The Boston Red Sox have not exactly been a beacon of success this season. After routing the Baltimore Orioles 13-2 on Opening Day, they went on to lose eight of their next 10. They were outscored 60-34 in that stretch, averaging just over three runs per game. The highly-anticipated offense had floundered and the decimated pitching staff, well, they met expectations.
We could talk about the pitching, ranked 24th in team ERA (4.74), 20th in strikeouts, and a staggering 29th in opponent batting average (2.57) ahead of only the Phillies (2.84). We could talk about the slumping Andrew Benintendi with just two hits in 36 plate appearances, or the unsettled J.D. Martinez, batting .196 and visibly uncomfortable at the plate. But we aren’t going to talk about any of those things. We are going to talk about Mitch Moreland.
Simply put, he’s sparked an otherwise lifeless offense. Batting .286 with three home runs and and six RBI in the his first seven games, he blended in with the rest of the lineup. Good, but not good enough. Over the last three games, however, Mitch Moreland has flipped the script. Doubling his home run and RBI totals in fewer than half the games, Moreland powered the Red Sox to a series win over the Blue Jays and sustained the lineup’s pulse.
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Moreland started over Chavis against the right-hander Matt Shoemaker on Sunday, and the returns were lucrative. He went 2-for-4 with two home runs and three RBI, walking it off to win the series and the third of Boston’s last four. The first long ball came in the second inning off a 90 MPH sinker that didn’t really sink. Mitch took it 414 feet to center field, giving the Red Sox that early lead they’ve struggled to capture this season.
Mitch ➡️ Dead Center pic.twitter.com/0r8mTBBWQd
— Red Sox (@RedSox) August 9, 2020
The second came at a decidedly more critical point in the game. After Rafael Devers tied it with a solo shot of his own (his second of the year), the Red Sox entered the final frame even at 3-3. They had not played extra innings yet in 2020, a task especially daunting for this volatile pitching staff. Mitch Moreland kept it that way. With two outs, Moreland took the first pitch he saw, a hanging 85 MPH slider, and sent it 394 feet over the Green Monster.
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— Red Sox (@RedSox) August 9, 2020
Avoiding extras and securing Boston’s first series victory of the season, Mitch Moreland has provided a surge. A surge that has kept the Red Sox within shouting distance of the division lead, and out of complete irrelevancy.
Moreland is Mashing
As of Monday morning, Mitch Moreland has sole possession of third on the MLB home run leaderboard. The rankings are as follows:
- Aaron Judge (NYY) & Fernando Tatis Jr. (SD) – 8
- Nicholas Castellanos (CIN) – 7
- Mitch Moreland (BOS) – 6
Tatis Jr. claimed a share of the lead with his eighth, and fourth in three games, on Sunday night. Judge hit a home run in five consecutive games from July 29 to August 2, but has just two in the eight contests since. Now, where Moreland differs from the rest of the leaderboard is with his opportunities. The rest of those guys are constants in their lineups, playing every day. That’s not to say Mitch Moreland shouldn’t be, because he should play every day, but I digress. The numbers are deceiving. If we look at home run average the same way we look at batting average (home runs/at-bats), the leaderboard looks a little different:
- Mitch Moreland – 0.193 (6-31)
- Aaron Judge – 0.133 (8-60)
- Fernando Tatis Jr. – 0.126 (8-63)
- Nicholas Castellanos – 0.121 (7-58)
He’s doing more with his opportunities than anyone else in Major League Baseball. He would lead the entire league in SLG% and OPS if his 31 at-bats qualified. Moreland brings an element of reliable offense to the Red Sox lineup. The core of Benintendi, Martinez, Devers, and Bogaerts have yet to put it all together offensively. The pitching staff is what it is: a runaway train of uncertainty, and Nathan Eovaldi. This team was going to need a lift from someone if they wanted to compete at all. Pacing the Red Sox in average (.323), home runs, RBI (12), slugging percentage (.935), and OPS (1.299), Moreland has been that guy.
The Red Sox are not out of it
At 6-9, the Boston Red Sox are 3.5 games back of the AL-East leading Yankees as of August 10th. They have 45 games remaining, including 29 divisional matchups, to put the pieces together and secure at least second place in the division. This offense has to score with consistency if they want any realistic chance. Fueling the offense while in a timeshare at first base, Mitch Moreland has been the juice up until now, but he can’t do it on his own.