|07.03.14 at 1:43 pm ET|
Former Red Sox first baseman Kevin Millar joined Middays with MFB Thursday to discuss the Red Sox‘ struggles this season, Mookie Betts‘ performance out in the outfield and Jon Lester‘s contract situation. To listen to the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.
While the Red Sox sit 8 1/2 games out of first place in the division, Millar said that it’s too early to raise the white flag, as an unstable AL East could give Boston a chance to get right back into the hunt for a playoff spot.
“The problem is that this American League East is crazy,” Millar said. “The Rays were 15 [games] out June 10, now they’re 9 1/2 out. You can’t make this up. There’s not a team that you can go, ‘Hah, they’re going to dominate.’ … With the Yankees now, they can’t hit. They’ve lost a bunch of games. They were looking like they were putting it all together. The Jays, you can’t rely on them. I mean, their offense is great and I get it, but you got to pitch at this level, so I don’t know what to do.
“If I’m the Red Sox, you’ve got to win games. You got to beat the Cubs at home, they can’t do that. … You can’t give up either, because it can change in three weeks.”
Lester’s contract discussions with the Red Sox has become a hot topic recently, as ESPN’s Buster Olney said that the negotiations are drawing a lot of attention from within the Boston clubhouse - something that Millar said isn’t the case.
“I don’t think that’s a distraction,” Millar said. “We’re talking about multi-million dollars, exciting times. I never thought that signing a four or five or six-year extension or contract is a distraction. That’s between the player, the agent and the team. Now, if Jon Lester is sitting around and going around like a little social butterfly in the locker room, of course that becomes a distraction. But that’s not what he’s doing. It’s a business.”
|07.03.14 at 11:24 am ET|
Rob Bradford will be hosting the first edition of this month’s Trade Deadline Show, sponsored by Hub New England Insurance. (Click here for more information.)
Bradford’s guests will include Toronto Blue Jays Alex Anthopoulos, Houston Chronicle Astros beat writer Evan Drellich, WEEI.com’s Alex Speier and other baseballl insiders.
Included in the discussion will be whether or not the Red Sox should be buyers and sellers at the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, and it they are in the position to sell should Jon Lester and Koji Uehara become priorities to move.
The fun begins at 10 p.m. and runs until midnight.
|07.03.14 at 10:44 am ET|
Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington joined Dennis & Callahan on Thursday morning to discuss the state of the team, Xander Bogaerts‘ severe slump and Jon Lester‘s future. To listen to the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
All momentum that Boston generated from a series win against the Yankees in the Bronx was halted following a three-game sweep at the hands of the Cubs at Fenway Park, including a 16-9 drubbing Wednesday. Boston sits 8 1/2 games behind first-place Toronto in the division and is just one game ahead of last-place Tampa Bay.
Despite Boston’s dire outlook at this point, Cherington expressed hope that his team can turn it around over the final 77 games of the season.
“It’s sort of a combination of frustrated, disappointed and yet still very optimistic about where we’re going. … I think this series against the Cubs was a little bit of a microcosm of our season,” Cherington said. “Some of what’s happening, we can point to and explain and say, ‘OK, this part of the team needs to improve and this part’s not working,’ … Some of it’s just hard to explain.”
Added Cherington: “We know this is not where we want to be. It’s going to get better. … So we’re just focused on that and everyone’s on board trying to do the same thing.”
In what has been a recurring theme this season, the Red Sox have struggled getting the timely hits that the 2013 squad thrived on all of last year. While the Sox broke out for nine runs Wednesday, they left 14 men on base. Cherington acknowledged that the Sox have not looked like themselves at the plate this season.
“It’s going to ebb and flow a little bit, our performances with runners in scoring position, every team does that year in and year out, even within a season,” Cherington said. “There’s certainly times when our at-bats, they just don’t look like Red Sox at-bats.”
|07.03.14 at 9:25 am ET|
A year ago, the Red Sox outfield was an area of strength for the club. Jacoby Ellsbury and veteran Shane Victorino provided not only solid offensive output but often stellar defense in right and center field while Daniel Nava and Jonny Gomes held down the fort in left.
Things are different in 2014. The offensive struggles of Red Sox outfielders have been no secret, but the outfield alignment could feature three rookies, including two players who have a total of 53 games worth of outfield experience between them.
However, the inexperience of Jackie Bradley Jr., Brock Holt and Mookie Betts might not be a detriment to this Red Sox defense. In fact, the players bring some positives to the table.
“We feel like between Brock, Jackie and Mookie, when they play in the outfield we have three center fielders chasing the ball around,” said bench coach Torey Lovullo, alluding to the speed and athleticism of three. “They’re game changers. When those three guys are out there we feel like we have guys who can go chase the ball and execute a game plan as good as anybody.”
Defensive performance isn’t an easy thing to quantify, and there aren’t nearly as many statistics to analyze performance as there are for hitting and pitching. But the Red Sox outfield grades out pretty favorably when looking at the numbers. Prior to Wednesday night, the Red Sox actually ranked second in the majors in defensive runs saved for outfielders and third in ultimate zone rating (another defensive metric that attempts to quantify how many runs a fielder saved or gave up through their fielding performance). At least when it comes to those two metrics, the Red Sox outfield defense actually has been better this season than in 2013, when the outfield ranked fifth in DRS and eighth in UZR.
