If the Red Sox had gone into Minnesota and came away with one win it would have been perfectly fine. However, to go up against the Twins and win two of three puts the Red Sox in a great position for their upcoming six-game homestand.
6/21 Chris Sale vs. Trent Thornton (R) 7:10 pm NESN
6/22 Brian Johnson vs. TBD 4:05 pm NESN
6/23 Rick Porcello vs. Marcus Stroman (R) 1:05 pm NESN
Chris Sale’s 10 strikeouts in his last outing, means that he has struck out 10 or more in eight of his last 10 starts. Additionally, his ERA is down to a season-low 3.49. His average fastball velocity is now sitting just below 95 mph. It is still on the lower end of what we have seen earlier in his career, but it is better than what we saw at the start of the season.
Trent Thornton has been a somewhat frustrating pitcher this season. His season-long 4.36 ERA is solid, but his home form has been poor. His road ERA sits a 2.39, but his home ERA is 6.39, with 9-of-11 home runs he has allowed this season coming at home, giving him a .528 slugging percentage allowed in the Rodgers Centre. The Red Sox hope to reverse that trend as he comes to Fenway in the first game of the series.
Marcus Stroman’s numbers have been much more even, with his home and road ERA being within .02 (3.22 vs. 3.24) of one another. However, all nine of his home runs allowed have come in his home starts. Five of those home runs have come in his last four home starts, and all nine coming in his last six home starts. In addition, seven of those home runs have come against left-handed hitters. Much like with Thornton, the Red Sox are looking to change that form and deal Stroman some road home runs in this start.
The Toronto Blue Jays have a hard at the plate this season, but at home they have really struggled. They rank dead last in the majors in batting average with a terrible .205 line, .16 lower than the next worst team. They also rank dead last in wRC+, as well as bottom five in slugging percentage and wOBA.
The Red Sox were carried by their pitchers in the Twins series, as their offense scored just 14 runs in 35 innings. Those 35 innings are what you might expect from a four-game series, but this was just a three-game series, as Tuesday’s game went to 17 innings before Max Kepler won it for the Twins. Interestingly just two of the Red Sox 14 runs were scored by means of a home run. That is a promising sign as it means the Red Sox are able to string together plays to score runners in a tough series with a good team.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Pitching: Seemingly every series I discuss the fifth starter situation, and this will be no different. With Brian Johnson on the mound against one of the worst offensive teams in the league, the Red Sox will be desperate to see him repeat his success from last time out. He only went three innings against the Orioles, but if he can stretch that out in this start, then he could cement himself as the short-term fifth starter in the rotation.
Hitting: The Red Sox have won seven of their last eight, scoring 53 runs in that time. An interesting subplot on this streak has been the form of Mookie Betts in June. Betts is hitting just .219 in 90 PAs this month, thanks in large part to a .224 BABIP. Another struggler this month has been Michael Chavis who has struck out in 31-of-74 PA in June. The Red Sox will be hoping those two can use this series to get them back in some form ready for the showdown with the Yankees in London at the end of the month.
In the space of a few days the feelings around this team have changed. Suddenly this team has gone from a road underdog just looking to stay hot, to a favorite expected to win a series at home. That brings a completely different pressure, especially for a team with just a .500 record at home.
Just a handful of days ago I was writing how we just wanted to not get swept in a series. Now the feeling is that anything less than a sweep against the Blue Jays might be disappointing. The Blue Jays have won just 26 games this season, and they are exactly the team the Red Sox need to beat well f they are to get back in the AL East race.