Are the Red Sox pulling the greatest baseball ruse of all time? Last year Boston won it all, this year they are on the verge of losing it all. From worst (2012) to first (2013) to worst(2014?). They had a fantastic season in 2013 pretty much winning wire-to-wire and were the World Series favorites from about August through the playoffs. They did it with a combination of skill and luck. The skill came from guys like Daniel Nava and Jonny Gomes while getting great pitching performances from Lester, Lackey and Buchholz and a whole bunch of timely hitting. The luck came from the general lack of injuries to any of their starting players.
Coming into this season they were favored to make the playoffs again. They really only lost two players, Jacoby Ellsbury and Jarod Saltalamacchia, while Ellsbury was considered hard to replace, they felt by adding AJ Pierzynski on a one year deal would give them better offense from the catcher position for the season and rookie Jackie Bradley Jr to replace Ellsbury’s defense and speed on the bases. When the season started, they got off to their normal slow start. Boston has never really been a strong spring team, like the Boston weather, it takes them a few weeks to warm up. By the end of April they were 13-14, not great, but considering the AL East was projected to be the weakest of the three AL Divisions, there wasn’t too much concern. They were pitching well and playing great defense. Bradley Jr was better in center than Ellsbury was. They had young guys in Boegarts, Bradley and Brock Holt. Holt, who debuted April 18th, promptly went on a 6 game hitting streak. The thought was once these guys got more comfortable in the Majors they would start hitting better.
April turned to May and the only thing heating up was the weather. They went 13-15 in May, while their pitching stayed strong for the most part their offense floundered. They scored 112 runs in March/April and 115 runs in May. Boston led the league in runs last year, but a HUGE margin. Last year they had a great April, going 18-8, but a .500 May. But they scored 275 runs over those two months. Their offense fell off in June, they only scored 83 runs in 28 games! The low point was a west coast road trip where they went 2-5. They started July poorly too, losing 6 of their first 7 games of the month. The scored all of 26 runs in those 7 games.
On the 9th they were coming off of back-to-back loses to the White Sox where they scored 3 runs total. They were losing that game at home going into the 9th. They has designated AJ Pierzynski for assignment earlier in the day and were starting a rookie catcher, Christian Vazquez, behind the plate. Nava pinch hit and doubled to center scoring Mookie Betts, another rookie shortstop/2nd baseman they had called up, to tie the game at 4. Then Brock Holt singled on a line drive plating Nava for the walk off win. The next night the game was tied going into the bottom of the 10th. This time Nava walked, Betts his a nice sacrifice bunt to move Nava up then Mike Carp hits a pinch hit single to score Nava for their 2nd walk off in as many games.
After those wins they have only lost one game. Their offense is startling to click, they have scored 82 runs (one fewer than in 28 games in June) in 16 games. Last night they went off for 14 runs, 18 hits, and 4 home runs, the most in any game this season.
Before the season started Jonny Gomes was asked about what will motivate/unify the team this year. He said it wouldn’t be the Boston Strong or the beards like last year. He said the team talked about it during the off season in e-mails and texts to each other, but he didn’t reveal what “it” was to the media. Maybe the “it” was tanking the 1st half of the season and then come roaring back in the second to make the playoffs. It’s a huge risk and I can’t imagine they would take it. I think it would tick off a lot of fans, but maybe it is a way to weed out the “pink hat” fair weather fans and do something to reward the fans that stick by the team through good and bad. Stranger things have happened.
Right now they need to win another 43 games to hit 90 wins. That means they need to go 43-20 the rest of the way, that’s winning at a .682 clip. They only bested that rate in April of last year. I don’t think they can do it, but if they come close at least the rest of the season will be as entertaining as the first half wasn’t.