The Red Sox had a stellar week last week and came into this one on a five-game winning streak. It didn't look like it was going to get any easier with a tough road series in Minnesota against the league-leading Twins. However, after that they had three games at home against a bad Blue Jays team; the hope was that they could take a game or two against the Twins and then sweep Toronto to pick up some more ground or at least keep pace in the AL East. With the midway point of the season fast approaching, I was hopeful we'd finally get a clearer picture of what kind of the team the wildly inconsistent 2019 Red Sox really are.
(6/17 at Minnesota Twins): I'll admit I was very nervous about the erratic Red Sox opening a series against the best team in baseball in their ballpark, but this turned out to be an excellent game. It was a true pitcher's duel between Twins ace Jose Berrios (eight innings) and Rick Porcello (seven innings). The Red Sox prevailed 2-0 in a nail-biter with the only runs provided by JD Martinez' RBI single in the first inning and an insurance run driven in by Xander Bogaerts in the ninth. Colten Brewer reminded us that the Boston bullpen still stinks when he put two on with no outs in the eighth, but he somehow managed to get out of the jam unscathed. A good opening win that ran the Sox winning streak to six games.
(6/18 at Minnesota Twins): I knew the bullpen was going to cost us another game sooner or later and here it was. In another exciting and low-scoring game that absolutely should've been won by the Red Sox...if only they had a halfway decent bullpen. Rafael Devers drove two runs in (one in the fourth, the other in seventh) and the Sox clung to a 2-1 lead going into the eighth before Brandon Workman gave up the tying home run to Max Kepler. The Sox took the lead again in the thirteenth when Mookie Betts hit a solo homer, but the bullpen AGAIN blew the save (this time it was Hector Velazquez) when Kepler hit a solo shot to tie it. The final disaster for the bullpen was Brian Johnson giving up the game-winning RBI single to Kepler in the seventeenth inning. This may have been the most aggravating loss of the season for the Red Sox...the bullpen blew two saves in the same game which is just comically terrible.
(6/19 at Minnesota Twins): Instead of going for the sweep, the Red Sox entered the final game of the series trying to take two of three and win the series. It looked like they were going to drop the finale and the series when Minnesota took a quick 1-0 lead, but Boston went up 3-1 (although it should've been more...with a chance to blow things open with the bases loaded and one out, the Sox only managed a single run). My fears were confirmed when the Twins tied the game in the fourth, but then the Sox exploded for five runs over the nest few innings and put this game away to win it 9-4. Eduardo Rodriguez settled down and gave the Sox seven innings, which isn't something he does too often. There was a little bit of bad news when Devers left the game in the fifth inning with a tight hamstring, but hopefully it's not serious and he'll have a day off to rest it before the next game. Taking two of three from the Twins in Minnesota was great, but let's be honest: they totally should've swept this series.
(6/21 vs. Toronto Blue Jays): After taking two of three from the best team in baseball, this home series against a terrible and offensively-challenged Blue Jays team looked like a prime opportunity to beat up on a bad team. Instead Chris Sale didn't look great and the Sox went down into a 5-1 hole. It took a furious comeback in the late innings to tie the game at five runs apiece and a dramatic two-run homer from Christian Vazquez in the bottom of the tenth to bring Boston back from the brink of defeat to win 7-5. While needing late inning heroics isn't a way to make a living in baseball, it was a reminder of how potent and dangerous this offense can be on any given night and a good way to open up this series.
(6/22 vs. Toronto Blue Jays): Last night's stirring comeback aside, the Red Sox really should have been beating up on this hapless Blue Jays squad. It looked like they were continuing their offensive outburst from the previous game when they raced to a 6-0 lead after four innings, but then the Boston bats went quiet as the bullpen imploded. They allowed eight runs to Toronto including the final two on consecutive bases loaded walks by Ryan Brasier...yes, it was as ugly as it sounds. There was a little bit of drama in the ninth when the Sox scored a run with one out and had the tying run in Xander Bogaerts on second base, but he ended up stranded there and the Blue Jays improbably won 8-7. It was one of the worst losses of the season of the Red Sox (it feels like I've said that an awful lot of time this season so far).
(6/23 vs. Toronto Blue Jays): The Red Sox offense continued to no-show today when they were completely shut down for most of this game. Rick Porcello held the Blue Jays to only two runs until the sixth inning when he gave up three and let the game get away from him. It was 6-0 Toronto until the ninth inning and even then, it was only a throwing error by Jays reliever Joe Biagini that allowed the lone Boston run of the day to score. That was only the second Red Sox run scored over their last fourteen innings while the loss dropped their home record this season under .500. All in all a miserable end to a miserable weekend of games.
Quick Hits: What started out as such a promising week, with a near-sweep of the Twins on the road ended with the Red Sox dropping two of three at home to a terrible Blue Jays team. A winning week ended up a disappointing 3-3 week and to make matters worse, they also lost 2.5 games in the standings. There was absolutely no excuse to not sweep the Toronto series or at the very least, win two of three. Instead, as they've done far too often this year the Red Sox fell flat on their faces and played down to the level of their competition. The Yankees finally got all of their stars back this past week and have been on a tear...I hate to say "I told you so" to the Red Sox, but I'd been saying all season that the time to make some noise was when the Yankees were decimated by injuries because now the Bronx Bombers are firing on all cylinders and starting to leave the Rays and Red Sox behind in the dust. Between the horrifically bad bullpen and the inconsistent offense, this team is going nowhere as it's currently playing. The coming week only has five games, three at home against the pesky White Sox and two "home" games in London against the Yankees. Boston could very well be ten or more games behind in the standings by next week; if so, you can pretty much write off the division and hope for a Wild Card spot as the best chance to have a shot at playing in October. It's incredible to think of how this exact same team was steamrolling the rest of the American League at this time last year.
42-37 record, 3rd in AL East (8 GB the Yankees)
Photo: (Nathan Klima/Boston Globe)