Red Sox review: Chris Sale breaks through for first win, offense explodes in Chicago
It's been an eventful start to May for a Red Sox team trying to chip away some early damages
BOSTON -- April showers are supposed to bring May flowers, but Massachusetts has continued to get pounded by relentless rain through this first week of May. The weather might still be crap, but maybe the Red Sox are finally starting to bloom following a downpour of awfulness to start the year?
The beginning of May has been interesting for the Red Sox. It had a little bit of everything, from emphatic wins and demoralizing losses, to off-field drama and unexpected ailments. But are things trending in the right direction, at least on the whole? Maybe. Who knows? This team is still largely an enigma.
But while they're struggling a bit from frustrating inconsistencies, Boston has done a better job of stringing together wins and chipping away at the damage done by their incredibly poor start. The Red Sox won three straight over the White Sox this past weekend and are 8-4 in their last 12 -- and the numbers during that stretch suggest they may actually be taking form as one of the league's better teams. They've got the seventh-best win-percentage (.577) in the majors over the past month. It's something!
Every MLB campaign is a grueling marathon filled with peaks and valleys, and there are certain noteworthy aspects to be taken from the highs and lows and everything in between. As such, throughout the course of this season, we'll check in with the Red Sox to see where they're at in defending their throne, what we've learned recently and what's next for the reigning champs.
Then: May 7, 2018: 25-9, 1st in AL East | Now: May 7, 2019: 17-19, 3rd in AL East
How's the pitching?
Hey would you look at that, Chris Sale is finally on the board with his first win of the season. One would imagine that Sale wasn't thrilled it took him seven starts to get there, but maybe the silver lining is that he was able to get that first dub against his former team in Chicago.
Sale was in ace form against the White Sox this week, pitching six shutout innings while allowing just three hits and striking out 10. It was obviously Sale's best outing of the year and it's something to build off of as he attempts put a horrendous initial month behind him. Who would have thought there could be an air of positivity around Sale with one win and an ERA of 5.25 in May, but here we are.
The Red Sox are going to need Sale to sustain that recent level of success at the front of their rotation, especially with David Price hitting the injured list due to elbow tightness this week. It's not believed that Price's ailments will keep him out for an extended period of time, but it's always a bit unsettling to have one of your more important pitchers deal with issues in his throwing elbow.
Overall, the pitching has been coming around. Over the team's past 12 games, Boston has the league's lowest team ERA (2.79), opponent AVG (.195), and opponent OPS (.601).
The bullpen has continued to get strong contributions from familiar names like Matt Barnes, Brandon Workman and Marcus Walden but there was also an impressive newcomer out of the pen on Monday in Baltimore. Ryan Weber made his Red Sox debut with four scoreless innings in relief, giving up three hits and striking out four.
What about the offense?
It's time for our weekly check-in on Michael Chavis. Here's what was written last week:
He has continued to look comfortable with his role in the lineup. The 23-year-old is hitting .286 with three home runs, eight RBI and five runs scored over his first 28 at-bats. His sweet swing is looking like a perfect match with the Green Monster in left. At this rate, the team might be in for some tough lineup/rosters decisions when a few of their injured infielders come off the IL.
At this point, it seems fair to assume that Chavis isn't going anywhere anytime soon. He added three more home runs, two of which came in a four-hit performance in Chicago over the weekend. Now with 16 games under his belt, he's batting .309 with six homers, 13 RBI and a 1.106 OPS. That's been good enough to find him batting cleanup for the Sox lately.
Last week we also checked in on Rafael Devers, who was hitting the ball well but had yet to go deep this year. He finally hit his first homer this week, and boy did he get all of it.
Devers has struggled mightily in the field and committed a costly error that helped the White Sox walk off with a win in the series-opener on Thursday, but the young third baseman has still been getting it done at the plate. He just had a 19-game on-base streak snapped on Monday.
It was an especially good week for the offense as a whole, as they went off against the White Sox in the final three games of the four-game set in Chicago. It looked like the offense that we got to know pretty well last season, and Boston outscored the White Sox by a 30-5 margin. Over those final three games, the Sox hit .350 with a 1.035 OPS (41-for-117, seven HR, seven doubles and 20 walks). That offensive outburst also got the Red Sox to an even run differential for the first time since Opening Day, though they fell back into the negative with a loss against the Orioles on Monday.
Over the past 12 games, Boston's lineup is tops in the MLB in batting average (.281) and OBP (.374) and is averaging nearly six-and-a-half runs per game. Things are clicking.
Odds and ends
The Sox will visit the White House on Thursday, or at least some of them will. There's been plenty of talk surrounding that topic over the past week, especially since manager Alex Cora confirmed that he would not be joining the team as the POTUS honors them for last year's championship run.
Cora's absence can be chalked up to the current administration's response to Hurricane Maria and its effects on Cora's native Puerto Rico, as the manager outlined in an open letter to Puerto Rican newspaper El Nuevo Dia.
Puerto Rico is very important to me. During the winter I spent a lot of time back home, visiting my family and friends. Unfortunately, we are still struggling, still fighting. Some people still lack basic necessities, others remain without electricity and many homes and schools are in pretty bad shape almost a year and a half after Hurricane María struck… Even though the United States Government has helped, there's still a long road ahead and that is OUR reality. I've used my voice on many occasions so that Puerto Ricans are not forgotten and my absence (from the White House) is no different. As such, at this moment, I don't feel comfortable celebrating in the White House.
In response to Cora's decision, The Athletic's Steve Buckley posted a tweet that highlighted a racial divide in players who would and would not be attending the White House this week, and David Price quote-tweeted it with a response many initially interpreted as support for Buckley's post.
However, Price later clarified that he shared the tweet because he felt it was "an insensitive tweet that needs to be seen by more people."
There was also somehow a Fortnite "controversy" in the locker room last week, as it was reported that the Sox had banned the video game from the clubhouse amid their slow start to the season. Later, it was clarified that there was no ban, just that the team was playing it less frequently around the stadium, especially while they were performing poorly. Imagine that.
Highlight of the Week
We already touched on the offensive explosion in Chicago this weekend, but it was highlighted by a nine-run inning on Saturday -- with all of those runs coming with two outs.
The Sox also added a seven-run inning on Sunday, so it was a good weekend for scoring runs in bunches.
The Sox will finish their three-game set with the Orioles in Baltimore on Wednesday before getting an off-day Thursday. They'll return to Fenway for a three-game weekend set against the Mariners, then get another day off on Monday before hosting the Rockies for a quick two-game series.
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