Things Are Bitter on Twitter:
A few weeks back, when the Red Sox and Yankees played each other, the Yankees fired off a couple of jabs at the Red Sox on Twitter. After one win, they referred to the Red Sox as the “team in second place” and made fun of their slogan “Win, Dance, Repeat”, changing it to “Win. Dominate. Repeat.” The next night, they referred to the Sox as “the team still in second place.” When the Red Sox took over first place, their Twitter account made sure everyone knew they were in sole possession. I took to Twitter, asking the Yankees, “Who’s the team in second place now?” Promptly, the Red Sox lost and the Yankees won the next night, causing a Yankees fan to fire back to me, “I don’t know, you tell me?” The Yankees had been in command of the East for a while before sliding and losing 8 of their last 9 games. With the two teams tied now for first and the resurgence of the Yankees, a less bitter yet fun nonetheless rivalry could be brewing. The current Yankees team, full of young talent, doesn’t have any real “villains” like A Rod, making for a team that I can’t really say I have a strong dislike for.
Pleading (for) the Fifth:
The Red Sox have been struggling all season to find a fifth starter, not that the rest of their rotation has been perfect. Chris Sale has obviously been spectacular for the most part, leading all of the MLB in strikeouts. Drew Pomeranz has been a pretty serviceable pitcher himself. Rick Porcello, coming off a Cy Young year, has been anything but stellar, with David Price not quite performing at the caliber he is capable of just yet. The fifth starter, however, has been the biggest hole for the Sox. With Eduardo Rodriguez and Steven Wright, an All Star last year, out with injuries, the Red Sox have used several pitchers to fill the holes. Brian Johnson looked like he could be a good option, pitching a complete game his first start, but went out with an injury as well. Just today, the Red Sox have picked up Doug Fister off of waivers from the Angels. A pitcher who has a career ERA of 3.60 in the MLB but has been in AAA this year, it is not clear whether he could be a useful 5th starter or not. Possibly, a change of scenery could help him. It could be worth a shot to try him out there.
(Not So) Sweet Swinging Leon:
Last year, Sandy Leon was a welcome surprise in the batting department, getting the nickname of Sweet Swinging Sandy Leon from radio announcer Joe Castiglione. This year, however, he has not quite lived up to that name, with his batting average dipping from .310 last year to just .233 this year. The batting of Leon gave a boost to the lineup last year, and if he is able to turn things around, that could be a factor in the Red Sox making a run at the division and in the playoffs. The other Sox catcher, Christian Vazquez, has been a pretty decent hitter, batting .294, and has turned in some great defense. As the two catchers have been pretty much splitting duty, it would be great to have both hitting well.
Searching For the 8th (inning) Wonder
Another question mark for the Sox has been the 8th inning setup man, with closer Craig Kimbrel dominating the 9th inning. Matt Barnes has been the setup man for the most part this year, but it seems to me that Joe Kelly would be the better option. Barnes has allowed 3 earned runs in his last 2 appearances. In the last one, he gave up 2 walks in a row, a game the Sox lead 4-2 when he came in but went on to lose 6-4, with the 2 runners Barnes walked scoring on a grand slam. With a lower WHIP and ERA and the ability to bring more heat, it seems like it wouldn’t be a bad idea to try Kelly out more often as the 8th inning setup man, instead of in earlier innings like the 7th which he has mostly been used in recently.
Will the Real 3rd Baseman Please Stand Up?
Another major hole the Red Sox have had is at 3rd base, where they have used 7 different players this year, the most in the MLB. Deven Marrero has had his moments, but hasn’t really been able to hit consistently. The same could be said for Josh Rutledge. Pablo Sandoval has recently gone to the DL with an “ear infection and flu”. Most likely, this is just an excuse for the Red Sox to sit him down, as he has been a big disappointment in his time in Boston. I have heard different rumors of trades for the Red Sox to get a 3rd baseman, with the Royals’ Mike Moustakas’ name coming up often. He would certainly be an upgrade for the team if the price was right. In any event, with the worst production from any team in the MLB at the 3rd base position, something has to give in order for the Sox to make a serious playoff run.
Best of the Rest:
With all 5 teams in the division being separated by just 5 games, there is no reason to count anyone out just yet. The Orioles and Blue Jays sit tied 5 games behind the Red Sox and Yankees after taking different paths to get there. The Orioles started hot but have been cold recently, with the Jays turning it on lately after a bad start. However, both teams did make the AL Wild Card game last year. With some exceptions, they do have mostly the same teams as last year, so there is no reason to think they couldn’t each make a run at the playoffs or division still. The Tampa Bay Rays have been somewhat of a surprise this year themselves, sitting just 2.5 games out of first. A team that doesn’t have stellar pitching but one that can certainly hit well, they too could contend for the top spot in the division. Overall, the Sox record against the AL East isn’t too great, with all teams in the division usually playing them pretty tough. The only prediction I will give right now is that it will certainly be an exciting and competitive rest of the year in the AL East.