The Red Sox swept the Tampa Bay Rays last weekend in a series that began with some serious back-and-forth between David Ortiz and David Price on Friday night. John Farrell was ejected, teams were warned, aggressions ran high. Somehow, Mike Carp took all the posturing personally and after he took exception to being hit by an inside pitch, the benches cleared. Things went as they typically do after that. Boston was on its fourth manager by the end of the game, a Sox victory on a walk-off gapper from A.J. Pierzynski.
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Boston Wins Seven In A Row
The bench-clearing nonsense the night before gave way to some of the team’s best baseball of the season on Saturday and Sunday. Rubby De La Rosa and Jon Lester pitched gems and Brock Holt swung a red-hot bat (four doubles in four ABs on Sunday).
The Sox hit the road on a seven-game win streak before old friend Justin Masterson shut the offense down for 7 innings on Monday night en route to a 3-2 Cleveland win. The offensive silence continued for the remainder of the series as the Indians swept the Red Sox courtesy of a walk-off 12 inning home run from Asdrubal Cabrera on Wednesday night.
The feast or famine Red Sox begin a three-game series against the Tigers tonight in Detroit.
De La Rosa Gets Called Up, Dazzles
De La Rosa was promoted to fill the hole created by Clay Buchholz’s trip to the DL. But he may be here to stay for a while if Saturday’s performance is a sign of things to come. From the ‘mikey lowell of the sandbox’ on the Sons of Sam Horn message board:
Rubby de la Rosa’s 2014 major league debut was nothing short of spectacular. 100+ heat? Check – Rubby rang the bell at 100.5 mph in the third inning, touched 98 as late as the seventh inning, and averaged 96.6 on 39 fastballs. Dominant changeup? Check – 46 changeups, 37 for strikes, 13 for whiffs, in any count and to any location. Legitimate secondary pitches? Check – 12 sliders, mostly to RHB, and 3 of them for whiffs; and 8 sinkers, averaging 95.3 mph. De la Rosa pitches backwards — throwing fastballs out of the strike zone and changeups for strikes. He doesn’t seem to get distracted by runners on base.
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De La Rosa is just the latest reminder that pitching really isn’t this team’s problem. Through Wednesday, the Red Sox pitching staff led the major leagues with a total of 9.5 Wins Above Replacement (WAR). The Braves (8.1), Yankees (7.7), Athletics (7.5) and Nationals (7.3) rounded out the top five best staffs in terms of overall WAR. (For those out there who enjoy the Cherington Screwed Up the Bullpen narrative: that 9.5 WAR includes a major league-leading 3.2 from relievers.)
Garin Cecchini Gets Called Up, Gets a Hit, Goes Back Down
One of the organization’s top prospects saw unexpected game action on Sunday when Dustin Pedroia was ejected for arguing balls and strikes. The infielder was up as a one-day band-aid with Stephen Drew not slated to return until the following series in Cleveland. It was a sip of coffee rather than a cup. But Cecchini made the most of it with a beautiful, inside-out swing for a double and his first major league hit.
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Mookie Betts Gets Called Up…To Pawtucket…
News of Betts’ promotion to the PawSox came over the transom on Tuesday. From the GM:
“You look at his performance over the course of the season to date and he’s really excelled in every area of the game,” said general manager Ben Cherington. “He’s controlling the strike zone, he’s running the bases, he’s playing defense, he’s obviously hitting, he’s hitting for power, and I think at some point, we have an obligation to challenge our young players when they are performing at a level where it’s not certain that they’re being challenged, it’s up to us to make sure that they’re being challenged.”
If Cherington is being genuine here, Betts has to be considered a viable candidate to contribute to the big club later this season, either as a mid-season “acquisition” in lieu of a significant deal prior to the non-waiver deadline on July 31 or as a September call-up.
Jon Lester’s Revival and David Ross
Jeff Sullivan writes that Jon Lester’s on pace to shatter the number of called third strikes located outside of the strike zone he’s accumulated in a single season. While some of those punchouts are surely due to perfect execution from Lester, David Ross’ ability to frame the outside corner should not be overlooked. Lester has, based on Baseball Savant’s pitch tracking tool, reaped the benefit of 27 punchouts in which the pitch was outside of the strike zone.
With Pierzynski, in three games, Lester has registered five called strikeouts. Three were out of the zone. With Ross, in nine games, Lester has registered 34 called strikeouts, and 24 of them were out of the zone. Ross, as a catcher, doesn’t lead baseball in called strikeouts on balls, but that’s because he isn’t a regular starter. On a rate basis, he’s No. 1. Here’s some work between Lester and Ross from Sunday afternoon:
At the moment, there might be no better battery than Lester and Ross. Or maybe there are better batteries, but this is a good twist for Lester and for his career, as he’s posting ace-like numbers in a season in which his team badly needs them. Lester has lifted his strikeouts, and a big part of that has been working with his catcher to expand the called strike zone. To a reasonable extent this should be sustainable, and it doesn’t look like there are many reasons for the Red Sox to have Pierzynski catch Lester all that often. Jon Lester’s always had the pitches he’s throwing. Right now he’s finding a way to get the most out of them.
We’re all for any useful data that helps to justify keeping A.J. Pierzynski’s at-bats to a minimum.
Boston Drafts Two High Schoolers in First Round
The Red Sox took two high school players as their first two selections in a draft for the first time since 2002. Boston took shortstop Michael Chavis with the 26th pick of the first round and pitcher Michael Kopech with their compensatory selection (for Jacoby Ellsbury).
From ESPN analyst Keith Law:
Their first-rounder, Michael Chavis, was getting consideration in the teens as a polished high school bat who makes a lot of hard contact but doesn’t have projection and will have to move off shortstop; it’s funny that the Sox took him, as I see some similarities to Dustin Pedroia -– both hitters have great hand-eye coordination with unorthodox swings, and Pedroia also was a shortstop who had no physical projection and had to move to second base in pro ball. In between those picks they took a hard-throwing Texas right-hander in Michael Kopech, who brings mid-90s velocity with a sharp slider but a funky, arm-heavy delivery that the Sox might have to tame to keep him healthy.