Yes you read that correctly.
The Boston Red Sox, the same team that has Junichi Tazawa in the bullpen and John Farrell in the dugout as their manager, are actually performing better than expected right now.
You think Sunday’s 10-5 debacle was bad? You’re right, it was.
Henry Owens is clearly a not-ready-for-primetime-player. Junichi Tazawa is still a reliably bad option in relief and the Red Sox missed out on an opportunity to claim sole possession of first place in the AL East.
Even after that loss, even with Eduardo Rodriguez and Steven Wright both sidelined by nagging injuries, even with the struggles of the bullpen, and of course let’s not forget questionable decisions by manager John Farrell….even with all of those things working against them, the Red Sox have won 8 of their last 10. They’re 12-8 this month, and are now just a half game behind the Blue Jays for the AL East lead.
They’re in the midst of a fairly epic 11-game road trip and the road trip is just a portion of a grueling stretch of 23 games in 23 days. No Sleep till September 1st, which is the team’s next off day.
All of that might make one think that the team is really struggling, but that’s not the case.
The team is winning. Monday night the Red Sox will take on the last place Tampa Bay Rays. In a year in which it seems like everyone has a shot in the AL East, the Rays are the lone exception. At 52-70 the Rays are cemented in last place. They’re 17 games back of the Blue Jays. Only the Los Angeles Angels and Minnesota Twins have worse records among American League teams.
Andrew Benintendi is the latest in what is beginning to look like a lengthy line of very impressive young major leaguers drafted, signed and ultimately developed by the Red Sox scouting department.
Sunday Benintendi hit his first career home run. Through 18 games he’s slashing .322/.375/.492. He’s got his one home run, but he’s also hit five doubles, a triple, 10 runs scored and 9 RBI’s. Keep in mind he’s done all of this hitting at or near the bottom of the order.
He’s just the latest Red Sox prospect to display tons of future potential. He’s fitting in nicely on a team with 23-year-old, MVP candidate and All-Star Mookie Betts, and a pair of other 2016 All-Stars in 23-year-old Xander Bogaerts and 26-year-old Jackie Bradley Jr. Injured starting pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez is only 23, and he’s been a key part of the Red Sox most recent success.
There are concerns.
Those two injured starters, the Red Sox really need them to get healthy.
Wright was supposed to start last week, but that didn’t happen. The most recent news has Clay Buchholz returning to the mound to face the Rays Tuesday, and Wright returning to the mound at home to face the Royals this coming Sunday.
Rodriguez has not been placed on the disabled list, and as of Monday morning he’s still scheduled to start Friday night’s game against the Royals.
That’s good news for a Red Sox team that will have to lean heavily on a starting rotation that has been among the better batteries in the league. Friday Evan Drellich of The Boston Herald tweeted that Red Sox starting pitchers had an ERA of 3.41 since the All-Star break. That’s fourth best in the majors.
Credit has to go not just to general manager Dave Dombrowski, but to the much-maligned manager John Farrell.
After all it is Farrell who has been at the helm for Rick Porcello’s Cy Young caliber campaign, Drew Pomeranz’s adjustment to the American League, David Price’s improvement, an All-Star first half from Steven Wright, Eduardo Rodriguez’s bounce-back from a knee injury, and as of Monday, a somewhat improved Clay Buchholz.
Things aren’t so bad for the Red Sox these days. They won’t win every game, and they’re far from perfect, but they’ve improved the starting pitching, and the offense is still among the best in baseball.
Could be a lot worse.