Life of a Sportsaholic

This blog is intended to be insight into my life as an irrational, stats-driven, obsessive sports fan in Boston. I am a fan of all types of sports with an emphasis on Boston teams and am a proud UConn alum.

Tag: baltimore orioles (page 1 of 2)

Orioles and Red Sox: The New AL East Rivalry

Matt Hazlett/Getty Images

For decades the premier rivalry in the AL East (and in the MLB) was between the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees. It was one of the most bitter rivalries in sports that resulted in countless fights and insane postseason matchups coming down to the final out. Over the past decade, the hate in the Red Sox/Yankees rivalry has all but disappeared and their games are no longer appointment television. Don’t worry sports fans, another AL East rivalry is just beginning to heat up.

After a reckless slide into second base by Manny Machado, tensions began to rise between the two clubs. Dustin Pedroia was sidelined by the play and as much as he tried to downplay the incident as a hard baseball play, John Farrell and his Red Sox teammates took exception. Farrell spoke to league official Joe Torre (there is always a Yankees connection) after the game insisting that a reckless slide like that one should be disciplined by the league, but his appeal got nowhere. The only other course of action for the Red Sox is to throw at Machado to send a message and close the book on the incident.

Unfortunately (or fortunately for rivalry lovers), Matt Barnes chose to retaliate with a ball to the head instead of just firing a 95 mph fastball into Machado’s ass like most would do. There are a lot of unwritten rules in baseball, but throwing at someone’s head is, and always has been, a giant no-no. Barnes has since been suspended for 4 games (pending appeal) and he deserves every game of it. I love the UConn product, but it was a stupid move. The pitch “got away from him” while trying to throw high and inside and just happened to end up behind Machado’s head. I can smell the bullshit from here.

Given how it all unfolded, I can’t imagine the bad blood is over between these two teams. The play again next week at Fenway Park and after that 4-game series, they meet another 10 times during the regular season. Both teams are projected to finish in the top 2 or 3 in the division and could very well both make the playoffs. Buck Showalter will surely continue to needle the Red Sox in press conferences and the heat will continue to be turned up as the pressure mounts later in the season.

Let the games begin…

World Series Aspirations for the Red Sox

mlb-world-series-trophy

After a 3-year hiatus from postseason play, the Red Sox are back. They begin their postseason run tonight in Cleveland for game 1 of the ALDS after pulling away and securing the AL East crown in late September. The Indians are a formidable foe with former Red Sox manager Terry Francona at the helm and this should prove to be an interesting series, but the question I pose is much larger. Can the Red Sox win the World Series this year?

After the first month of the season, it looked as though the Red Sox offense could single-handedly win the World Series despite a struggling starting rotation, but as the year wore on, the two flipped a bit. The Red Sox starting pitching began to improve and the offense came back down to earth. The last month of the season, the Sox pitching staff had a 3.05 ERA and a strong 3.25 Ks/BB ratio, both season bests, while the Sox offense had the lowest average of the season, .267. In general I’m not worried about the offensive drop because they were still solid, but the uptick in pitching is critically important.

If we use the 2 wild card games as indicators of postseason play, pitching will be vital to success. Last night in the Mets vs. Giants game, both starters were dominate and allowed 0 ERs in a combined 16 innings. The night before in the Blue Jays vs. Orioles game, the starters allowed just 2 ERs a piece. Hits tend to be fewer and further between and runs come at a premium in the postseason, so a strong pitching staff is required to make a deep run. Timely hitting is of course crucial as well, but if your pitching rotation can’t put up 0s, then it will be very difficult to win consistently.

Tonight’s game 1 starter is Rick Porcello, arguably the favorite to win the AL Cy Young in 2016. If he continues to pitch like he can, then the Red Sox have a good chance to walkaway from game 1 with a W and gain control of the series on the road. Opposing Porcello in game 1 is Trevor Bauer, who despite having a nice year, holds a 6.39 ERA in his last 6 starts in September and October. Which Bauer will show up? The 9-6, 3.73 ERA solid pitcher until September, or the run-allowing machine in September and October.

The answer to my ultimate question is yes, if the pitching staff can hold up and perform at a high level, the Red Sox can play for the World Series. The offense will likely be good enough to win, but it all hangs on the pitching staff. With Porcello in game 1 I feel pretty confident, but David Price in game 2 and Clay Buchholz in game 3 scare me a bit. Price and Buchholz can both be lights out or absolutely terrible. If the starters sway to the side of lights out, then book your ticket for a Cubs vs. Red Sox World Series. Wouldn’t that be something…

From Fringe Playoff Team to World Series Contender

Raj Mehta/USA TODAY Sports

Raj Mehta/USA TODAY Sports

It’s been nothing short of an unreal stretch for the Boston Red Sox over the past few weeks. They are winners of 8 straight, two consecutive 4-game series sweeps against AL East foes the New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles, and owners of the MLB leading 15-5 record in September. They sit 5.5 games ahead of the Toronto Blue Jays in the division and 7 games up on the Orioles just a few weeks after a 3-way tie for the division was very much in the conversation. How have the Red Sox gone from a fringe team to a legitimate contender? Pitching and a will.

