Bos2

Series beginning
09/13/2021

Boston Red Sox

We haven't seen the Red Sox since April, when their success was a surprise. Now at the other end of the campaign, it's their struggles that surprise. Thanks in part to a recent COVID outbreak among the squad, the BoSox have been essentially a .500 team since early July, finally dropping out of first place by the end of July, then to third place by mid-August before regaining the second slot just last Wednesday (thanks more to a delicious losing streak suffered by the New York Yankees than any surge on Boston's part). No less than a dozen Red Sox players have been on the COVID IL since utilityman Kiké Hernández contracted the virus in late August. With the return of shortstop Xander Bogaerts last Friday, there are now nine Boston players out with COVID, including pitchers Chris Sale, Martín Pérez, and Matt Barnes; outfielder Danny Santana, and infielder Christian Arroyo. Some, including Barnes, have been vaccinated and are asymptomatic so could return shortly. Others, including Arroyo, were significantly ill and will be out longer.

The breadth of the COVID outbreak has taxed the limited depth of the Red Sox organization and prompted waiver claims and other emergency fill-in experiments. Former Mariner Taylor Motter was picked up, played three games, and let go again after his part in a comical play involving another ex-Mariner, Nelson Cruz, who reached on a fly ball that was lost in the sun and came all the way around on a series of misplays capped by Motter's throw into the third-base stands. It was a play that epitomized the Red Sox's second half.

With all the roster shuffling, it's been a while since Boston trotted out their regular lineup, but now eight of the standard nine starters are healthy. Bogaerts is their top hitter, with recent addition Kyle Schwarber hot on his heels—the former National and Cub has reached base at a .420 clip since joining the Red Sox, and his liability as a defender has been less pronounced than feared. Third baseman Rafael Devers is the prime power threat; he's already topped 30 homers and 100 RBI for the season while hitting for a decent average. DH J.D. Martínez, outfielder Hunter Renfroe, and first baseman Bobby Dalbec have all also clocked more than 20 bombs. The bench has improved with the recent additions of ex-Brewer Travis Shaw and ex-Angel José Iglesias, and on the whole the Boston offense ranks near the top of the American League.

It's on the pitching side that they're most vulnerable, especially with the COVID absences. Starter Nick Pivetta recently returned from the COVID IL, but Sale and Pérez are still on it, so for this series Boston's scheduled starters are Eduardo Rodríguez, Nathan Eovaldi, and TBA. Rodríguez had his own bout with COVID last year, missing the entire truncated season and developing myocarditis as a complication from the coronavirus infection. This year, he's been a bit of a Jekyll-Hyde type, throwing a quality start in one game only to get hammered the next; in his last four starts, a solid QS effort against Cleveland and a brilliant six shutout innings vs. Tampa Bay were sandwiched by drubbings in which he failed to complete four innings. Eovaldi made the All-Star team this year, but has gone 1-3 since the break, largely thanks to his relief tanking his good starts (though Toronto and Tampa Bay each pummeled him a little more than a month ago). Best guess on Wednesday's starter would be sophomore right-hander Tanner Houck, who despite an 0-4 record has been having a decent half-season since his promotion in mid-July; he's yet to top five innings in a start or even go over 90 pitches, but he does appear to have good control and an impressive K:BB ratio. Once the bullpen gets into the action, all bets are off; with the COVID outbreak depleting the relief corps, anything could happen. That said, both Adam Ottavino and Garrett Whitlock (not to be confused with original Mariner Gary Wheelock) have been plenty solid all year long setting up for the currently-absent Barnes.

The Mariners will start Logan Gilbert, Tyler Anderson, and Marco Gonzales in the three games. After getting rocked in three straight starts, Gilbert has begun to right his ship, turning in a pair of solid outings against Houston his last two turns. Anderson had his worst showing as a Mariner his last time out, when the Astros chased him before he could get through five frames for the only time this year, but he always bounced back right away when he's had a bad start before the trade with Pittsburgh. Marco is 7-0 since the All-Star break, having pitched to a 2.34 ERA in that span with six official Quality Starts and three that fell short by way of not finishing six innings; his only poor outing since the break was earlier this month in Phoenix, when he gave up five runs to the Diamondbacks before the M's bailed him out with an eventual 8-5 win.

