Tag Archives: Dustin Pedroia

Red Sox vanquished in ALDS, but they’ll be back

The Boston Red Sox should contend once again in 2018

The Houston Astros came from behind, scoring twice in the 8th and once in the 9th inning, then held off a last-ditch rally to down the Boston Red Sox by a 5-4 score on Monday afternoon.

The victory advances Houston into the American League Championship Series for the first time since the 2005 postseason. The defeat in front of more than 37,000 mostly disappointed fans at historic Fenway Park sends the host Red Sox home for the winter.

Over the last decade and a half, those Fenway faithful and the team they love have enjoyed the greatest period of sustained success in franchise history. In those last 15 seasons, the Red Sox have reached the postseason nine times, capturing three World Series titles.

But more importantly for the future of the team is that the prospects for long term future success appears to be just as bright as those recent victorious campaigns.

The Red Sox are blessed with one of the most talented group of young players in Major League Baseball. Half of their projected lineup of position players will spend all of the 2018 season at or below 25 years of age.

That core group and their 2018 season age includes shortstop Xander Bogaerts (24), third baseman Rafael Devers (21), left fielder Andrew Benintendi (23), and right fielder Mookie Betts (25) as everyday starters.

Boston will also be starting a 28-year old Jackie Bradley in his prime. Likely to see the bulk of the catching duties, Christian Vazquez will be just 27 years old.

The club has a couple of young wildcards who are likely to help in some way, at some point in the 2018 season. 24-year old Sam Travis could well push for more time at first base. And it could still all click for Boston’s 26-year old former first round draft pick, catcher Blake Swihart.

Bottom line, there are a ton of good, young, talented position players who will be returning to the Red Sox next season. Those players are likely to continue to get better with age and experience.

On the mound, lefties Chris Sale and Drew Pomeranz and righty Rick Porcello will all pitch the entirety of next season at age 29. Left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez will turn just 25 years of age as the season opens.

There will be a group of talented right-handers, all no more than age 30, who will be returning to make up the bulk of the bullpen. These include Matt Barnes (27), Heath Hembree (29), Joe Kelly (29), and 28-year old Carson Smith.

The normally lights-out closer, Craig Kimbrel, will turn 30 years old at the end of May. He is due to become a free agent following the 2018 season, and will be an interesting situation to watch develop.

That young core is likely to continue to be supported by a group of strong veterans, most especially second baseman Dustin Pedroia, DH Hanley Ramirez, and pitcher David Price.

If there is a big question mark, it may be whether or not manager John Farrell will be asked to return following the disappointing playoff defeat. For me, it shouldn’t even be a question. In his five years at the helm in Boston, Farrell has guided the club to a cumulative 432-378 mark. The Red Sox have won three AL East crowns and a World Series under 55-year old. Farrell should definitely be back.

The Boston payroll will continue high, so the opportunity to add high-priced free agents is not likely here. However, there is already plenty of talent. The club is likely to look for little more than a more experienced lefty reliever this off-season. The minor league prospect talent could bring back something to fill any hole that may pop up during the year.

The Boston Red Sox are set to continue their recent string of successful seasons in 2018. Having won three of the last five AL East crowns, they will again be a top contender in the division next year. And with more experience under their belt, the young core should be expected to keep them a leading contender for years to come.

Red Sox continue fighting off Yankees, who lower own magic number

Pedroia scores tie-breaking run in Boston’s victory

The Boston Red Sox took 15 innings to gain a win on Friday night over the host Tampa Bay Rays. But win they did after scoring seven times in the top of the 15th, going on to a 13-6 victory.

The victory lowered Boston’s “Magic Number” for clinching the American League East Division crown to 13 over the New York Yankees.

The Yankees had earlier kept the pressure on their longtime arch-rivals with an 8-2 win in the Bronx over the Baltimore Orioles.

With that win, New York remained three games behind Boston. However, the Yanks also lowered their own “Magic Number” to just 10 in order to clinch at least an AL Wildcard playoff berth.

In Tampa, Dustin Pedroia led off the top of the 15th for Boston by reaching on an error. The result left him as only the third batter in the history of the Red Sox to go 0-9 in a game. Three singles, a double, and another error later, and the Bosox had completed their seven-run outburst.

Shortstop Xander Bogaerts had four hits for Boston. Mookie Betts and Mitch Moreland each had three, while four other Red Sox registered multi-hit games.




“Our guys have done such a good job as we’ve gotten into some of these really long games, almost marathon-type games, and they don’t quit, they keep digging for a little extra,” Boston manager John Farrell said per Connor Mount for MLB.com following the game.

Meanwhile, up in Yankee Stadium, a two-run homer off the bat of Didi Gregorius broke a 2-2 tie in the bottom of the 5th inning. The Yankees then put together a three-run rally in the bottom of the 7th, and got a solo home run from Greg Bird in the bottom of the 8th to put it away.

