The Red Sox bullpen has been pretty mediocre lately, and many fans aren't too happy.
For fans, most of that frustration falls on Dave Dombrowski for not doing enough to improve it in the offseason. Failing to re-sign Craig Kimbrel and Joe Kelly was one thing—countering that with only adding Colten Brewer to that pen is another.
In fact, Brewer really was the lone pick-up by the team in the offseason. Everyone returned with the exception of Kelly, Kimbrel, and Ian Kinsler. It was the same group, without a few guys, basically. Then there's Brewer. And to put it mildly, he hasn't been great this season.
In 21 appearances across 23 innings, Brewer is 0-2 with a 5.87 ERA and 1.74 WHIP. He was briefly sent down after recording seven scoreless outs in relief against the Astros on Sunday, but is back on the 25-man roster after a string of roster moves this past week, which included Hector Velazquez (10 earned run in 15 innings as a reliever) hitting the injured list.
But although Brewer has struggled, others haven't. Matt Barnes, Brandon Workman, and Marcus Walden, in 69 games, have combined for a 2.11 ERA across 76 1/3 innings. For the most part, they've been pretty reliable, save for a few times out between them.
Then you have Ryan Brasier, who had a 1.42 ERA through April, but an 8.00 mark in May has seen it jump to 3.97 on the season. His most recent outing was probably the worst of the season for a Red Sox reliever, coming on Tuesday against the Cleveland Indians at Fenway. It was the easiest of save opportunities—up by three runs and needing three outs. Not to mention, he was facing the seven-eight-nine hitters. And in the blink of an eye, the game was tied after those three hitters—the last of which was Greg Allen, who tied the game at five with a two-run blast—crossed the plate. (Allen was hitting under .100 with no home runs on the season entering the game; Allen followed it up with two triples the next night.)
Just pitiful. One of the most worst performances you'll see by a Major League pitcher, quite honestly, given the situation. I heard somewhere that the Red Sox had a 99.6% chance of winning entering the top of the ninth. I believe it.
Brasier is a guy the Red Sox are supposed to trust. And they have, as he's their main closer, leading the team with six saves and nine save opportunities (one of those blown saves coming in the seventh inning, the other two came in ninth). He flat-out sucked on Tuesday, no way around it. But he's not going anywhere right now. His ERA before that outing against Cleveland was 2.78. Really, a few bad games have kind of inflated his ERA on the year. You just have to hope he figures it out, and how long he'll have to do so. After all, this is just his second full season in the majors, and he's approaching 32. Despite his success last year, can he follow it up by turning his season around? He'll need to, or else the Red Sox will have some serious decisions to make. Maybe it'll be time to give someone else the closer's role?
Heath Hembree is another regular in the pen. Right now, he's second on the club with 26 appearances. He started the season slow, posting a 5.56 ERA in his first 11 games, although he's lowered that to 2.88 in his last 15 appearances (since April 25). Currently, he has a 0.78 ERA in May, as this month also saw him record his first career save (Workman did as well).
So it's been those five guys—Barnes, Brasier, Hembree, Walden, and Workman—who've been the most effective as a whole, combining so far for a 2.61 ERA, which is 32 points better than the current Major League leader (Houston). The rest, though? a 6.32 mark, currently, between twelve others (one of them being Eduardo Nunez, who allowed an earned run in one inning in his lone appearance).
Travis Lakins is one of those other guys. He came up in April to make his Major League debut, and was recently called up again. He relieved Brasier in his disastrous outing against the Indians, coming on in a 5-5 tie with no outs in the ninth (should've been Hembree), only to take the loss, allowing two runs on a hit and three walks in his lone inning of work. Lakins has since been sent back down in favor of left-hander Josh Taylor, who just made his Major League debut on Wednesday. He's the only lefty currently in the pen, although Brian Johnson (a 12.71 ERA in 5 2/3 innings) is getting closer to returning. Neat I suppose. Then of course, prospect Darwinzon Hernandez is another option, as he's been used in one Major League game this season (I assume the team is being extra careful with him).
Tyler Thornburg is another. He's currently on the injured list, not having pitched since May 21. He's been complete garbage on the season with a 7.71 ERA in 16 games. He was really just the mop-up guy, never being used in any high-stress situations. I really wish the Sox would just move on from him already.
Throw in Ryan Weber. He made three relief outings from May 6-18 (one earned run in eight innings), and has made two starts since. Six innings of one-run ball at Toronto, and then a total stinker against the Indians on Wednesday, seven earned runs in four innings for the loss. Once the rotation is fully healthy, I wouldn't be surprised if he remains on the team for a relief role.