Bradley obviously deserves a lot of the credit for stabilizing the defense in the outfield. While his offensive performance has left something to be desired this season, he’s shown time and time again that his defense is major league ready and in fact makes him one of the better outfielders in the game. He’s saved about nine runs this season when going by DRS, which ties him for sixth amongst major league outfielders. Nava also has saved nine runs.
Not that the young outfielders have gone without making their share of mistakes. Betts, more so than Holt, has shown some vulnerabilities. On Wednesday night, the second baseman-turned-center fielder misplayed a ball off the wall in left-center when trying to back up Gomes. The ball bounced over his head and resulted in a triple.
“There are a lot of angles you have to take, so many different ways to go about getting balls. I had a couple of mishaps [Wednesday] but I’m still learning,” Betts said. “It’s more just getting used to this field because not all fields are like that. Some are just off the wall and in the gap and you go and get them but here, when they’re off the wall you have to play them at certain angles.”
|07.03.14 at 3:24 am ET|
When the dust finally settled following Wednesday night’s slugfest at Fenway Park, the opposing team’s box score said it all: 16 runs, 19 hits, four home runs.
No, the Red Sox did not face off against the 1927 Yankees and their imposing Murderer’s Row lineup.
It was the 2014 Chicago Cubs — the same Cubs who sit 12 1/2 games out of first place in the NL Central.
It was the same Cubs who, entering Wednesday’s game, were 28th in baseball in runs scored. The same Cubs who had only swept one other team – the lowly Mets — this season.
Chicago’s 16-9 thrashing and subsequent sweep of the Red Sox was just the cherry on top of what has been a frustrating and mostly fruitless 2014 campaign for Boston.
For most of this season, it has been the Red Sox‘s feeble lineup, ranking 14th in the AL in runs scored (321), that has served as the root cause of the team’s struggles.
However, that was far from the case Wednesday, as the Sox scored nine runs on 16 hits — the team’s highest run total since scoring 10 runs against the Indians on June 13.
But in a frustrating turn for the Sox, it was Boston’s pitching, which ranked fourth in the AL in team ERA (3.73) coming in Wednesday’s action, that fell apart.
Sox starter Brandon Workman, who registered quality starts in two of his last three outings, was rocked by the normally frail Cubs lineup. By the time Workman was pulled from the game after four innings, the lanky 6-foot-5 righty had surrendered five hits and six earned runs.
Instead, Boston relievers were lit up for 14 hits and 10 earned runs over six innings of work.
“It was a rough night from the mound,” Farrell said after the game. “Starting off, Brandon had a difficult time getting the ball down in the strike zone. Any conditions where it’s hot and the wind is carrying the ball, we made a number of pitches up in the strike zone that they were able to take advantage of. It just wasn’t with Brandon, I felt like if we could get a couple innings out of Felix to stem the tide a little bit, it didn’t work out quite as we had hoped.”
|07.03.14 at 3:18 am ET|
It was a night of many firsts for Mookie Betts on Wednesday. First major league home run and RBI, first hit at Fenway Park, even his first major league strikeout. But in a weird coincidence, there was a little bit of familiarity for Betts as well.
The 21-year-old deposited a 2-1 high changeup from Cubs reliever Carlos Villanueva into the Monster seats for his first big league homer, and strangely enough, the man who caught Betts’ inaugural long ball is someone Betts had played against in summer league baseball during his high school days in Tennessee. And as if the story wasn’t unbelievable as it is, Betts’ former high school opponent was at Fenway randomly, and not to watch Betts play.
It’s quite a small world.
While Betts’ two-run home run came in the fifth inning of a 16-9 drubbing at the hands of the Cubs, his play stood out as one of very few highlights from an otherwise ugly rout.
The display of power is still somewhat new to Betts, who didn’t hit a home run until his second professional season. Since then, though, he’s hit 23 over the course of 204 games at four different levels in the minors. He hit a pair in 106 plate appearances with Pawtucket before being promoted. Betts wasn’t sure he got all of the pitch he smacked out of the park on Wednesday, as evidenced by his sprint out of the box. It took him just over eight seconds to reach second base, and he trailed A.J. Pierzynski, who was on base, by just feet as they neared home plate.
“I don’t think I’m a home run hitter, so any time I hit it, I’m going to take off sprinting,” Betts said. “When I touched home plate I kind of startled A.J. because as soon as he turned around, I was right there. It all happened so fast, I got around the bases so fast that it didn’t really hit me until I was in the dugout and I got to kind of sit and think, ‘I got my first one.’ ” Read the rest of this entry »
|07.03.14 at 12:48 am ET|
It wasn’t a good night at Fenway Park on Wednesday for the Red Sox, who fell to the Cubs, 16-9, completing a three-game sweep. The Sox players weren’t the only ones having issues, as on the NESN television broadcast, live on the air, Red Sox color analyst Jerry Remy lost a tooth during the fourth inning.
See for yourself:
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