The Red Sox aren’t exactly Arya Stark, and the AL East isn’t exactly the Night King. But yesterday the Red Sox won, the Rays got swept in a double header by the Royals, and the Yankees lost against the Diamondbacks. That’s a game to a game and a half gain in the standings in one day. The end result is the Sox are a respectable 5.5 games out in the AL East today. Here’s what’s going right.
Playing Cora Ball
Last year the Red Sox pulled off a .667 winning percentage all year, resulting in 108 wins. The last 12 games the Sox have quietly gone 8-4. That’s, you guessed it, a .667 winning percentage. Turns out Cora can still manage.
Sure, there are leaky parts of the 2019 pen. But the Red Sox enjoy, by design, a flexible stable of lock down options. Without Kimbrel, or an ordained closer, Cora is free to do what Tito Francona wanted to do with Pabelbon back in the day: Use his best relievers for the most important outs, no matter the inning. Matt Barnes has picked up where he left off last season: 2-0, with 2 Saves, a 2.25 ERA, a .83 WHIP, and 17.3 K/9. But the key number is 4. That is the number of Holds he has. That means Barnes is facing the toughest part of the lineup in the 7th or 8th inning when the game is on the line. Ryan Brasier has great numbers as well (1-0, 6 Saves, 1.32 ERA, .80 WHIP), but he strikes out significantly less than Barnes (7.9 K/9). So while Brasier is racking up more saves, Barnes is the true fireman of the 2019 Red Sox bullpen.
Another standout is Marcus Walden, seemingly coming out of nowhere to accumulate a 1.65 ERA with 10.5 K/9 in the early going. And while Workman has walked a few (12 Walks in 13.1 Innings), he’s also striking out 13.2 K/9.
The bottom line is, what Theo and the boys wanted in 2003 with Bullpen By Committee, Dombrowski and Cora are pulling off.
J.D. Martinez has been hitting all season, but now the MVP is starting to turn it around. Mookie has raised his batting average 89 points over this 12 game stretch, from .200 to .289. He is spearheading an offense that’s scored 5.33 runs a game in this stretch, almost a full run ahead of their season average of 4.51. Also, a lot closer to the 5.45 of 2018.
This stretch has also seen the arrival of the young and dynamic Michael Chavis. He’s hitting .314 with 3 Home Runs and a 1.042 OPS. Not bad for a rookie.
The Starting Pitching
No one personalizes the starting pitcher turnaround like the steady Rick Porcello. After a drubbing by the Baltimore Orioles left his season ERA at 11.12 on April 13th, he has gone 3-0 and lowered his ERA by half, to 5.52. His last start in particular was a thing of beauty: 8 innings, 2 hits, 0 runs, 8 strikeouts.
And he’s far from alone. The Sox have won Eduardo Rodriguez‘s last four starts, David Price‘s ERA is down to 3.60, and Chris Sale has only allowed four earned runs total over his last two games. This is starting to look like the rotation everyone envisioned at the beginning of the year.
The bulk of the 2018 roster is still here. They were looking like all of James Holzhauer‘s Jeopardy opponents for the first few weeks. As it turns out, it really was early all along.
Featured Photo via HBO screenshot