So, do the Red Sox need another reliever? It's a nice idea. You can never have too many relievers. The question is whether or not they're good. Right now, though, it's important for the rotation to be fully healthy. Nate Eovaldi looks like he's another couple weeks away, not having pitched since April 17; and once he returns, the Sox will have their top-five starters healthy together again. On paper, it's one of the best rotations in the game, you'd think. With that rotation, and the lineup the Red Sox have when it's fully clicking, maybe five solid, durable relievers (with others in the mix, of course) is all it takes to get you through the regular season and to the playoffs, which would be another story, of course, in terms of managing the pitching.
Right now, the Red Sox are 7.5 games behind the Yankees in the division, but are tied for the second Wild Card spot with the Rays. It's still very early, and the Sox are still in a position to make the playoffs. Maybe not thanks to a division win, but big whoop. A playoff birth is a playoff birth. A lot can happen over the next four months. And let's see that rotation get healthy first. Once it does, I think it'll make life easier for everyone. Eovaldi will provide more innings and that will make it easier for Cora to manage the pen. Barnes, Brasier, Hembree, Walden, and Workman is a solid top-five. Very durable, capable righties out of the pen. And Taylor, let's see what he can do for the time-being. I like how he's a lefty. The Sox's pen needs those.
To sum it up, I think it's too early to tell if the Red Sox need another reliever, but I'm leaning towards yes. The top-five is nice, but who do you have after that? Brewer? Thornburg? Velazquez? Weber? You just want to see how this team performs approaching the All-Star break, with the trade deadline being just around the corner after that. An established, proven guy would be nice, though. That would be six top relievers, in addition to the five-man rotation. That's a total of 11 pitchers, which is how many the Red Sox used in last year's playoffs.
I think the Red Sox have enough starting pitching and offense for now to get by. I think it'll be a good month of June. Let's see how the season progresses. Will they add a bullpen arm? A notable one? I say, at some point, they will. I think there's a lot of pressure on Dombrowski to do that, this time around.
Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez is having a very solid season, and he's showing no signs of letting up.
In 146 at-bats, Vazquez is hitting .301/.340/.500 with a career-high seven homers, eight doubles, and 20 RBIs. He's been particularly hot this month, as he's 28-for-74 for a .378 average, including eight multi-hit games. His hits and multi-hit games are a career-high for a calender month, as well as his five doubles. His three homers also tie a career-high for a month, which he's done three previous times, including this April.
Vazquez has one more May game, which is tonight against the Yankees in the Bronx. Vazquez's career-high for batting average in a month is .385 (20-for-54), which came in August 2017. So with a good game tonight, Vazquez could set a new personal mark in that department.
Behind the plate, Vazquez has thrown out 8-of-19 (42.1%) runners and hasn't committed an error yet (despite six passed balls) in 347 total chances.
The 28-year-old backstop has two more guaranteed years in Boston before his 2022 club option kicks in.
Blues forward Oskar Sundqvist has been suspended for Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Bruins following his Game 2 hit on Matt Grzelcyk late in the first period.
Grzelcyk did not return to the game and was sent to the hospital. The next day, he was put in the league's concussion protocol.
Sundqvist is the fifth out of five players during these playoffs to receive a suspension following a hearing with the NHL's Department of Player Safety; Nikita Kucherov (one game), Joe Thornton (one), Nazem Kadri (five), and Charlie McAvoy (one) are the others.
John Moore will likely fill in for Grzelcyk for the time being.
There's a chance Grzelcyk could return by the end of the series, but it seems pretty unlikely that he plays in Games 3 and 4, as he didn't travel with the team to St. Louis.
Grzelcyk hasn't missed a game this playoff season yet. In 19 games, he has three goals and four assists, with five of those seven points coming on the power-play.
Bruins defenseman Matt Grzelcyk was officially placed in NHL's concussion protocol on Thursday following the nasty hit he took in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final on Wednesday night that forced him out of the game and to the hospital.
“He’s in the protocol,” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said on Grzelcyk, per CBS Boston. “When we have a further update, we’ll give it to you. We’re going to list him as day-to-day. … Right now, that’s the best I got for you. We’ll see where it goes from there.”
Cassidy has termed Grzelcyk as day-to-day.
According to NBC Sports Boston's Joe Haggerty, Grzelcyk was released from the hospital on Thursday.
Grzelcyk hasn't missed a game yet in these playoffs, and didn't travel with the team to St. Louis ahead of Games 3 and 4.
There's still a chance Grzelcyk could return by the end of the series. In his absence, you've got to think it'll be John Moore, who's a lefty shooter like Grzelcyk. Moore has appeared in only five games these playoffs.
After a 12-5 win on Monday night, the Red Sox lost the next two at home to the Cleveland Indians by scores of 7-5 and 14-9 to drop the three-game set.
