|07.20.14 at 1:30 pm ET|
Where would the Red Sox be without Brock Holt?
That is certainly a fair and legitimate question to ask as the Red Sox approach the second half of the season and try to work their way back into a reasonable chance for the playoffs.
The leadoff hitter has provided a vital anchor at the top of the batting order as the Red Sox searched desperately for a consistent leadoff hitter. He comes into Sunday hitting .325 with a .369 OBP and a .826 OPS. Holt has started all 63 games this season, batting leadoff in 52 of them. As the leadoff hitter, his number are nearly identical to his overall numbers, .326/.364/.825.
Of course, he’s been incredibly versatile in the field, playing seven of the nine positions while earning the name “Superman” from some Red Sox fans. The only two positions he hasn’t tried yet are pitcher and catcher. On Sunday, he’s starting at third as the Red Sox give Xander Bogaerts the day off against hard-throwing righty Yordano Ventura.
“With Brock Holt moving around the field and going up against a right-hander in Ventura, we just wanted to get another left-handed bat in there,” skipper John Farrell said.
“We’re probably at the point in the year where it’s less of a concern than when he was playing right field for the first, or left field for the first time, or first base for the first time. There have been a lot of firsts this year. And the way he’s handled each position defensively, now we’re finding ways to keep his bat in the lineup and not reluctant to change the position by the day.”
What’s truly remarkable is that, as late as early April, Holt wasn’t even considered an option as a leadoff hitter to replace Jacoby Ellsbury.
“He wasn’t in the conversation, either in the offseason or as we got through camp but to the level in which he’s hit at and performed at, and the consistency against left-handers and right-handers, it’s been invaluable, the continuity he’s created at the top of the lineup,” Farrell said.
The left-handed hitting Holt is actually hitting 20 points higher against lefties (.336) than righties (.316), a testament to his ability to hang in against southpaws.
“I think when you see a guy be able to use the whole the field as much as he does and how he you see him handle left-handers, he can track the ball so deep into the zone that he doesn’t overcommit early to breaking balls from left-handers that run away from him,” Farrell said. “And because it is a compact swing, his pitch recognition can be a little better than others because he doesn’t have to start the swing early in the flight of the pitch to home plate.
“I think it’s [just] a trait of really good hitters, regardless of the spot in the lineup. The more compact, the less you may get fooled on certain type of pitches. They’re more difficult to pitch against because he has the ability to take a really good pitcher’s pitch and fight it off and foul it off as he gets deeper into some counts and I think it’s a direct reflection of why you see him hit at the average he is at currently and what he’s done throughout his minor league career.”
|07.20.14 at 11:43 am ET|
Xander Bogaerts and Mike Napoli will get the day off from the starting lineup as the Red Sox look for the three-game sweep of the Royals against hard-throwing righthander Yordano Ventura. Shane VIctorino is playing in his second straight game with Boston, and fourth consecutive overall, dating back to the start of his brief rehab stint with Pawtucket on Thursday. He is scheduled to have the day off Monday when the Red Sox open a series in Toronto.
For a complete batter vs. pitcher breakdown, click here.
RED SOX LINEUP
Brock Holt 3B
Daniel Nava LF
David Ortiz DH
Mike Carp 1B
Stephen Drew SS
Jackie Bradley Jr. CF
Jon Lester SP
|07.20.14 at 9:25 am ET|
July has already seen a number of key trades take place, most recently on Friday, when the Angels acquired closer Huston Street (and a prospect) from the Padres for four prospects. The trade of Street represented the move of one area where the Red Sox potentially could have made some intriguing noise as sellers: Closer.
Koji Uehara, of course, is eligible for free agency after this season. If the Red Sox conclude that they are not in the race, he’d represent a fascinating chip — a player who arguably did as much as anyone to secure a World Series title for the Red Sox last year. A team that feels like it’s one piece away from a title would seem to have every incentive to pursue Uehara.
In this case, however, it appears that the Angels weren’t a match for the Sox on a couple of levels that are revealing about both the state of the trade market for closers and the Sox’ approach to trade chips:
1) The Angels didn’t want a rental player.
The Halos not only acquire the services of Street for the duration of this year, but also hold an affordable $7 million option on him for 2015. The idea that Street could impact the team beyond the final months of this year made a deal more palatable.
‘Were it not for the fact we had the ability to control Huston for a year and two months, it would have been far more difficult to justify giving up the type of package we gave up to get him,’ Angels GM Jerry DiPoto told the L.A. Times. Read the rest of this entry »
|07.20.14 at 8:05 am ET|
Lester (9-7, 2.65 ERA) has been nearly unhittable for over a month, allowing just one earned run over his last six starts, posting a 1.01 ERA in the process. The 6-foot-4 lefty, who has posted career-highs in ERA (2.65) and WHIP (1.14) this season, continued his torrid pace in his last start July 10 against the White Sox.