Thus far in September, the Red Sox pitching staff is having their best month of the season. The staff has a ratio of 4 Ks per BB, a .209 opponent batting average and a .598 OPS in September, all significantly better than any other month. Most notably, Red Sox relievers have allowed just a .186 opponent batting average this month, which is excellent. The improvement in the pitching staff has allowed the Red Sox offense to feel less pressure to score in huge bunches and just have smart at-bats. They have now scored exactly 5 runs in 5 consecutive games for the first time in history.

Although the pitching has significantly improved, the offense has also still performed at a very high level. The Red Sox batters are hitting .289 in September with 31 HRs and 119 RBIs thanks to an incredible tear from Hanley Ramirez and the continually impressive hitting of David Ortiz and Mookie Betts. It’s more than just the offensive firepower however, there is a certain intangible quality that all great teams have: a will to win.

Until September, the will to win appeared only on occasion and in spurts, but now it feels like this team will have a chance to win every game, every day. Teammates support each other and lift each other after a bad inning or a bad defensive play and celebrate together after a big win. They have each others backs and appear to believe in their ability to make a serious postseason run now, something that was missing just a short month or so ago. A streaking team is often even more dangerous that the consistently great team.

Don’t look now, but the Red Sox seem to be peaking at just the right time.

Red Sox Put Yankees on Life Support

AP/Michael Dwyer

AP/Michael Dwyer

Heading into the 4-game weekend set with the New York Yankees, the Red Sox were hanging on to a 1 game lead in the AL East. Toronto was just another game further back and the surging Yankees were 4 back in the division and just 2 back in the wild card. Just 4 games later, the Yankees chance of making the postseason has dropped to 1.7% and the Yankees are 8 games back in the division (4 in the wild card) thanks to a hugely important sweep at the hands of the Red Sox.

There are few things I enjoy more than watching the Red Sox put another nail in the Yankees coffin (actually 4 nails). Even though the rivalry has gotten quite stale and boring over the past few years, the hate is still there for at least some portion of fans and a late season series that has a serious impact on the postseason is always fun. Watching the Red Sox comeback on multiple occasions in the series, including an epic 5-run 9th inning surge on Thursday night, made me a bit more confident in this team’s future.

There are 13 games to play in the regular season, including a crucial 4-game set with the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards starting tonight. A 3-game division lead is a nice cushion, but can be erased easily with so many head-to-head matchups. Momentum is on the Red Sox side thanks to their biggest rival…now what can the Red Sox do with it?

Crazy Series Finale Grows Red Sox AL East Lead

Peter Power/The Canadian Press via AP

Peter Power/The Canadian Press via AP

As a football fan it’s easy to get caught up in the early season rush and in many years past, with the Red Sox virtually eliminated by now, the attention shift was easy. Not this year. This weekend was even more important for the Red Sox than the Patriots (and college football) given the outrageously close playoff race in the AL. Entering the weekend series against the Toronto Blue Jays, the Red Sox were 1 game ahead of the Jays in the standings, 2 games ahead of the Baltimore Orioles and just 4 games ahead of the surging New York Yankees. After Sunday’s crazy, but huge 11-8 victory over the Jays, the Red Sox have built a 2 game lead in the AL East, their largest division lead since May 31st (3 games ahead). With 20 games to go, it’s still a 4-way divisional race.

Sunday’s finale was a must win for both the Jays and the Red Sox. The Jays were 1 game back of the Red Sox and a W would have tied them atop the league. The game played like each team was desperate, once one team scored, the other would come back with a rally of their own. The game was 1-1 after 1, then Jackie Bradley Jr. hit a 3-run bomb in the 2nd inning to give the Red Sox a 4-1 lead. The bottom of the 3rd was Toronto’s chance to respond, getting 5 runs off of Clay Buchholz (how many times have I typed that line?) to take a 6-4 lead. The Red Sox tied it up in the top of the 4th, only to lose the lead again in the bottom of the inning on Edwin Encarnacion‘s 2nd HR of the game.

After grabbing a run back in the 5th inning, Brock Holt inexplicably tried to steal home with 2 outs in a 1 run game and gets caught leaving the game 8-7. File that in the head-scratcher category. Never fear Red Sox fans, David Ortiz is here for the rescue, hitting a 3-run HR to give the Red Sox the lead for good. They tacked on 1 more in the 7th to make it an incredibly important 11-8 wild win. That was a precursor to a day of close, but important wins in New England!

According to the ESPN calculation, the Red Sox now have an 93.4% chance of making the playoffs, which was hard to imagine a few weeks ago. The Jays have dropped to 74.5%, the Orioles at 56.7% and the Yankees still hanging in at 13.5%. All 4 teams are still within 4 games of the division lead and the Jays and Orioles are currently 2 games ahead of the Detroit Tigers and Yankees for the 2 wild card spots. There is a real chance 3 AL East teams make the postseason in 2016, but with dozens of divisional games remaining, who knows.

