Friday, April 17, 2015

Thoughts Entering an Important Series with the Orioles

The Red Sox are taking on the Orioles in a weekend series at Fenway Park. The Sox and Orioles will play each other 7 times in the next 10 games, four at Fenway Park and three at Camden Yards. I expect these to be close ballgames between two good teams. Here is a list of thoughts heading into game one tonight, in no particular order:

- Smokin' Joe Kelly starts tonight for the Sox. While Porcello has had two nice outings to start his Red Sox career, it's Kelly who is the most exciting pitcher in the Red Sox' rotation. Kelly has more electric stuff than any other Sox starter, and when he is able to harness it, look out. On a staff of pitchers who pound the bottom of the zone and induce groundouts, he is a rare guy who can make batters swing and miss. Plus, who doesn't love the swag of a young guy coming into 2015 who hasn't done anything remarkable in his career claiming he is going to make a run at the Cy Young award? The Orioles lineup will be a tough matchup for him. I hope he responds with another crisp outing.

- The Red Sox are starting a stretch tonight where they play nobody but other AL East teams through May 10.  That's 22 straight games against AL East competition - 7 against the O's, 6 against the Rays, 6 against the Blue Jays, and 3 against the Yanks. Throw in the 3 we already played against the Yankees and we'll be 25 games into the AL East schedule in just over three weeks from now. The danger of the front loaded AL East schedule is in two decisions the Red Sox have made concerning roster construction: the decision to roll the dice with a rotation of #2-#4 starters and waiting for the trade deadline to potentially add an ace, and the decision to wait on the top two prospects on the RSM Prospect Rankings - Blake Swihart and Rusney Castillo in favor of two veterans who might not be more than league average. If the rotation can't get it done through this 22 game stretch, and if Hanigan and Victorino clog up the lineup and the Sox stumble to the bottom of the AL East, there will be a lot of angry members of Red Sox Nation. On the flip side, this Red Sox team as currently constructed has won the first three series of the year. There's no reason to think that this team can't win 5 or 6 out of the upcoming 7 series against the AL East and stake their claim as the #1 team in the division. If that happens, and the Sox still have a deal to make for an ace and still have Swihart and Castillo to supplement the roster, then Benny C and company will be giving Koji high-fives all around the office.

- Speaking of Koji, watching him close down the 9th on Tuesday against the Nationals with a clean inning and two strikeouts was like watching a graceful figure skater after watching a bunch of four year olds trying to learn how to skate falling on their butts with their legs akimbo. Koji and Taz are the only two guys in the Sox pen who have strikeout stuff. The rest of the guys - Craig Breslow, Tommy Layne, Robbie Ross, Edward Mujica, Anthony Varvaro, Alexi Ogando - fool nobody and miss very few bats. Koji (18.00 K/9 after one inning) and Taz (12.27 K/9 after 3.2 innings) are the only two averaging more than a strikeout per inning. Ogando is just barely at 9.00 K/9, and the rest are somewhere between 8.31 (Mujica) and 5.79 (Ross). Good bullpen pitchers these days need to be able to come in and strikeout at least one guy per frame. The end of every game when we're holding on to a close lead is going to be akin to walking across a thin sheet of ice on a cold Maine pond.

- I think it's safe to say that this offense, along with the Blue Jays and Tigers, is one of the top three offenses in all of baseball. Mike Napoli and David Ortiz haven't really gotten going yet, and we're already piling up runs. This team is going to blast bombs all over Fenway all season long. With the dynamite young duo of the Mookie Conster and the X Man doing young, precocious things on the regular, this is an exceedingly watchable group.

Feel free to add your own thoughts heading into the upcoming Orioles series into the comments section below and we'll get some banter going up in here.

Go Sox!

5 comments:

  1. Nice 180 on Joe Kelly...if anyone doesn't know what I'm talking about, listen to the podcast. Speaking of the podcast, I was guilty of already putting Koji to bed for the season. He obviously will be key to the teams success or lack thereof this season. I just am not confident that he's going to be able to stay healthy/effective all season long. I hope I'm wrong.

    I'm confident heading into this stretch of AL east games for Boston. I'll explain what I mean. I'm convinced that no one is going to run away with this division and the Red Sox will be able to hold their own through these 22 games. And remain in the hunt. I also don't think that the Red Sox have good enough pitching to run away with the division. It's going to be an exciting season for the AL east, not in the early 2000's mold of Red Sox v Yankees, but in the sense that anyone from the group of Blue Jays, Orioles, Red Sox and Rays (I know there are some different opinions on them) will be able to win this division and I think it will stay fairly close all season.

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    1. I pulled a 180 so fast I need to get my neck examined for whiplash.

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  2. One more thought on the pitching. As I stated above I don't think the whole staff is good enough to run away with the division, but as I stated on the podcast I am still very confident in this starting rotation, despite the rough starts for Buch, Masterson and Miley the second time through. They're not perfect and they're going to struggle at times, but I just think that they'll be better than expected more often than not and when they're bad the offense will still give the team a chance to win. Just like in Masterson's start vs. the Nationals

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  3. What a game last night! Two good teams fighting for every out. Some thoughts:

    1. I am quickly growing to love Sandoval. He barrels into second base like a full speed freight train. He is going to break somebody's leg doing it, but since it will be somebody playing for the other team...go for it! I wouldn't be surprised if he gets thrown at a few more times this year for it, but I love it. I also love his full speed fat guy bend over, scoop a roller, and fire off balance to first. It's fat guy ballet and he is good at it.

    2. Our Rising Sun duo of Taz and Koji are looking good. Taz got it up to 95 and Koji was just playing with hitters like a cat with a ball of yarn. Manny Machado had as much of a chance of hitting Koji's splitter as I have of dating Kate Upton.

    3. What an incredible baserunning play by Mike Napoli to win the game. No hesitation on contact. He somehow knew that ball would fall in, even though it landed in the three feet of space between fielders. I saw an interview with Nap after the game, and he just shrugged like no big deal. He takes pride in checking the defenders and being a good baserunner. No biggie. You know, just won the game and all.

    4. What a great memory for the X Man! His Chesire Cat grin didn't stop from the time that ball fell in until he was back in the clubhouse. Epic water cooler bath by Hanley (who picked up the full cooler like it weighed three pounds).

    5. I miss the sight of Jenny's Dells, but I kind of like Gary Striewski. Seems like he would be a fun guy to get a beer with.

    6. I chuckle every single time I see Nap wearing his oven mitt on the base paths. YO JUST IN CASE YOU NEED A PIZZA TAKEN OUT, I'M HERE FOR Y'ALL!!

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  4. Patriots Day, Marathon Day and 11am Red Sox start. It's better than Christmas!! With a win today the Red Sox can split the four game series and if they do that they still will not have lost a series this year. Justin Masterson is on the hill for the Sox.

    Here's to hoping that all the marathoners have a safe run today.

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