Five weeks ago today, I closed my weekly column, Baseball World, in the Biddeford Journal Tribune with these words ‘ I am still sticking by my prediction that they, ( the Red Sox ), will win the American League East. ‘
On that date, the Sox were in third place, 2 ½ games out of first. They went into this weekend’s series with the Tampa Bay Rays, in last place, trailing the Rays by nine games.
They were in a do or die situation. Even though it’s still the first half of the season, if the Sox lost three to the Rays, they would be twelve back, a huge deficit to make up. They beat the Rays, two out of three, to move a game closer but are still eight back with 85 games to play.
They got a big win in extra innings on Friday night, behind a good outing by Rick Porcello. On Saturday, despite a good effort from Wade Miley, they lost 4-1, getting only three hits. Justin Masterson gave them a big lift on Sunday, pitching five innings in his return from Pawtucket and with some home run help and good performances in relief from Yunichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara they held on to win the rubber game 5-3.
Mike Napoli got ejected from Sunday’s game after complaining about a called third strike that the television replay showed was actually a strike on the outside corner. Napoli has cried all year about the ‘expanded’ strike zone.
Napoli struck out 187 times in 2013, 133 times last year and, as of today has struck out 70 times this year. He is hitting .203 and has struck in out eight of his last 15 trips to the plate. It’s time he stopped complaining and started to hit. There are other people on that team and some in Pawtucket who can play first base.
In today’s game, with the Sox up 5-1 in the sixth inning, Manager John Farrell decided to replace Masterson, who had looked great, but had probably rerached his pitch limit. After Ogando got through the sixth, who did he bring in? In a game that was as crucial as any the Sox have played to date Farrell went to Jonathan Aro. Aro’s only other major league appearance was on Thursday against the Orioles. In that game, he came in in the sixth inning. He immediately gave up a single scoring a runner he had inherited. He got the next batter to get out of the inning and gave up two doubles and another run in the seventh. When he gave up a double to the lead off hitter in the eighth, he was removed, having pitched 1 1/3 innings, giving up four hits, including three doubles.
Today he faced three batters, gave up a double, a triple and a run before he was removed with the score 5-2 and a runner on third with one out. Fortunately, after the third run scored, the Sox were able to shut down the Rays the rest of the way for the win.
Then, with the Sox up 5-3 and two outs in the ninth, a runner on third and the tying run at the plate, Evan Longoria flied to Jackie Bradley in right for the last out of the game but Bradley didn’t know there were two outs and threw home to try to keep the run from scoring from third.
Does this team inspire confidence in you that they can turn it around? I still think they have the ability to do so but something needs to wake them up.