In game five of the 2018 World Series, the Boston Red Sox fulfilled the expectations of many around Major League Baseball. David Price went for seven innings and struck out five, holding the National League champion Los Angeles Dodgers to just three hits and one run. Chris Sale struck out the side in the ninth inning, giving Boston its ninth World Series championship, tied for third all time.
As 2019 loomed, change was imminent for the Red Sox roster. Craig Kimbrel, Joe Kelly, postseason hero Nathan Eovaldi, and World Series MVP Steve Pearce were all due for new contracts.
Where change wasn’t imminent, however, was with the expectations for the Red Sox roster. After an utterly dominant championship run with their premier talents returning, the Red Sox appeared in position to run it back.
Joe Kelly signed with the Dodgers. The offseason ticked by, and ultimately concluded, with Craig Kimbrel not only not signing with Boston, but not signing with anyone. Nathan “Iron Man” Eovaldi decided to stick around amidst league-wide interest, as the fan-favorite committed to a four-year deal worth $68 million. Steve Pearce followed suit, agreeing to a one-year deal to keep him in Beantown.
Slowly but surely, people started asking questions, and rightfully so. Did an injury-prone Eovaldi deserve all of that money, or would it have been better spent on a reliever? How would the Red Sox address their depleted bullpen? And of course, would the Red Sox fall victim to the notorious World Series hangover?
The Sky was Falling
Fast forward to Opening Day. The Mariners hung seven runs on Chris Sale and chased him after three innings. The bullpen surrendered five more runs, and the defending champs were demolished by a score of 12-4. This was not an anomaly, either. The Red Sox lost nine of their first twelve, including their home opener. Chris Sale’s first six starts yielded six losses and an ERA of 10. The entire starting rotation went 14 games without securing a single win. Through twenty games, reigning league MVP Mookie Betts was batting .216 and accrued more strikeouts than home runs and RBIs, combined.
The questions grew louder and in typical Boston fashion, quickly escalated into an overwhelming sense of anxiety, doubt, and horror. Studs were looking like shells of themselves. The offense wasn’t producing, and neither was the pitching. The Red Sox were hungover. Were hungover.
Righting the Red Sox ship
They entered the month of May at 13-17, but you’d think they were 0-30 with the way people were responding to them.
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The saying goes “April showers bring May flowers”. As the calendar turned, the Red Sox took a nap, drank some Gatorade, and the flowers began to manifest.
Winners of eight of their last 10, the Red Sox have weathered their disastrous start and have finally reached .500 at 19-19 after topping the Orioles on Wednesday. Here are some numbers from the last 10 games:
- The Red Sox outscored their opponents 68-29.
- They averaged nearly seven runs per game.
- Both of Chris Sale’s starts resulted in victories.
- The pitching staff as a whole had an ERA of just 2.80.
- The Red Sox hit 17 home runs after hitting 30 in their previous 28 games.
- Mookie Betts had eight RBI and batted .292.
So yes, the 2019 season did not begin the way we expected. In fact, it began in virtually the worst way imaginable. But I wrote those first two paragraphs for a reason: to remind you what this team is capable of.
The rotation is starting to figure things out, the offense is finally clicking, and Jackie Bradley Jr is still doing his thing in center field. Michael Chavis has emerged as a welcomed shot to the arm of Boston’s run production. In just 17 games he’s hitting .293 and has racked up six home runs and 13 RBIs. Matt Barnes has filled the void in the bullpen, as Boston’s de-facto closer is 2-0 with three saves and a 1.76 ERA in 15 appearances. I do expect Dave Dombrowski to address the bullpen before the trade deadline, but it’s proven to be serviceable thus far.
Water always finds its level, and the defending champs have started to find their level over the last couple of weeks. Over 120 games still remain in the regular season, and if the last 10 games are any indication, the Red Sox are going to be just fine.