It was Boston's third series loss in the last four (went 3-1 at Toronto), as the Red Sox are now 7-8 in their last 15 games, following an 11-2 tear (against Oakland, Chicago White Sox, Baltimore, and Seattle).
The Red Sox are now 29-27 on the season, 7.5 games back of the first-place Yankees who've won 13 of their last 16 games. The two teams will begin a four-game weekend series starting tonight, Thursday, in the Bronx at 7:05 pm ET.
Chris Sale (1-6, 4.19 ERA) will start for the Red Sox against fellow southpaw J.A. Happ (4-3, 5.09 ERA). Sale has seen his ERA drop 4.31 points in his last seven starts, but has been victimized by poor run support resulting in just the one win on the season (May 3).
Eduardo Rodriguez, Rick Porcello, and David Price are in line to finish off the four-game set for the Red Sox. As of 3:30 pm ET on Thursday, the Yankees' probable starters for Friday-Sunday are still TBD.
Huge series for the Red Sox. By the time the series ends it'll be June. Just like that. A split would be nice. Anything worse than that will be a big problem. You definitely don't want to lose any more ground to a red-hot Yankees team, who're in first place despite losing several of their key sluggers. Three wins would be big, four would be huge. I'm not expecting a sweep, though, from either team.
Let's go SOX. Don't count them out yet!
Through the first two games of the Stanley Cup Final, the "perfection line" has been pretty disappointing for the Bruins.
Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak have combined for a -7 in the two games. They each recorded a -1 in last night's loss, and combined for just seven of the Bruins' 23 shots (had 11 of 38 in Game 1). The line does have a couple points in the series (Marchand empty-netter in Game 1, Pastrnak assist on Coyle's PPG last night), but they need more. Much more.
Of the five goals the Blues have scored in this series, three have come against the perfection line—all coming from St. Louis top-liners Jaden Schwartz, Brayden Schenn, and Vladimir Tarasenko. So there's that.
Guess this series isn't as easy as people thought.
It doesn't need to be said, but the first line has to be better. On both sides of the ice.
Marchand didn't seem too worried following Game 2:
"It is what it is. Five games left, we're tied, best-of-five series here. So, if you told us at the start of the year we'd be 1-1 in the Finals, I'd take that every time. So yeah, onto the next one," Marchand said.
I've got to believe the top line will wake up in Game 3, especially with the Bruins being quite the road warriors with a 6-2 playoff mark. Whatever isn't working for Brad, Bergy, and Pasta now, I trust they'll figure it out in these two off days before Game 3. They're elite, all-star players.
They know what they have to do. Let's not panic... yet.
Blues Tie Up Stanley Cup Final With Bruins After Overtime Win In Game 2, Grzelcyk Hospitalized Following Hit
After a convincing 4-2 win in Game 1 on Monday night, the Bruins fell 3-2 last night in overtime to the St. Louis Blues in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final.
Carl Gunnarsson, who'd never scored a playoff goal in 56 career games, delivered the game-winner just 3:51 into overtime following a delayed penalty:
St. Louis didn't allow a Boston shot in overtime, while they had four of their own.
Boston was outplayed for the vast majority of the game, as they were out-shot 37-23 (had 38-20 advantage in Game 1), and 14-6 in the second period.
Prior to overtime, the game's four goals were all scored in the first period. Charlie Coyle (7th, PPG, 4:44), Robert Bortuzzo (2nd, 9:37), Joakim Nordstrom (3rd, 10:17) and Vladimir Tarasenko (10th, 14:55) found the back of the net in the back-and-forth period.
The Bruins missed four consecutive power-play opportunities after Coyle's early goal. The first of those missed chances came following a controversial hit from Oskar Sundqvist on Matt Grzelcyk against the boards:
Grzelcyk did not return to the game and was taken to the hospital.
NHL commentator Don Cherry said Grzelcyk was "asking for it" with the hit.
Sundqvist is due to have a hearing today with the NHL Department of Player Safety. Of the four players to have such hearings in these playoffs, all have received a suspension.
The series heads back to St. Louis for Games 3 and 4, set for Saturday and Monday night, both at 8 pm ET (all games this series are).
When Michael Chavis was called up by the Red Sox on April 19, the team was 6-13 and losers of three straight. It wasn't a good start for the team to say the least.
Chavis' opportunity came thanks to several roster changes that day, particularly with infielders Eduardo Nunez and Dustin Pedroia hitting the injured list.
At the time of his call-up, Chavis was regarded as a short-term solution for the Red Sox. But in the 35 games that he's played, the 23-year-old has made it clear that he's here to stay.
Heading into tonight's four-game set against the Yankees, the 5'10'' Chavis is hitting .269/.364/.507 with 10 homers and 27 RBIs on the year.
