Boston Red Sox
The first third of the season for the Red Sox has been a mirror image of the season for the Mariners. Entering the year with high expectations, the defending World Series champs opened the season with a 6-13 record and fell 8½ games behind in the eastern division. Then, beginning with a three-game sweep of the Rays in the latter half of April, Boston started to climb out of their hole and finally reached the .500 mark on May 8th—the day after the Mariners hit .500 coming from the other direction.
Poor start or not, Boston has a stacked lineup that is not to be underestimated. Led by defending MVP Mookie Betts and DH J.D. Martínez, the Red Sox are a potent mix of power and patience at the plate; they lead the league in walks and five of their starting nine have on-base percentages better than .350.
The early Sox woes are best represented by ace pitcher Chris Sale, who didn't record a win until the calendar flipped to May. So far this month—against two of the weakest teams in the American League, Chicago and Baltimore—Sale has gone 1-0 with 24 strikeouts, allowing just one run in 14 innings of work and bringing his ERA down to a less-ugly-but-still-not-Sale-like 4.50. The M's will miss Sale's turn in the rotation, instead drawing Eduardo Rodríguez, Rick Porcello, and whomever will slot in place of David Price, who went on the injured list with tendinitis on May 8th. Boston could opt to do a bullpen game then or perhaps recall former Mariner Erasmo Ramírez from Triple-A Pawtucket for the start. Rodríguez and Porcello have both lost to the Mariners already, bounced out in the early innings in the home-opening series in Seattle. The M's will start Erik Swanson, Felix Hernández, and Marco Gonzales in these three games.
Mariners vs. Eduardo Rodríguez (CAREER)
Mariners vs. Rick Porcello (CAREER)
Players to Watch
Michael Chavis: Injuries to infielders Dustin Pedroia and Brock Holt necessitated the early promotion of Chavis from Triple-A three weeks into the season, and the 23-year-old clearly does not want to go back. In 71 trips to the plate, Chavis has posted a line of .293/.423/.638, giving the Red Sox a choice to make when veterans Pedroia and Holt come off the IL later this month.
Matt Barnes: Having let Craig Kimbrel go, the Red Sox found themselves without a go-to closer for the ninth inning when the year began. Barnes has racked up a few saves, but has not been given a typical closer's role, as he'll come into a variety of late-inning circumstances, not just save opportunities. He's been Boston's best reliever thus far, with a WHIP of 0.848 over 15 appearances.
Rafael Devers: Though he had a sophomore slump-type of year last season, big things were expected from the slugging Boston third baseman in 2019 and so far he's delivered, batting .304/.383/.400. "He's on a mission," said manager Alex Cora. One thing he'll be looking to improve is his glovework—Devers led the Majors in errors by a third baseman last year and was second overall in errors committed to Jurickson Profar, now of Oakland. He has nine official miscues so far in 2019.
Alex Cora: As the defending World Series champions, the Red Sox were invited to the White House and some of them accepted and attended earlier this week. Cora did not go, nor did most of Boston's minority players. As Boston sportswriter Steve Buckley tweeted, "basically it's the white Sox who'll be going." Cora insists the racial divide is not affecting the clubhouse chemistry for the team, but one has to wonder; the current presidential administration has been overtly hostile to minority groups and even an otherwise apolitical White House visit by white teammates may well be seen as acceptance of that hostility by others. Cora himself cited the president's refusal to adequately respond to the devastation in Puerto Rico from Hurricane Maria and his repeated lying about the relief measures committed to the island as reasons for skipping the event. "People still lack basic necessities, others remain without electricity, and many homes and schools are in pretty bad shape almost a year and a half after Hurricane Maria struck," Cora said. "I've used my voice on many occasions so that Puerto Ricans are not forgotten and my absence (from the White House) is no different." As part of his contract negotiations in 2017, Cora got the Red Sox to provide a planeful of supplies and relief aid that he and other Boston notables delivered to the island territory in January of 2018.
Ramón Vázquez: While none of the current Red Sox players have ever suited up for Seattle, coach Vázquez has. Drafted by the M's in the 27th round in 1995, he made his Major League debut in the legendary 2001 season. You may not remember him because he only played in 17 games that year—he appeared at three infield positions and batted .229—before being shipped off to San Diego in an offseason trade. For the Red Sox, Vázquez serves as, for lack of a better term, the stat coach. Officially, he is the "liaison to the club's advance scouting and statistical analysis efforts for the purpose of presenting information to players and coaches." In his own words, Vázquez "look[s] at video about pitchers and hitters' tendencies and stuff like that. We've got our department up there ... I just make sure I break it down to the players here so they can trust the process. So far it's been really good." He is also the team's unofficial English-Spanish interpreter.
|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|
RHP Steven Wright begins the season by serving an 80-game suspension for PED use, having tested positive for growth hormone releasing peptide 2 (GHRP-2). He started last season on a 15-game suspension for violating the league's domestic violence policy following an arrest stemming from an incident with his wife (the couple released a statement claiming Wright "did not raise a hand" to his wife during the altercation). Debate is needed within the commissioner's office regarding the disparity of punishments for PED vs. DV violations.