“We have to bear down in these last couple weeks and go for the playoffs,” Gregorius said per Roger Rubin for MLB.com following the game. “That’s what we’re shooting for.”

Luis Severino pitched eight strong innings for New York, allowing just three hits and a walk while striking out seven. The 23-year old raised his record to 13-6 on the season with the victory.



Both series continue through this weekend. Next week, the Red Sox will stay on the road, visiting both Baltimore and Cincinnati for three games each. 

The Yankees will remain at home to open next week against Minnesota, with the Twins battling for their own playoff lives in that AL Wildcard race. New York ends the week by traveling north to Toronto to face the Blue Jays in what will be their final road trip of the regular season.

MLB Defensive Team of the Year 2014

Andrelton Simmons of the Braves is the best
defensive shortstop in the game today

For the casual fan of the game, the least appreciated and valued part of most baseball games is defense.

Until some egregious error is made that costs their team a run, or worse yet, a game, many fans simply do not value this part of the sport nearly enough.

Simply put, good defense is vital to a team succeeding over the long haul of a 162-game season, and can prove the difference in what are often tough, low-scoring playoff and World Series games.

Just as much as a massive homerun in a close game, or a key base hit at clutch time, or a pitcher striking out a batter in a pivotal moment with runners on base, a sensational dive, leap, catch, throw…sometimes all four together, can change the course of a game, a series, and a season.

Many of my fellow Phillies fans, who shared the thrill of the 2008 post-season run to a World Series crown, might have a hard time remembering some of the big hits during that series against the Rays. But every single one of those fans remembers “The Deke“, the Chase Utley defensive play that may have been the real difference.

The Phils were up 3-1 in the series and trying to win it at home, avoiding a return to Tampa where anything could happen. Game 5, tied at 2-2 after 6 innings, had been delayed by monsoon-like rains that had caused a suspension of play for two days.

The teams finally returned to action, exchanged runs, and went into the top of the 7th tied at 3-3. The Rays had shortstop Jason Bartlett on 2nd base as the potential go-ahead run with two outs as speedy 2nd baseman Akinori Iwamura stepped to the plate and shot a grounder up the middle.

With Iwamura’s speed, it looked to at least be an infield hit. Utley fielded, and turned as if to throw to try to get Iwamura at 1st base. Tampa’s 3rd base coach, Tom Foley, sensed an opportunity to take the lead at a pivotal moment and frantically waved Bartlett to the plate for the go-ahead run.

It was here that Utley made a play for the ages, the type of heads-up, hustling play that has defined the Phillies’ 2nd baseman’s career. Instead of throwing to first, Utley actually pumped his arm, and in the same motion turned and fired a one-hop throw to catcher Carlos Ruiz. “Chooch” fielded it and dove to tag out Bartlett, who himself was diving headfirst for the plate.

The Phils scored a lone run in their half of the 7th to re-take the lead at 4-3, and two innings later Brad Lidge dropped to his knees after striking out Eric Hinske to give the club it’s first championship in 28 years. As much as any other factor, it was the Utley play that keyed the victory.

Jim Edmonds, June 10th, 1997, my personal fave

Whether it was Willie Mays’ “The Catch” in the 1954 World Series, Joe Rudi leaping against the left field wall in the early 1970’s, or Ozzie Smith diving into the hole in the 1980’s, Derek Jeter’s “The Flip” in 2001, or my personal favorite of all-time, Jim Edmonds’ version of “The Catch” in 1997, defense has not only sparked victories, but defined them.

The following are my own choices for the 2014 Major League Baseball Defensive Team and Player of the Year.

———————————————————–

Best Defensive Team
Kansas City Royals

Defensive Player of the Year 
Andrelton Simmons, Atlanta (shortstop)

Defensive Team of the Year
1B – Adrian Gonzalez, LAD
2B – Dustin Pedroia, Boston
SS – Andrelton Simmons, Atlanta
3B – Chase Headley, NYY
C   – Jonathan Lucroy, Milwaukee
LF – Alex Gordon, Kansas City
CF – Jackie Bradley Jr, Boston
RF – Jason Heyward, Atlanta
P    – Zack Greinke, LAD

World Series 2013: The Best in Baseball

If over the next 2-3 days someone tries to tell you that they have some kind of special insight into who is going to win the 2013 World Series, then they are simply lying. These are clearly the two best teams in baseball, and you’d do well to simply toss a coin to pick a winner.

Most pundits and talking heads, as well as tons of amateurs and partisans, will indeed try to pick a winner. Some will inevitably end up correct. But going into it, these two teams are so evenly matched that legitimate arguments can be made for either.

