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Boston Red Sox

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly



Can you believe that game last night? Boy oh boy, what a doozy! Now we understand why the NFL insists on, not only scheduling but broadcasting Thursday Night Football games. I mean, the San Francisco 49ers doing battle with the Los Angeles Rams: That’s practically playoff football people. What a treat!

If you haven’t detected the sarcasm that my words are saturated with, you’re probably one of those fanboys who actually appreciate the “TNF” games. To you I say: How? Yes I understand that last night’s game was high-scoring and that it came down to the wire. But that betrays the incompetence of both the 49ers and the Rams defenses. It was playground football!

Even NBC’s Chris Collinsworth has to scrape the barrel to find the enthusiasm to provide commentary for these abominations. They’re so unwatchable; the NFL had to create it’s own television network to find a place that would televise Thursday night games. That’s pushing it man.

But have no fear: Sunday will soon be here. (Pretend that some catchy jingle is playing) which means it’s now time for, everybody’s favorite: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

The Good

The Red Sox are rolling right now, with some serious momentum.

Earlier this week, we saw our boys trounced the Baltimore Orioles, taking every game of a 3-game series. This was just part of an inordinate 12-game road trip that the Sox have been on since September 15th - the type of challenge that can make or break any team’s postseason bid.

On this excursion, every element of the Sox has performed indomitably. With October nearing on the horizon, the barometer is certainly reading in Boston’s favor.

The Sox outscored the Bird’s 20-8, over the course of this series in Baltimore. Our offense was firing on all cylinders. Mookie Betts went 4-14 with 6 RBI’s, including a homer and a triple. Crystallizing his role in October, the young Rafael Devers went 4-9 in the 2 games that he played.

Collectively Sox pitching produced a 3.63 ERA with 35 K’s in 29 innings pitched. These stats were greatly padded by the clinics that Drew Pomeranz and Chris Sale put on. Big Smooth tossed an impeccable 6.1 innings of shutout ball on Tuesday; while Sale picked up his 300th K of the season, shutting out Baltimore on Wednesday night. Entertaining baseball, to say the least.

Now the bummer is: The Yankees have been able to parallel our recent success. Yes, Boston has maintained it’s 3-game lead over New York, in the AL East, going 7-3 in their last 10 games. But the Yankees are 8-2 in that same span. We cannot take our foot off of the pedal. New York is pressing aggressively on our heels, not allowing any room for error.

The Red Sox head to Cincinnati to face the Reds this weekend, not exactly a late-season crucible. For the Sox, as they wrap up this 12-game road trip, the top priority will be to stay focused and confident. This young team controls its own destiny right now. Boston can’t afford to vouchsafe the Yankees any half-games as the pennant-race comes to a conclusion. For the time being, it’s looking pretty good Sox Nation.

The Bad

After a recent foul-ball tragedy, 4 MLB teams have announced that they will be extending the protective netting in their respective stadiums. What’s bad about this: It’s only 4 of the 30 teams that comprise the MLB.

Wednesday afternoon, at Yankee Stadium, Todd Frazier turned on a pitch and pulled it over the third-base dugout. This ball was a gelid frozen-rope; he dead pulled it. Traveling at a speed well over 100 MPH, this foul-ball violently struck the face of an unexpecting child in the stands. The little girl was severely injured. She was escorted out of Yankee Stadium on a stretcher and is currently hospitalized in critical condition.

There wasn’t any netting or shield to mitigate the force of this projectile. Given the estimated distance from home-plate to where this girl was seated, she had about .68 seconds to react. MLB players are paid millions to anticipate and to field such line-drives. Pedestrian fans do not have the reflexes to defend against professional hitting.

In a day and age where many fans are abstracted by smartphones and jumbotrons, it’s now more important than ever to revamp fan safety. Will the netting slightly detract from your view of the game? Yes. But we’ll eventually become desensitized to this not-so obstructing obstruction. Bear in mind that the seats directly behind home-plate are already protected by this type of netting, and they’re still the most coveted seats in the ballpark.

As with any sport, safety measures always seem fun-crushing, when they are first implemented. Hockey players didn’t want to wear helmets; baseball players used to catch the ball with mittens. Players adjust and so do fans.

Netting that surrounds the entire perimeter of the field is not what’s being suggested here. After all, baseball is the only sport where it is common for fans in attendance to bring the equipment to catch balls outside of the field-of-play. So catch your accessible fly-balls, that’s great. But the MLB needs to calculate the standard for average “fan reaction time” and set up netting accordingly. There’s a reason why seats directly behind home-plate are protected by such a thing. Fans are not professional baseball players, therefore they cannot be expected to react like one.

