(Photo Credit: Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
By: Joshua Nord- @nordjoshua
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. The Red Sox come into a series that on paper they should be the better team. They come in on a confident streak that hides the underlying problems, and the expectations are that this is a competitive, but winnable series.
Then they get absolutely embarrassed.
If the series had continued like it had game one and two. That would have been the tone for the rest of this article. A frustrated attack piece calling out all the issues this team has, but refuses to address. Their inability to get up for big games, complete lack of timely hitting, and consistent pitching.
The first two games of this series struck all those notes. Game one featured Drew Pomeranz, a guy who for all intents and purposes shouldn’t even be in the rotation, who also gives up four runs each start, only to watch a 33 year old knuckleballer all but take his job.
On the offensive side of things the lineup only ever threatened when the game was all but a couple outs away at the bottom of the lineup.
If game one was bad, game two might have been the worst way to start a new month. You had a stud ace who had all the motivation in the world to make up for last years ALDS, and he gets jumped on by a hungry Astros lineup. That obviously was Chris Sale, who gave up four runs through just six innings of work, while the Red Sox could never quite get over the dominance of a resurgent Gerrit Cole. When they did creep late back into the game, better late than never right? They trusted the one run deficit to Joe Kelly, a guy who’s been as lockdown as a reliever can be for the Sox, only to watch him get torched for three runs on two massive bombs, and only record a single out. The Sox would fall lifelessly to end the game.
To someone who’s watched the Sox the last two years. This has felt like a repeat. All our best weapons, all our young core hype, all beaten as a series loss looked increasingly imminent coming into Saturday against Justin Verlander, a guy thats been putting up video game numbers all year. A pitcher who also happens to have held the team to a collective slash line of .220/.283/.298. Lowest among all of the American League East teams.
In past years perhaps, this might have felt like the end, that the team would pack it up, point out that the season was indeed long, and not ultimately decided in June. But that’s where the tone of this article changes. Why? Because the Sox won the next two games, and they did it in a very convincing style.
Game three trotted out David Price, a man utterly dismayed at being unable to play video games, and did what Pomeranz and Sale couldn’t do this series. Keep the Astros off the board in the first inning. In fact the Sox took initiative in that. While Price eventually did give up three runs in his six innings of work, and was pulled while the Astros were ahead by a run, it was the offense’s turn to change. They wore down Verlander to only six innings of work and were able to spring two runs as a plus. Then the Houston bullpen took over and Boston exploited one flaw of the 2017 World Series Champs. The Astros bullpen, as good as they are, isn’t anywhere near as good as their starters.
So the Sox were able to jump on the first relieve rout of the bullpen. With Benintendi and Vazquez, of all players, hitting bombs well towards the back of Minute Maid Park. Suddenly the Sox had the lead. On top of that, the Sox bullpen remembered who they are. Hembree, Kelly, and Kimbrel all pitched an inning with Kelly giving up just one earned run. Not perfect, but certainly encouraging for him to bounce back. Just like that the Sox had themselves a real bonafide comeback win against an elite team. But there was still a game four to play, Porcello versus Morton.
The Sox starters reverted back to their recent trend of giving up runs in the first inning, but jumped out ahead at the top of the second inning, and frankly never looked back. They soared for a series split on a stellar offensive night by some of the lesser known players for this club, namely Holt and Núñez. Yet the most important thing about this series isn’t the stats, but what we saw on a play by play basis. The Sox got aggressive, they ran a lot, went out of their way for plays, hustled for everything, and most importantly they never quit.
So maybe they are right, that it’s just June and a long season. Or maybe, just maybe, this team is different?
ICYMI: EPISODE 51 OF THE AVIDBOSTON PODCAST!!!
AVIDBOSTON PODCAST EPISODE 51!
SOX RALLY TO SPLIT W/ ASTROS!
WHATS REALLY GOING ON W/ MOOKIE BETTS?
IS DUSTIN PEDROIA’S CAREER OVER?
Also available on iTunes!