RECORDS: Cubs 12-9 Red Sox 11-10
GAMETIMES: Friday at 6:05, Saturday at 3:15, Sunday at 7:05
TV: CSN+ Friday, ABC Saturday, ESPN Sunday
STUCK IN KENMORE STATION: Over The Monster
Arrieta v. Pomeranz
Lackey v. Wright
Hendricks v. Rodriguez
If the Cubs are doing everything the Red Sox did, from hiring their GM to rebuild the team and organization in their image, to the changes to and around their ancient park, why didn’t they give their mascot pants? Think about that one for a minute.
The Cubs roll into Fenway for what’s probably the most hyped series in baseball so far this season. Both teams are favored to do this all again in October, which would probably have MLB execs going into diabetic shock. Both teams haven’t quite fired on all cylinders yet.
The Red Sox season started a bit off when David Price went down in spring training. He still hasn’t faced live hitters and is probably a month or six weeks away if nothing else goes wrong. So the dominant rotation they had envisioned hasn’t taken form yet. Sale has been everything they could have hoped for, and the Cubs are lucky in that they’ll dodge him this series. They’ll get the three starters who really haven’t been able to get anyone out so far this year. Wright and Pomeranz have particularly struggled.
Offensively, it’s hard to believe that the Red Sox were expected to have the same offense they did last year after losing David Ortiz, who was one of the best hitters in baseball last year. But they were, mostly thanks to the best outfield in the game. Jackie Bradley Jr., Mookie Betts, and Andrew Benintendi can all hit, can all go get it, and are all young. JBJ hasn’t hit like he did last year yet, but is one of the more exciting centerfielders in the game. Betts is off to another MVP-candidate season. Benintendi skipped Triple-A given the way he was shredding Double-A last year and only injuries kept him from playing regularly. He’s got an .818 OPS at the moment.
The rest of the diamond though… been a little rough. Xander Bogaerts has hit for average but absolutely no power, with one extra-base hit all season. Dustin Pedroia might as well be using a pool noodle in the box at the moment. Pablo Sandoval continues to be one of the worst free agent investments in recent history. Catcher is a particular sinkhole for them, where Sandy Leon has been taking most of the starts. The other option is Christian Velasquez. Only Mitch Moreland has carried his weight in the infield, and Hanley Ramirez has been awful as a DH in his never-ending tour with the Red Sox to play every position on the field, and not particularly well either.
Keeping the Sox above .500 with a wonky offense and a deficient rotation is that the bullpen has been the product of S.H.I.E.L.D. The Sox are boasting four guys with ERAs under 2.00. Kimbrel has been setting off geiger counters in the greater 617, with a K/9 of 16.3, or striking out just shy of half the hitters he’s seen. Heath Hembree and Matt Barnes (no, not that one) have been nearly as good. Joe Kelly finally has gone to the pen which was always his destiny, and is getting guys out while barely striking anyone out. Which is weird given his stuff. You don’t know most of the names but they’re making it work. Which they have to, because other than Sale they’ve needed them a lot.
Eventually, Bogaerts and Pedroia will hit. Price will return. They’ll figure something out at catcher and DH, and Hanley was a 127 wRC+ player last year. He’s not this bad, and at 33 shouldn’t be completely finished. When all that happens, this team should be rising to the top of the AL East, especially with the Blue Jays being something of scorched rubble at the moment.
Think Theo will get some TV time this weekend?