The Red Sox could not have gone into the All-Star break any better. Five wins outs of six against the Blue Jays and Tigers, including a sweep of the Tigers in Detroit. Now the MLB leading Dodgers are coming to town for a three-game series. Can the Red Sox get the second half off to the best possible start?
Things had been looking up for Sale, but they’ve gone a little awry in the last couple of weeks. His last two starts have seen 10 earned runs allowed in 11 2/3 innings. The worse news is that those starts were against the hardly fearsome offenses of the Blue Jays and White Sox. Now against the very good Los Angeles Dodgers he is going to need to be at his very best.
Hyun-Jin Ryu has been simply incredible this year. He has a 1.73 ERA on the season, with just 21 earned runs allowed. Even more impressive is that seven of those earned runs came in one start in Colorado, leaving just 14 earned runs in 105 innings. Outside of that one start in Colorado, he has a 1.20 ERA this season.
While both Maeda and Stripling have had solid seasons, they have had their issues on the road. 27 of the 40 earned runs allowed by Maeda have come away from Los Angeles, giving him a 5.52 ERA. As for Stripling, he has been marginally better with a 4.28 ERA on the road. Those numbers present a real opportunity for the Red Sox.
I have mentioned numerous times in this article about the Red Sox record against right-handed pitchers, but it bears repeating here. They rank first in the majors in batting average and OBP, second in BB% and OPS, and 10th in ISO. When you have three quality right-handed pitchers on the mound, these impressive numbers become even more important than ever.
It has worked out well for the Red Sox that they have three left-handed starters lined up for this one. The Dodgers rank among the top-five in most hitting categories. However, when left-handed pitchers are on the mound their numbers take a little dip. They rank 11th in batting average, 10th in slugging, and 12th is ISO when lefties are on the mound. Still good, but not as good as when righties are facing them.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Pitching: All eyes will be on the Sale and Ryu game. However for the Red Sox, their focus needs to be on the first two games more than ever. No matter how good Sale is they have to assume that Ryu will win that game. That could pile the pressure on Rodriguez and Sale. It could also relieve the pressure on Sale and we may see his best outing of the season. Either way, this is going to be a fascinating series.
Hitting: After facing a relatively weak pitching group in both the Blue Jays and Tigers, things are about to get very different. All three of the pitchers they face in this series have an ERA under four. The Red Sox hitters are going to have to be at their World Series-winning best to come away from this series with a couple of wins.
The Red Sox did exactly what they needed to do before the All-Star break, giving them a launchpad for the second half of the season. They are not in the box seat, but they are also not completely out of the picture either.
This series against the Dodgers presents a real opportunity for the Red Sox to lay down a marker. Take two or three of these games off the Dodgers and the Yankees and Rays might just sit up and take notice. It may sound easy on paper, but this will be a tough series for the Red Sox, and they will need to be at their very best to get anything from it.