Splits

Last ten 5-5
Away 37-35
vs. LHP 28-27
vs. RHP 53-37
One-run games 26-17
vs. AL West 13-17
vs. Mariners 2-2

Who’s Hot & Not

Last ten games

Christian Vázquez
.333/.368/.444, 2 XBH, 4 RBI

Alex Verdugo
.333/.400/.455, 3 XBH, 6 RBI

Hunter Renfroe
.325/.386/.550, 5 XBH, 8 RBI

Kyle Schwarber
.211/.333/.342, 13 Ks

Last 3 series vs. Seattle

4/25/21 BOS 5, SEA 3
4/24/21 SEA 8, BOS 2
4/23/21 BOS 6, SEA 5
4/22/21 SEA 7, BOS 3
5/12/19 BOS 11, SEA 2
5/11/19 BOS 9, SEA 5
5/10/19 BOS 14, SEA 1
3/31/19 SEA 10, BOS 8
3/30/19 SEA 6, BOS 5
3/29/19 BOS 7, SEA 6
3/28/19 SEA 12, BOS 4

Manager

cora

Alex Cora: The little brother of 1990s Mariner fan-favorite Joey Cora, Alex got himself caught up in the Houston Astros' cheating scandal while he was on the Astros' coaching staff in 2017, Houston's World Series "championship" year. Cora had already led the Red Sox to a World Series title of their own in his rookie season as a big-league manager, 2018, when the scandal broke and he was found out. Even so, after the scandal was fully investigated in 2019, the Red Sox fired him and gave the reins to bench coach Ron Roenicke, which turned out to be a short-term hiatus, perhaps even a misdirect. Cora was suspended by Major League Baseball for a year as punishment for his part of the scandal, so he wouldn't have been eligible to manage in 2020 anyway; then in November, almost immediately after the suspension was over, the club re-hired him on a two-year contract (with two additional option years). The Red Sox had their own, smaller-scale scandal in 2018 involving a video replay employee stealing signs, but Cora was cleared of any involvement there. "I deserve my suspension," Cora said last summer. "We made a mistake as a group, the entire [Houston] team." Despite claims to have had a list of managerial candidates, the Red Sox apparently were not considering anyone else to manage this year and fired Roenicke immediately following a last-place finish in the mini-season of 2020.

Commissioner Rob Manfred has been greatly criticized for being too lenient on the Astros and former Astros involved in the scandal; now both Cora and Houston's former manager, A.J. Hinch, are back in the drivers' seats as Major League managers (Hinch was hired by the Detroit Tigers) having only had to sit out what turned out to be a bit more than a third of a season. Though Cora may well be remorseful for Astrogate, many outside of Red Sox Nation feel he (and Hinch and others from the ’17 Astros) have no business being back in a big-league dugout so soon, but to be fair to Boston, Cora did serve out his proscribed sentence and he was extremely popular with Red Sox players, so re-hiring him might be the best move they could have made from a purely baseball point of view. But it still has a stink of something dishonest about it, as if Cora's firing was a mere PR tactic to show that the Red Sox were on the side of righteous fair play, but just for the moment and as soon as attention moved on to something else any such principles would fade away.

Familiar Face

None of the Red Sox players or uniformed coaches have ever suited up for the Mariners.

Franchise History

Boston Red Sox(1908 - present)
 
World Champions:1903, 1912, 1915, 1916, 1918, 2004, 2007, 2013, 2018
League Champions:1904, 1946, 1967, 1975, 1986
Division Titles:1988, 1990, 1995, 2016, 2017

— Notes —

Fenway Park's 37-foot high left field wall, known as the "Green Monster," is there to compensate for the short distance from home plate to the left field fence, yes? Well, it does serve that purpose, but it was built in 1914 because Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey didn't want the eateries across the street to have an unobstructed view of games. In Yawkey's view, if people were to watch the Sox, they would pay for tickets.

Only the 5th Aruban to play Major League Baseball, Xander Bogaerts speaks four languages—English, Dutch, Spanish, and Papiamento (the principal language in Aruba).

Enrique Hernández goes by his nickname, which is all well and good aloud, but can be an issue in print. Pronounced "KEY-kay," the Spanish name is spelled K-I-K-E, which doesn't go over well with a large segment of the English-speaking populace. "Teams started using an accent mark [when spelling it] to avoid controversy," Hernández said. Even though the accent is (a) not proper grammatically and (b) used on the é when the pronunciation would place it on the í, Hernández is cool with it. "I don’t mind. If you don’t read it in Spanish, it can be offensive."

Adam Ottavino's father John is an actor who has appeared in small roles on shows like NYPD Blue and Law & Order as well as films including Malcolm X and Revolutionary Road.

Relief pitcher Hirokazu Sawamura was once sidelined with an unusual injury—"long thoracic nerve paralysis," caused by an acupuncture treatment from a team trainer for the Tokyo Yomiuri Giants. Per Japanese custom, the trainer, the team president, heck, maybe even the editor of the Yomiuri Shimbun had to apologize profusely for damaging the Giants pitcher, but that didn't stop them from trading Sawamura to Chiba later on when his performance faltered; after the trade, in midseason last year, Sawamura's fastball recovered to its former velocity and he pitched to a sub-2.00 ERA and a sub-1.000 WHIP for the Chiba Marines.