The Ugly

On a lighter-note: TNF is an ugly product. I’m sorry, but I still have some rage chambered up from last night’s game between the 49ers and the Rams. We saw garbage against garbage, illustrated by the underwhelming finish to this “shootout”.

The 49ers are on the 50 yard-line, after having recovered an onside kick. They’re down 39-41 with a little over 2 minutes left to go in the 4th. How do they seize the moment? By going three-and-out, punctuated by Brian Hoyer being sacked on a 4th and 20.

It never used to be like this; Thursday Night Football used to be a rarity and something to look forward to. Now it’s an example of the NFL inundating it’s fan-base with content. If we’re going to play these gratuitous games, at least make the matchups appealing. Save for the season-opener, TNF this year has featured discarded small-market underdogs nipping at each other’s throats.

Roger Goodell and his subordinates who create the schedule need to decide what type of contest they want TNF to be. Is it simply a midweek throw-away game, or a hearty appetizer that stimulates the interest of fans going into the weekend? So far, it’s been the former.

Columnist operating out of Manchester, NH. Retired pitcher (unprofessional not amateur). Voracious consumer of all things Celtics and Red Sox. Sometimes I produce content as well.

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Boston Red Sox

Betts Wrist Injury Not Keeping Him Down For Long



Red Sox

The Boston Red Sox getting a much-needed 10-7 win over Toronto on Wednesday was a much-needed relief for the team as they try to win the American League East. But their bigger concern at the moment is getting right fielder Mookie Betts healthy for the playoffs.

Betts whose wrist has been acting up on him gave some positive news after the big win claiming he could be ready for Thursday’s game.

“I’ll come in and it should be OK,” Betts said. “I should be able to go tomorrow.”

With four games remaining it is important to get Betts back in the lineup to keep him in baseball rhythm. Wrists can be a tricky injury and one Red Sox fans are weary of and for a good reason. Second Basemen Dustin Pedroia dealt with a wrist injury for several seasons and didn’t look right till it was fixed.

Betts, however, seems to be a different case with the all-star being available to pinch hit on Wednesday night and play in the field on Thursday. John Farrell declined to use him in a pinch-hitting situation in the 10-7 win but knowing he could have done so is a relief to the organization.

The important thing though is making sure everything is good before rushing him back on the field even with the stakes being high.

“It felt good today. It felt a lot better,” Betts said. “Got some treatment on it and whatnot. Just have to come in and get it back going again.” He added, “I should be OK for tomorrow, but I still want to come in and make sure everything is good before we go back out there.”

Boston will start on Thursday their final series of the year with a four-game set at home against Houston to end the regular season.

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Boston Red Sox

Boston Red Sox Chris Sale Says Sayonara Cy Young



Boston Red Sox

Chris Sale may have lost the Cy Young Last Night

Boston has been hearing it all year long: Chris Sale is a shoo-in for the AL Cy Young Award. Well, it now appears that we have all witnessed, what may be, the most massive jinxing in recent Red Sox history. If you’re the type of person who cares about accolades (unlike Sale), it’s not looking very good.

On Tuesday night, against the Toronto Blue Jays, Sale unofficially tossed away his Cy Young bid. The sinewy lefty went just 5 innings, giving up 5 ER’s while allowing 8 hits (4 HR’s) and 2 BB’s. This ugly “Sale Day” start was downright exasperating. That’s because he could have practically materialized a Cy Young Award with a solid outing. Instead, Red Sox fans have been left with a nonplussing shoulder-shrug of a not so grand finale.

Meanwhile, over in Cleveland, Corey Kluber, Sale’s most formidable contender for the AL Cy Young Award, has crossed the finish-line like it was a preemptive victory lap.

Neck and Neck

Chris Sale, the workhorse of this Red Sox pitching staff, has appeared sort of over-encumbered lately. Perhaps the ambitious comparisons to Pedro Martinez have finally gotten to him, or maybe it’s the asphyxiating media presence, or it could just be a “thing”. But in his last 3 starts, Sale has not performed like the ace that Boston could depend on earlier in the year.

He’s not an emotional dude. His “stuff” on the mound is the gateway to this man’s soul.

A 4.45 ERA with a WHIP of 1.26: These are the telling numbers from Sale’s last 3 starts. Going into Tuesday night, He had a collective 2.75 ERA and a .946 WHIP. Considering that he recently became the first AL pitcher since 1999 to record 300 strikeouts, it seemed that a requisite quality-start could almost guarantee him the Cy Young. But after Tuesday’s debacle, Sale has a disproportionate ERA of 2.90 and a .972 WHIP. At best, he will have one more chance to polish the back of his baseball card, before CYA voting begins.