Against Chicago, Lester allowed just one earned run over seven innings with zero walks and 12 strikeouts. Lester looked dominant from the get-go, striking out two batters in each of the first five innings of the game.
“I had pretty good command of my fastball to both sides, but I think the biggest pitch was my curveball,” Lester said after the game. “I was dropping it in for strikes and bouncing it, too. When I’m able to do that, I can get some separation from my fastball and cutter. It widens the plate for me. I was able to exploit that today.”
Lester was solid in his last outing against Kansas City on Aug. 8, 2013, allowing three runs (one earned) in seven innings of work in what as an eventual 5-1 Royals victory. In 10 career starts against the Royals, Lester is 6-3 with a 1.60 ERA — which stands as the lowest ERA from an active pitcher with at least seven starts against Kansas City.
|07.19.14 at 11:47 pm ET|
One of the staples of last year’s championship season for the Red Sox has once again become a recurring theme over the first two contests of this brief three-game homestand against the Royals: Contributions from up and down the Boston roster.
Whether it be Xander Bogaerts’ and Jonny Gomes’ clutch home runs Friday night or Mike Napoli‘s sixth-inning go-ahead solo shot Saturday, the Sox are suddenly benefiting from different players stepping to the forefront of individual games en route to wins.
“That’s what we did last year,” Napoli said after Saturday’s 2-1 win over Kansas City. “That’s how you win ballgames. It can’t just be one guy doing it, so everyone is going to have to contribute and we all know that and we’re going to take it one day at a time.”
Comparisons aside, the Red Sox‘ recent stretch of clutch hitting has been a key factor in sustaining a run that has seen Boston win three in a row and six out of its last seven games.
With the game deadlocked in a 1-1 score Saturday, Napoli strode to the plate to face off against Royals southpaw starter Danny Duffy, who had only surrendered three hits over his first 5 1/3 innings of work.
After forcing the count to 3-1, Napoli turned on a high fastball from Duffy and clobbered it over the Monster and into Lansdowne Street for his 11th home run of the season, giving Boston a 2-1 lead that it would not yield in the following innings.
|07.19.14 at 9:50 pm ET|
Entering Saturday’s game against the Royals, the Red Sox had only scored two runs over starter Rubby De La Rosa‘s last four starts, equaling out to an unsightly 0.73 run support average.
Boston was able to double that run total on Saturday night, and while two runs isn’t much, it was enough for De La Rosa, who spun seven brilliant innings of one-run, five-hit dominance en route to a 2-1 Red Sox victory.
Boston has now won two-straight series while also earning their first series victory against a team over .500 since the team took two out of three games from the Yankees on June 27-29. Boston’s last eight wins at home have all been decided by one run.
De La Rosa has now allowed three runs or less in five of his seven starts on the year while improving his ERA at home to 1.53 in four starts (4 earned runs/26 innings).
The game remained knotted at 1-1 until the sixth inning, when Mike Napoli took a 92 mph fastball from Royals starter Danny Duffy and deposited it over the Green Monster to give the Sox a one-run lead.
Shane Victorino, playing in his first game with Boston since May 23 after battling hamstring and back injuries for almost two months, was solid at the plate, going 1-for-3 while showing no limitations both in the field and on the basepaths.
With the win the Red Sox move to 45-52 on the year and have now won six of their last seven games.
|07.19.14 at 9:39 pm ET|
Shane Victorino‘s message to the media prior to Saturday night’s game against Kansas City was both simple and direct:
He is not going to be the savior for this team.
However, he can certainly play a big part in a second-half turnaround for the Red Sox.
“I’m not the guy, I’m not the answer,” Victorino said. “I’m not the guy that’s going to carry the load, but I’m going to try to be as good as I can be and help this team win.”
The 33-year-old outfielder was called back up to Boston Saturday after being sidelined since May 24 with a hamstring injury. Victorino — who hit .242 with one home run and 10 RBIs in just 21 games with the Red Sox this season – had a long and frustrating road back to the big leagues, suffering multiple setbacks with both his hamstring and his back injury while rehabbing in Pawtucket.
After being on the shelf for almost two months, Victorino acknowledged that he was excited to finally be back out patrolling the Fenway outfield going forward.
“It’s what it’s all about,” Victorino said. “You work hard, you try to do what you got to do to get back as quick as you can. Unfortunately, there were some setbacks, but I’m here, I’m at this point where I worked hard to get back to where I’m at. As I said, I’m just going to continue to work hard and try to be the best player I can be and go out there and do what I can to help make this team better.”
Victorino played six games with Triple-A Pawtucket over an almost month-long stretch following his hamstring injury. The ailing outfielder was shut down from June 24 through Wednesday due to multiple hindrances to his rehab, but after playing a total of 16 innings over Wednesday and Thursday’s games with the PawSox and showing no physical limitations, Victorino was ready for the call back up to Boston.
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