The 109th MLB World Series will feature the best team, based on regular season record, from both the National League and the American League for the first time since 1999. Both the Boston Red Sox and the Saint Louis Cardinals won 97 games to pace their respective leagues.

Also, each of the two teams will have reached the Fall Classic after having battled through similar paths, first vanquishing divisional rivals, and then arguably the 2nd best teams in their respective leagues. Saint Louis beat the Pittsburgh Pirates and then the LA Dodgers, while Boston beat the Tampa Bay Rays and then the Detroit Tigers.

This will also mark not only the 2nd World Series meeting between the NL’s Cardinals and the AL’s Red Sox in the last decade, but will be a matchup between a pair of franchise’s that have each won two World Series titles within this past decade.

The Red Sox finally vanquished “The Ghost of the Bambino” by sweeping past the Cards in the 2004 World Series, then won again in 2007 when they also swept the Colorado Rockies. The Cardinals blitzed the Detroit Tigers in five games in the 2006 Series, then won a dramatic 7-gamer over the Texas Rangers in 2011.

I am personally rooting for a long, dramatic series featuring the kinds of moments that live on in baseball lore: Don Larsen’s 1956 ‘Perfect Game’, Bill Mazeroski’s 1960 Series-winning homer, Carlton Fisk’s Game #6 homerun in 1975, Kirk Gibson’s Game #1 walkoff in 1988, the Clemens-Piazza bat-throwing showdown of 2000, Chase Utley’s fake-and-throw-home in 2008.

This 2013 version of the Fall Classic features the “Fear the Beard” Bosox coming at you with a multi-dimensional offense and a worst-to-first, something-to-prove chip on their shoulders against the Redbirds, the most consistently excellent organization in the NL. I’m picking Boston, and call it in 6 or 7 games.

Much is made, and rightfully so, of the Cardinals vaunted 1-2 postseason pitching tandem of Adam Wainwright and rookie sensation Michael Wacha. Both of these arms can shut down any offense in the game. If they do it early at Fenway Park, and take each of the first two games in Boston, the Cards could steamroll to victory in the series. But I don’t believe it will happen.

The Red Sox lineup is the difference for me between the two teams. Each have excellent hitters, with grizzled, proven veterans and talented youngsters. Each has outstanding starting pitching. Boston will throw Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz in those first two games, and those two are just as capable of shutting down the Cards as vice versa. And the two bullpens seem evenly matched to me as well.

It’s that multi-faceted Red Sox offense that I will give the slight edge to, enough of an edge to win the World Series. Boston can bash you with Big Papi, Mike Napoli, and Jonny Gomes, and they can run you ragged with Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, and Shane Victorino. And those last two are not one-dimensional, as “The Flyin’ Hawaiian” showed once again with his ALCS-clinching grand slam vs. Detroit.

The Cardinals have tremendous run-producing clutch hitters of their own in Matt Holliday, David Freese, and perhaps the best postseason hitter of recent years in Carlos Beltran. But Jon Jay led the club in steals with 10 this season. Running is simply not a part of their game. Meanwhile, Ellsbury swiped 52 bags, Pedroia stole 17, and Victorino took another 21 for Boston. These guys run, and they will challenge the great Saint Louis catcher Yadier Molina at pivotal points of games. His ability to shut them down could be the difference.

An ‘X-factor’ for the Cardinals will be Allen Craig. The 1st baseman who has been out of the Saint Louis lineup nursing a sprained foot is listed as probable, and is expected to DH in the first two games at Fenway. With his bat in the lineup, the Cards have 5 players who each hit at least .296 during the season. They can wear down a pitching staff. But the Red Sox also have 5 such players, at least when Daniel Nava is in left field rather than Gomes.

The pitching matchups have not been announced for every game, but logic and prior use would seem to point to Lester vs. Wainwright in the Opener, followed by Buchholz vs. Wacha in Game #2, both at Fenway Park. Back at Busch Stadium in Saint Louis it should then be John Lackey for Boston vs. Joe Kelly for the Cards in Game #3, Jake Peavy vs. Lance Lynn in Game #4, and then a return to the top of the respective rotations for the balance of the series.

There is not likely to be any edge in the dugout that will decide this matchup. John Farrell in his first year as Bosox skipper has been exactly what his team needed, and Mike Matheny of the Cardinals played in that 2004 Series between the two clubs. Both are talented skippers who have the respect of their teams, and have strong coaching staffs supporting them.

Two storied franchise’s battling it out on the diamond in front of two of the best and most knowledgeable and passionate fan bases in the game. It’s hard to ask for anything more from a baseball purist standpoint. The Boston Red Sox should come out of this with a hard-fought, beard-pulling title. But the real winners should be fans of the game everywhere. Sit back and enjoy the 2013 World Series between two talented teams, the best in baseball.