Disclaimer: This by no means represents a “bad” season. It’s just mathematically not as good as the season that Corey Kluber has had.

Contrasting Sale’s sputtering, it has been business as usual for Kluber, through the month of September. He’s gone 3-0 in his last 3 starts. During that stretch, he has not allowed an earned run. Over the course of those 23 innings, Kluber’s WHIP is nearly immaculate at .696. With presumably one more start left before the postseason, his 2017 stats are definitively Cy Young worthy: He has a 2.27 ERA (best in the AL) and his WHIP is .861 (best in the AL). If there are still some doubters out there, Corey Kluber also has a record of 18-4. How could you argue against this guy winning the Cy Young?

The Eye Test

Yes, some vehement Fenway-faithful may still suggest that Chris Sale is the best pitcher in the AL, despite what has been a disappointing finish to his season. And that’s not a totally uneducated contention: He has reminded Boston of what it’s like to have a Pedro-esque bulldog at the front of the rotation.

Sale has had a helluva year - the type of year that we haven’t seen since, well… Pedro in 1999. But Chris Sale doesn’t have to win the Cy Young Award to crystallize his undeniably special talent or his importance to this promising Red Sox team.

Fans should be greatly heartened by Sale’s maiden season in Boston. Remember how guys like Josh Beckett and John Lackey started out here? Chris Sale at 28 years old, is already infinitely better than both of them combined; Beckett and Lackey both went on to win a World Series with the Sox. In fact, Pedro Martinez’s first year in Boston is statistically the most comparable to Sale’s: In 1998, Pedro had a 2.89 ERA with a WHIP of 1.091. And how’d he end up working out for us?

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Red Sox Injuries Pop Up In Loss



Red Sox

The Boston Red Sox lost to the Toronto Blue Jays 6-4 on Monday night. The loss itself has to be disappointing for a team trying to lock up the AL East with the New York Yankees continuing to win ballgames. But the real loss here is the injuries and lack of velocity from starter Drew Pomeranz.

Pomeranz went 2 innings and his velocity was down. His velocity has been down for the last two starts with Monday’s outing being even slower with his fastball. It could be the innings piling up with the starter having a career high in innings this season.

He explained away the velocity questions after the game though. Pomeranz said he only threw two-seamers as his fastball on Monday and wasn’t planning on reaching back for higher velocity until later in the ball game. He claimed it has nothing to do with wear and tear and instead was simply a strategic move.

“I feel fine,” said Pomeranz. “I came out early and was throwing some two-seams a little slower and was trying to get some swings on them. I was missing. They had one big inning and the weird play there, where the ball kind of spun sideways on us, and I probably should’ve gotten over there and been waiting for it at the base. Then I was out of the game.”

It could have been a strategy but his fastball velocity sat around 92 mph in August and is down to 90 mph in September. For the Red Sox they are aware of the innings build up on Pomeranz and plan to monitor him going forward. Manager John Farrell also wouldn’t rule out creating extra rest for the reliever turned starter ahead of the postseason.

“If the opportunity presents itself, I certainly wouldn’t rule that out,” said Farrell when asked about extra rest for Pomeranz before the postseason. “We recognize the innings total, how he’s climbed over the last couple years in particular. But we notice the velocity has dropped somewhat so it’s got to come down to being able to locate more consistently which he did in Baltimore. He was pinpoint control that night. Tonight, not so much.”

The other health concerns on Monday are positional players. Eduardo Nunez left early after re-aggravating his knee injury.

“My foot got stuck at home plate and we didn’t expect that,” Nunez said. “We didn’t expect it was going to be that tough, so we’re going to sit down for a few more days. We’re going to keep working, do my treatment and hopefully in the series with Houston try again.”

Nunez will be brought back slowly with the goal getting him healthy for the postseason.

The other injury is to right fielder Mookie Betts. Betts’s wrist acted up a couple of days ago and worsened in the game on Monday. Betts postgame didn’t seem overly concerned with his wrist and should be good to go in the coming days.

“I’m not really that concerned,” he said after the Red Sox’ 6-4 loss to the Blue Jays. “I think I’m  going to be fine.”

Once the Boston Red Sox lock up the division they can then start to rest some of their stars and give guys like Chris Sale and Pomeranz some much-needed rest. Boston will take on Toronto once again on Tuesday night with Sale on the mound.

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