Red Sox review: Yankees won't lose, Chris Sale can't win and quarter-season awards for roller-coaster start

BOSTON -- When the Red Sox started this season by puking all over themselves, the silver lining for many was that the Yankees were also having trouble keeping their own lunch down. After all, if there's one thing that makes Boston fans happier than seeing their team succeed, it's seeing New York fail.

However, with the recent spectacular development that the 2019 Sox are capable of consistently winning games comes a downside: The Yankees have also figured out how to do so, and they're not relenting one bit.

Since May 1, the Yankees are tied for the second-best record in baseball (11-4), and the Houston Astros are the only team better (13-3) in that span. At 28-17, the Yanks sit atop the American League East through a quarter of the season -- a pretty tremendous accomplishment considering the plethora of injuries they've endured to this point. 

And while the Red Sox still sit third in the AL East behind New York and Tampa Bay, they're making sure their footsteps are being heard. Boston is 10-5 since the beginning of May and steadily making up for their slow start. Unfortunately, the Yankees haven't broken stride despite their injured list looking like this...

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Baseball Reference

Yeah, the Yankees injured list probably has a better roster than a handful of teams in baseball. And yet here we are! They're still winning games with regularity, much to the annoyance of Red Sox fans anxious for Boston to close the gap in the standings.

But 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 21, 2018: 32-15, 1st in AL East Now: May 21, 2019: 25-22, 3rd in AL East

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Aces wild

At the time of last week's column, the Red Sox had ripped off five straight wins and were basically firing on all cylinders. They had a full head of steam heading into a quick two-game series at home against the Colorado Rockies, but that momentum was somewhat stifled with a stunning and frustrating loss in the opener against Colorado.

That game saw continued brilliance from Chris Sale, who has returned to ace form of late. Sale was not only great in his start on Wednesday, he was historically great. The lefty struck out 17 (SEVENTEEN!) batters in seven innings of work, giving up just three hits, two runs and no walks. Those two runs came on one swing of the bat -- a Nolan Arenado home run in the seventh. 

Sale's 17 strikeouts set a new MLB record for the most by any pitcher through seven innings, but he didn't get the victory. The bullpen couldn't hold it together and the Rockies ultimately took the 5-4 win in 11 innings. 

Sale brought another solid start in the series finale against Houston on Sunday, giving up three runs and striking out 10 in 5.1 IP against the Astros, but he didn't get a W for that effort either.

Regardless of how well Sale pitches, wins have been pretty elusive to him lately. In a rather stunning stat, he only has one victory in his last 14 starts. It's hard to imagine the wins not coming if Sale continues to throw like he has this May.

David Price also returned to the rotation this week after spending a couple of weeks on the injured list with elbow tendinitis. Price had a limited workload in his first start, throwing just 67 pitches as he went five strong innings. He allowed two unearned runs on three hits while striking out four to pick up the win behind an explosive performance (12 runs) from Boston's offense in Toronto. 

Quarter season check-in

With the MLB season hitting the quarter pole, let's take a look at who the Red Sox standouts are, for better and for worse.

Best Hitter: J.D. Martinez

This could go a number of ways. Mitch Moreland has been the team's most explosive and clutch bat. Rafael Devers took a while to find his power stroke but has turned into a consistent hit machine at the plate. Michael Chavis has been a complete revelation since his call-up. But if we're looking for an extended, complete body of work, Martinez is the choice. 

He may not be putting up gaudy home run numbers but he's on pace for 31 jacks and 100 RBI while slashing .308/.390/.521. That'd be a significant drop-off from the MVP-caliber season he had last year, but it's still a damn good middle-of-the-lineup presence. Plus, the slow start out of the gate sort of took a toll on everyone's numbers.

Best Starter: David Price

Price's numbers certainly don't jump off the page, especially considering he's missed the last two weeks with that elbow issue, but he's still been Boston's best starter. Honestly, that probably says more about how the rotation has looked than how Price has looked. 

He's got a 3.29 ERA over 41 innings through seven starts (2-2) and has been consistently solid, which is more than the rest of them can say. However, as previously touched on, Sale endured a brutal start and has been a force at the top of the rotation in May.

Best Reliever: Matt Barnes

There were plenty of questions and concerns about the Red Sox bullpen coming into this season, and a lot of those questions centered around Barnes' ability to handle late-inning duties. But Barnes has been a steady and reliable hand out of the bullpen. He's got three saves and his 1.42 ERA is second among Sox relievers with at least five appearances, and his strikeout numbers are outstanding. In 18 games (19 IP), Barnes has 35 punch-outs for a team-high 16.6 SO/9.

Marcus Walden and Brandon Workman have also been very solid workhorses out of the pen but Barnes has been everything the Sox were hoping he'd be in a proving year.

Most Surprising: Michael Chavis

No contest here, though the bullpen probably gets some votes (Marcus Walden especially) and it's worth acknowledging the surprising power numbers from Mitch Moreland and Christian Vasquez. But it's been the Michael Chavis show since his call-up in April and he's become one of the most fearsome forces in the Boston lineup. 

Since debuting on April 20, Chavis leads the Red Sox in home runs (9) and RBI (24). The blazing start to his career has put him in some very nice company, as he's one of only five Red Sox players to hit eight home runs through his first 25 career games, the first since Rafael Devers did it in 2017. Chavis is also one of only five to have at least 22 RBI through 25 games, the first since Fred Lynn in 1974-75.

Chavis was a hyped prospect but his immediate impact at the major league level has been nothing short of awesome.

Most Disappointing: Jackie Bradley Jr. 

JBJ's insane ability in the field has always made it easier to swallow what he lacks offensively. He's a streaky hitter who can go long stretches looking very good or very bad, but his poor start to this season has been rough even by his own standards. Through 39 games, Bradley Jr. is slashing just .146/.243/.200 with one home run and nine RBI. 

That start out of the gate is especially disappointing considering all the talk about Bradley's revamped swing in spring training and how he could be in line for more success at the plate. That certainly hasn't been the case through the first quarter of the year and his defensive ability might not be able to save him if he continues to struggle so mightily with the bat.

Also up for consideration here is Steve Pearce, who has had a dreadful start to the year after taking home World Series MVP honors in the fall.

Most Improved: Marcus Walden

If we're going with in-season improvement since Opening Day, it's obviously Chris Sale. But let's tailor this one to give Walden some much-deserved recognition for transitioning from career minor leaguer to steady MLB pillar in pretty short order. Coming into this season with just eight career major league appearances, Walden has been a stud for the Sox. He's thrown 26.1 innings over 16 appearances and leads all Boston relievers in ERA (1.37) to this point. He's been a surprising diamond in the dirt for a bullpen that really needed one coming into this year.

Moment of the week

The Red Sox occasionally bring in special guest PA announcers to help introduce players before their at-bat, and Michael Chavis was welcomed by a rather enthusiastic youngster at Fenway last week. Chavis acknowledged the kid then promptly smacked a homer on the first pitch of the at-bat. 

After crossing home plate, Chavis saluted him again. It ruled.

What's ahead?

The Red Sox are just getting started on a road trip that will see them play four games in Toronto this week, then head to Houston to face the Astros for a second straight weekend set. After that, the Sox come back home for a three-game series against the Indians to kick off next week. Most Red Sox games can be streamed regionally through fuboTV (try for free).

Pete Blackburn is from Boston, so there's a good chance you don't like him already. He has been a writer at CBS Sports since 2017 and usually aims to take a humorous and light-hearted approach to the often... Full Bio

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