There’s Something About the Rays

Brian Blanco/Getty Images

Brian Blanco/Getty Images

When looking at the remaining schedule for the Red Sox, it’s hard not have both some anxiety and some hope. The final 23 games of the season are against AL East foe, including 6 against the team just in front of them in the standings (Toronto Blue Jays) and 7 against the team right behind them in the standings (Baltimore Orioles) which offer incredible opportunity for both rising and falling int he standings. On paper the most winnable games are the 3 against the Tampa Bay Rays, but so far in 2016, that’s been far from a foregone conclusion. Thus far in 2016, the Red Sox are 8-7 against the AL East bottom-dwellers, who currently sit with a 56-75 overall record.

Of the last 5 games the Red Sox and Rays have played head-to-head, 4 have been decided by just 1 run including last night’s 4-3 Rays victory. These two teams seem to have a knack for keeping games close into the late innings when one big play or hit becomes a turning point. Last night that was Evan Longoria‘s massive game-winning HR against Clay Buchholz in the 8th inning of a tie game. Despite having a terrible overall record, there is something about this year’s Rays team that just believes they can take down the Red Sox, regardless of their overall talent level. The reason? Familiarity.

The way baseball schedules are set-up, divisional rivals generally match-up 19 times throughout the course of an 162 game season. By the time the team is playing their 9th and 10th games against each other, they are intimately aware of strengths and weaknesses and have likely seen a lot of the opponent’s pitching staff. Then factor in players who spend multiple seasons in the division and the familiarity level sky-rockets. When players feel comfortable with a match-up, regardless of their season successes or failures overall, they can be more comfortable in their approach at the plate. It doesn’t always work that way, but it has certainly help the Rays in their time against the Red Sox this season.

The remaining games against the Blue Jays and Orioles are critical for making the postseason, but don’t sleep on the 7 against the surging New York Yankees and the 4 remaining against the Tampa Bay Rays either. Every single game is huge from now until the beginning of October so strap in and come along for the ride.

Red Sox Back in 1st Place

red sox standings
I’m just going to leave this here…

Mookie Betts for the Win

Mookie Betts. Wow. All 5 Red Sox runs on 2 HUGE HRs for the very important W vs. the Baltimore Orioles. That swing put the Red Sox in a 3-way tie for the AL East lead with the Os and Toronto Blue Jays.

Encouraging Start to the Road Trip for Red Sox

drew pomeranz getty

The biggest issue for the Red Sox thus far in 2016 is winning close games and low-scoring games. On Monday afternoon, the Red Sox checked off both boxes when they beat the Cleveland Indians 3-2. The beginning of a 4-city, 11-game road trip was tight until the final out and despite some scary, heart-stopping moments from closer Craig Kimbrel, the win was extremely refreshing. Before Monday, the Red Sox were an abysmal 4-32 when scoring 3 or fewer runs. That’s an incredibly concerning trend, especially if the Red Sox hope to make the playoffs and have a chance at winning anything. Guess what the postseason is full of? Close, low-scoring games.

This 11-game road trip is pivotal for the Red Sox. The trip includes 2 games against the Baltimore Orioles who are just ahead of the Red Sox in the standings and then 4 against the Detroit Tigers who are nipping at their heals for the 2nd wildcard spot. If the Red Sox emerge from this tough road stretch at 6-5 or better, they will be in great shape as a friendlier September schedules waits around the corner. They need to carry their 4-game winning streak and all the momentum it gives them into Baltimore, because we know the Orioles will be ready for a dog fight.

The other major promising thing from Monday afternoon was Drew Pomeranz. He picked up his first win in a Red Sox uniform and looked strong through 7.2 innings. He allowed just 1 run going into the 7th, but got into a little trouble in the inning allowing his 2nd. To go along with allowing just 2 runs, he had 6 Ks, 5 hits, and just 2 BBs. Monday was just what the doctor ordered and gave fans hope that some strong performances down the stretch are not out of the question from him.

Benintendi Only Bright Spot in Loss

AP Photo/Elaine Thompson

AP Photo/Elaine Thompson

All the hoopla and attention around the call-up of the Red Sox #1 prospect Andrew Benintendi couldn’t overshadow another low-scoring loss on Wednesday. Rick Porcello allowed 3 solo HRs throughout his complete game outing, but with the Red Sox offense going dormant, it wasn’t enough. The only offensive highlight was from the man himself, Benintendi, who picked up his first and second career MLB hits in his first start.

Neither hit was crushed, but on a night when the opposing pitching staff was shutting down the Red Sox monster offense, the hits were even more impressive. I’m sure it will take some time for Benintendi to get truly comfortable in the big leagues, but last night shows how confident he is in his ability. With tremendous pressure on him, he was composed in the batters box and looked mostly in control throughout the entire game. That is an incredibly important quality and will serve him well as he adjusts to the MLB grind.

Putting the nice Benintendi performance last night aside, this team is struggling right now. With wins by the Toronto Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles last night, the Red Sox fall 3 games back of 1st in the AL East and 2 games back of 2nd place. There is a long way to go, but with most of the remaining schedule on the road, it will be a tough slog. For the first time in a very long time, the Red Sox are on the outside looking in at a postseason slot.

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