.

Why: The Dodgers are unquestionably the hottest team in baseball, and even though Boston just finished up winning a three-game set against the Giants, they are still just .500 in the month of August. So why will the Sox win this series? For starters, the Sox have three of their best starters going; Lackey takes the hill Friday, Lester on Saturday and Peavy gets to face-off against his old NL West rivals on Sunday Night Baseball. Also helping Boston’s cause is the fact that they will miss two of LA’s best starters in Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke.

Xander Bogaerts played in two of the games against the Giants this week, but he only started in one of those games and he did not start against struggling left-hander Barry Zito. This hints that John Farrell is trying his best to ease the 20-year-old phenom into playing time. Since Stephen Drew hit a bomb in Boston’s series-clinching win against the Giants, it wouldn’t surprise me at all for him to start against right-hander Ricky Nolasco in the series opener on Friday. However, I do think that Bogaerts will start against the left-hander Ryu because of Drew’s struggles against south paws this year. I also think that Bogaerts is due for a hit. Besides believing that he is due, I don’t really have a good reason to think he will get his first hit in that game. I guess my Spidey Senses are just tingling.

Pictured: Dennis Eckersley thinking about a nice slice of Cheddar Cheese. Probably.

The last of my predictions is also the easiest to make. Dennis Eckersley has given it his all trying to spice things up in the absence of Jerry Remy. Most notably, he has made it abundantly clear to his audience that he will never call a fastball by its true name. In fact, he may never call any pitch by its true name. Instead, he likes to talk about “cheese,” and “gas.” You can count me as one of those in complete support of his hilarious lexicon.

The Red Sox will be glad to have a day off before heading to LA, but I cannot wait for this three game set to begin. It should be a fun weekend of baseball, folks.

Red Sox Lose Last Two Before Break

The Red Sox wrapped up the first half of their season losing the last 2 games of a 3 game set with Oakland. Nevertheless, the series had some encouraging moments, and nobody East of New York will be complaining about Boston’s 58-39 record heading into the Break.

Things I liked: Even though Oakland took the last 2 games, there was a lot to like about the way the Sox played. For starters, John Lackey pitched 7 innings and racked up 5 Ks  while leading Boston to a 4-2 win in game 1.

I have been told to alert Mr. Lackey that the 2005-07 Angels called and they want their pitcher back. Seriously. What has gotten into this guy? The dude has a 2.78 ERA and a 3.27 xFIP through 100.1 innings pitched and he leads Red Sox starters with a 4.04 K/BB ratio. We shall discuss whether or not Mr. Lackey’s success to this point is sustainable in another post, but at the moment he is leading the Boston pitching staff in the absence of Clay Buchholz.

In game 2 of the series, Boston was brushed aside by Oakland’s AJ Griffin. Griffin pitched eight shutout innings and the he never really let Boston get into the game. However, Jon Lester produced an encouraging night in which he only allowed 3 runs (albeit on 3 walks and 6 hits, including Derek Norris’ 5th inning home run). For the Red Sox to build upon their unexpected play thus far they’re going to need Lester to figure out how to pitch like he did from 2008 to 2011.

Game 3 saw the Sox produce their third straight positive start. 24-year-old rookie Brandon Workman took a no-hitter into the 7th inning when Coco Crisp broke it up with a ground ball to Pedey. Two batters later, Josh Donaldson blasted his 16th home run which tied up the game at 2. Nonetheless, the Work-Man (wow, how bad is that nickname?!) pitched well enough for Boston to win, and if he keeps pitching like that he’s going to be a great asset for years to come.

Things I didn’t like so much: For a series against a potential playoff opponent in which Boston lost 2 of 3, the last three games didn’t give me a whole lot to complain about. The offense disappeared for all but two of the last 20 innings of the series, but we’ll just chalk that up to fatigue after a long first half and the fact that Boston faced Oakland’s two best starters (2.4 WAR for Colon and 1.5 for Griffin, per Fangraphs.com) in games 2 and 3.

Overall, I’m not going too far out on a limb by saying that Boston’s first half was a success. If you had told any member of Red Sox Nation at the start of the year that their boys would be 58-39 and 2.5 games up in the division at the All Star Break, you would be hard-pressed to find someone who would have believed you. But, after 97 games that’s the case.

Moving forward, the Red Sox figure to be in the heart of the playoff race come September. Boston would love to win the East and at this point there’s no reason to believe that they can’t. But in one of the toughest divisions in baseball, in which 4/5 teams still have a legitimate shot to make the playoffs, it would be A-okay if the Sox can sneak into the postseason with a Wild Card birth. But hey, let’s not let that patented Red Sox-pessimism start sinking in just yet. This season has been a blast so far, so let’s keep enjoying it.

Red Sox take 3 of 4 from Seattle

The Red Sox wrapped up their series against the Mariners this afternoon winning 8-7 in 10 innings. It was important that the Sox at least manage to split this series following two disappointing games this weekend against the Angels. With the Rays winning their last eight, the Sox can’t afford to fall into a cold spell. After this series, Tampa is only 3.5 GB.

Things I liked: There was a lot to like about this series. Aside from a disappointing result in the first game — in which they only managed to score 2 runs off King Felix and 4 runs total — the Sox offense was red-hot. Boston hit seven HRs in the last three games of the series, including five bombs in the second game.

David Ortiz continued his scorching month of July (.438/.472/.875) racking up eight hits over the series. Papi had three doubles and two home runs to go along with his third stolen base of the season (LOL). Even more encouraging, it doesn’t seem like the big man is going to see too much regression going forward. He has continued his three-year trend of having a K-rate sitting at about 13% (below his career average of 17.9%)

Felix Doubront continued to pitch well, and over his last five starts he hasn’t given up more than two earned runs. Even more encouraging, his 3.91 ERA seems believable at this point. Fangraphs pegs his FIP at 3.63 and his xFIP at 3.92, so we shouldn’t expect Doubront to fall off from his current pace.

Things I didn’t like so much: Even though the they took 3/4, the pitching left a lot to be desired. Playing in a pitching-friendly Safeco the staff still managed to give up four, eight, four, and seven runs. Aside from Doubront’s start, the staff looked awful. Lester pitched poorly, Dempster gave up seven runs in 3.1 innings (only four earned) and Allen Webster continued to remind management that he isn’t big-league ready quite yet.

The bullpen pitched fine, but against better offensive teams in the long run the front office still needs to find a way to upgrade before the trade deadline.

Looking ahead: On the whole, this series washed most of the poor taste from last weekend’s debacle out of Red Sox Nation’s mouth. Flying to The Bay, the Sox have Lackey and then Lester slated to start the first two games.  It would be great if Boston could finish off the first half by taking the series against a solid Oakland squad, but I wouldn’t be disappointed if they only manage to take one of three.