Chavis is hitting just .194 (7-for-36) in his last nine games, which isn't anything new for the rookie. From May 4-11, Chavis endured an 0-for-19 skid, which immediately followed a 13-for-26 stretch which included four dingers. But once that hitless streak ended, he followed it up with an 11-for-32 showing. No big deal!
Since his Major League debut on April 20, Chavis leads the Red Sox with his 10 dingers, and is second in RBIs to Xander Bogaerts who has 29.
Among qualifying American League rookies, Chavis ranks second in runs, homers, and RBIs to Tampa Bay Rays second baseman Brandon Lowe (who's played 13 more games with 46 more at-bats). Lowe's hit 11 homers and driven in 32 with a solid .278/.332/.533 slash line, with 11 doubles to Chavis' two.
One of those doubles by Chavis, you'll recall, came on his first ever plate appearance as a pinch-hitter which set up a game-winning sac fly:
That was Chavis' official entrance, and he's been an everyday player just about ever since. Although he has just one double since, his 10 homers are pretty impressive as well. They go pretty far too—Chavis currently has four of the longest five home runs for the Sox this season.
It's obvious that Chavis isn't going anywhere. Right now, he's the team's starting second baseman, as Dustin Pedroia isn't returning anytime soon. Chavis has also recently started some games at first base, as he hasn't committed an error yet in 52 chances.
Chavis really has been the spark that the Red Sox have needed. He's been a wonderful source of energy and production for this club. If he keeps it up, there's no reason he won't be in the Rookie of the Year discussion at the end of the year. He's made the most of his opportunity, and it became clear to the Red Sox that he couldn't be taken out of the lineup.
These four games coming up in New York against the Yankees will be Chavis' first taste of the Red Sox/Yankees rivalry. He's hit just one homer in his last nine games, so look for him to put at least one over the wall during some point this series.
David Price Leaves Start After Recording Just Two Outs, Astros Walk It Off For Second Straight 4-3 Win
The Red Sox dropped another one to the Houston Astros on Saturday night, this time by a score of 4-3, as Carlos Correa's walk-off base hit off Matt Barnes in the ninth inning capped off another tight match.
Houston's win was their second straight in the current series, both 4-3 victories; the Astros will go for the sweep with Justin Verlander on the bump this afternoon at 2:10 pm ET.
Barnes faced just four hitters and didn't record an out (double, walk, walk, single), getting handed his first loss of the season (now 2-1). Of his 18 pitches, seven were strikes.
David Price began last night's game for the Red Sox, and left after throwing 15 pitches and recording two outs. The reason? Flu-like symptoms.
Colten Brewer and Travis Lakins recorded seven outs apiece following Price's departure. The fourth man up was Heath Hembree, who came on in a first-and-third situation with one out in the sixth, allowing one to score while getting the final two outs of the inning.
Hector Velazquez pitched the seventh and eighth innings, allowing one earned run on two hits while striking out two.
Boston got a run in the seventh to cut Houston's lead to 2-1, and evened things up 3-3 in the ninth against noted horrible person and Astros closer Roberto Osuna on five pitches. The first three reached on three pitches (Devers single, Chavis single, Bradley HBP), before Christian Vazquez's two-run, RBI single down the left field line tied the game.
Unfortunately for the Sox, they couldn't push ahead that go-ahead run from third base with no outs. Had they done so, who knows how the bottom-half of the inning played out.
With the loss, the Red Sox dropped to 27-25, and 5-6 in their last 11 games.
Eduardo Rodriguez (4-3, 5.43 ERA) gets the start for Boston today opposing Verlander.
The Bruins started off the Eastern Conference Finals just how they wanted, beating the Carolina Hurricanes 5-2 in Game 1 on Thursday night at TD Garden.
Trailing 2-1 entering the third, the Bruins capitalized on two power-play chances to take a 3-2 lead less than three minutes into the period, as Marcus Johansson (3rd of playoffs, 2:26) and Patrice Bergeron (6th, 2:54) each found the back of the net.
Charlie Coyle's (6th) empty-netter with 2:13 remaining sealed it, while Chris Wagner (1st) scored an unassisted goal off a takeaway 11 seconds later, this time with Hurricanes goalie Petr Mrazek (23 saves on 27 shots) back in net.
Steven Kampfer, filling in the for suspended Charlie McAvoy on defense, kickstarted the Bruins' offense in the game. Playing in just his second career NHL postseason game (April 15 at Toronto), Kampfer opened the scoring just 2:55 into the contest, wristing a shot past Mrazek off a gorgeous backhand assist by Johansson:
The goal was Kampfer's first of his playoff career.
Tuukka Rask made 29 saves on 31 shots, improving to 9-5 in the playoffs.
Boston hosts the Hurricanes for Game 2 today at 3 pm ET.