It’s Monday again. Let’s open up today’s Lunch Break Down with the only show in town, the Red Sox.
On Friday, Heath Hembree and Matt Barnes combined to give the Red Sox a loss. This was after Rick Porcello (8-3 3.70 ERA) pitched a fantastic game, much better than I anticipated he would. The Red Sox were not considered favorites, to me anyway, headed into this game. Things did not look well as Seattle jumped out to a 1-0 lead after Jean Segura hit his 6th HR of the year, and in the 2nd inning Seattle added on two more runs off of Porcello; who continues to struggle at the start of games.
Historically, Seattle SP James Paxton(6-1 3.44 ERA) performed well against Boston. This came to an abrupt end, as the Red Sox answered Seattle in a big 3rd inning of their own. Brock Holt had an RBI single, a fielding error by Kyle Seager resulted in a Mitch Moreland at bat scoring two runs for the Red Sox. This inning was capped off after Xander Bogaerts (11) had a 3-run homer to force Paxton out of the game.
Porcello would only give up one more run on his way to a decent 6 inning, 9 strikeout performance. He isn’t exactly lighting the league on fire, but he is doing fine for a mid-rotation starter. This game was lost by the Red Sox bullpen. Heath Hembree gave up a homer to Mike Zunino (11) on a 3-2 count, 88 MPH slider. In comes super hero Matt Barnes and he allowed Red Sox ruiner Denard Span to rope a 2 RBI double, giving Seattle the 7-6 lead. Unfortunately Boston tried to muster something in the top of the 9th when JD Martinez and Xander Boaerts got on base, but the rest of the order couldn’t pick up their slack.
Saturday may have been even more frustrating for the team, as they fell 1-0. Steven Wright (2-1 1.23 ERA) pitched great yet again, but the Red Sox offense could not get anything going against Wade LeBlanc (3-0 2.63 ERA). Wade LeBlanc has been a major league pitcher for 10 years now, and this may be the best start he has ever had in his career. He had some rough years on some bad teams in San Diego. He had to play with Miami and Houston (before they were good), had a decent stint with the LA Angels, a cup of coffee with the Yankees; and now has bounced between Pittsburgh and Seattle for the last two seasons. Against the Red Sox, though, LeBlanc looked like a stud. This was the first time all season that LeBlanc pitched more than 6 innings. He also set a season high with 9 strike outs, and surrendered only 2 hits. The Red Sox should’ve been able to scrape together at least two runs off of him, but games like this happen sometimes. The offense went cold, as 22 Red Sox in a row were sat down by the lively LeBlanc. The only offense in this game came in the bottom of the 3rd inning. Otherwise it was a knuckleballer and a soft tosser battling it out. Mookie Betts and Eduardo Nunez were the only Red Sox who got hits in this game. Wright had 7 strong innings, 5 hits, 4 K’s and only 2 walks. He is beginning to look like the guy he was before John Farrell made him pinch run against the Dodgers and blow out his shoulder. That’s a positive to take from this overall negative game.
The offense put any questions of a possible slump on Sunday, exploding for 9 runs in a win. The Red Sox salvaged a split with the Mariners, taking the first and final game of this four game series. Boston improved to 49-24 on the year and percentage points behind the Yankees in a virtual tie for first place in the AL East. Eduardo Rodriguez (9-1 3.59 ERA) did give up a home run, but that was the only flaw I would find in this start. He had 9 strikeouts in only 6 innings of work, this was a tremendous start for the lefty. Rodriguez has battled injuries and now finally seems to be coming into his own. He’s another dangerous weapon on the underrated Red Sox starting pitching staff.
Mediocre Mike Leake (7-4 4.47 ERA) pitched as bland as he always has, 5 runs in 6 innings. Decent enough, but not after this Red Sox was coming off of a shut out. Leake was the sacrificial lamb, and sacrifice him they did. Mitch Moreland got things started in the top of the 3rd with a 2 RBI single. Rafael Devers (11) deposited a ball into the right field seats for a 3-run homerun and the Red Sox found themselves ahead 5-0 quickly. Nelson Cruz(17) took Rodriguez deep in the 4th. This would be the last offense Seattle could muster until garbage time in the 8th inning. The Red Sox added on three more runs in the top of the 7th behind the power of Jackie Bradley Jr (4) and Xander Bogaerts (12). Bradley Jr has looked better with the bat lately, and Bogaerts has been on a tear. Bogaerts is finally finding the power stroke that he was touted to have when he was a youngster coming up in the organization.
Overall, the weekend could’ve been better for the Red Sox. Seattle is a good team, but I would hope that the Red Sox would beat them in a 5 or 7 game series. It would have been nice to see them take 3 of 4 or sweep, but a split isn’t the end of the world. They almost have 50 wins on the season, but the team still has some deficiencies. They need bullpen help and depth on the bench. It’ll be interesting to see if Dombrowski can even do anything. Manny Machado would be nice, but I don’t think he is a necessity at this point. Perhaps for next season he could fit on this club, but Boston needs to solidify the bullpen because once October comes, the management of close games in the postseason will be a lot easier on the teams rookie Manager Alex Cora if they have a can’t-miss bullpen.
The Celtics had a piece of related interesting news this weekend. Mid-afternoon on Friday word got out that Kawhi Leonard wanted out of San Antonio. Reports from ESPN suggest that Leonard is interested in going to Los Angeles. I do not expect any serious transactions to happen until the LeBron domino falls. Once LeBron makes his decision, the rest of the off-season will commence. The Celtics are of course rumored to be interested in the former NBA Finals MVP. They reportedly tried to acquire Leonard at the trade deadline this past season, so it’s no surprise if Danny Ainge continues to pursue the player. Ainge would have to make the money work and also manage to not low-ball the Spurs again like he may have done in February. The Celtics should be able to offer the greatest value for San Antonio in return for Leonard, but would Boston be willing to risk losing out on the prime years of Jaylen Brown, the Sacramento ’19 pick, and possibly the asset of Terry Rozier for only two guaranteed years of Leonard; who is an unrestricted free agent in 2020?
All remained quiet with the Patriots, unless you like Oprah. In which case, you were really excited to watch Super Soul Sunday on the OWN Network where Oprah sat down with Tom Brady to discuss a bunch of things to push his life after football. Brady discussed how he has learned to lose better than before because of his kids; and also mentioned that he sees retirement coming. We all do, Tom. Will it be next year or in four years?
The Bruins continue to court Ilya Kovalchuk. Their biggest roster move over the weekend was re-signing Matt Grzelcyk to a two year extension. The SportsHub is reporting that the team is considering moving on from veteran David Krejci, with some reluctance from Don Sweeney.
This week we can expect the Manny Machado rumors to continue gaining steam, possibly resulting in an old-fashioned Red Sox vs Yankees arm race (that New York would surely win) as well as continued speculation with the Celtics and their future plans involving Kyrie Irving, Kawhi Leonard, and LeBron James.