The months-long wait is over, as free agent Craig Kimbrel has finally found a home, finalizing a three-year deal with the Chicago Cubs.
The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal was the first to break the news early Wednesday evening on an agreement between Kimbrel and the Cubs:
ESPN's Jeff Passan later reported the deal to be for three years at $43 million:
Today, Kimbrel was officially welcomed by the team:
The Cubs currently lead the NL Central by half-a-game despite having a true closer, so this is a big pickup by Chicago. Kimbrel fills that void as he's one of the best closers in the game, and on pace to be perhaps the most dominant one in Major League history. He's certainly trending in that direction. Only 31 and already with 333 saves and a 1.91 ERA. Simply dominant.
In his three seasons with the Red Sox, Kimbrel converted 108 of 119 save opportunities with a 2.44 ERA in 187 games, and struck out 14.89 hitters per nine innings (14.67 for career).
Kimbrel appeared in nine playoff games for the Red Sox last year, going six-for-six in save opportunities despite posting a 5.91 ERA in October.
At the beginning of the offseason, Kimbrel was seeking a six-year deal north of $100 million.
Chris Sale picked up his second win of the season on Wednesday night against the Royals, tossing a three-hit, no-walk, 12-strikeout shutout in an 8-0 Sox victory. He was simply dominant, with an immaculate inning on top of it, his second of the season.
The Red Sox's ace is now just the second pitcher in Major League history to record two immaculate innings in a season. Lefty Grove is the other, having done so for the Philadelphia Athletics in 1928.
Sale struck out Kelvin Gutierrez, Nicky Lopez, and Martin Maldonado in the seventh inning to, once again, accomplish the rare feat and tie history:
While improving his record to 2-7, Sale also lowered his ERA from 4.35 to 3.84, in what was his 16th career complete game and third career shutout.
Sale's ERA in his last nine starts is 2.43, after struggling to an 8.50 mark in his first four of this season. In addition, he's struck out 10 or more in seven of those nine starts, something he didn't do in those first four.
It's safe to say Sale is back. After a rough start, the ace of the Sox is feeling good and has figured it out. He's the punchout master.
The Bruins have their backs against the wall against the Blues, trailing 3-2 in the Stanley Cup Final with Game 6 scheduled for Sunday night in St. Louis.
Incredibly, Boston's "perfection line" of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and David Pastrnak haven't recorded a single five-on-five point in the entire series.
For Marchand, he's now failed to record a five-on-five point in 11 straight Stanley Cup Final games, dating back to Game 7 in 2011.
There's at least one more chance for the top line to get it going. Game 6. See you then.
The Red Sox beat the Royals 7-5 on Thursday afternoon at Kauffman Stadium to sweep the three-game series, and for their fourth straight win.
Boston improved to 33-29 on the year while Kansas City dropped to 19-43, currently tied with the Orioles for baseball's worst record.
Mookie Betts hit his 10th home run of the season for Boston, a two-run shot in the third off Danny Duffy (who Betts homered three times off of in the same game last year) which tied the game at two. For Betts, it was his first homer of June.
Christian Vazquez's two-out, two-run triple in the seventh increased the Red Sox's lead from one to three runs, as he came around to score the team's final run on a wild pitch the same inning; Vazquez now has 22 RBIs on the season.
Ryan Weber started on Thursday for the Red Sox, recording just four outs while allowing two runs on five hits. In order, Colten Brewer (six), Marcus Walden (five), Ryan Brasier (three), Josh Taylor (three), Heath Hembree (three), and Matt Barnes (three) recorded the final 23 outs for Boston, one night after Chris Sale's three-hit shutout.
The Red Sox won 8-3 on Tuesday night, and 8-0 on Wednesday behind Sale's brilliant 102-pitch effort.
Boston begins a four-game weekend series (doubleheader on Saturday) tonight against the Tampa Bay Rays at Fenway Park. The Rays are 1.5 games behind the first-place Yankees in the AL East, while the Red Sox begin action down 6.5 games.
After taking a puck to the face in Monday's Game 4, Bruins captain Zdeno Chara was reported to have a broken jaw the next day while hardly being able to speak.
However, that didn't stop the tallest man in NHL history from playing in Game 5, showing just how tough he is.
Big Z received by far the biggest applause from the Bruins faithful during the starting lineup announcements:
Chara logged 16:42 of ice-time for the Bruins in their 2-1 loss, the third most from their defensemen; he also recorded two shots and four hits.
There is no denying the warrior-like mentality of Chara, a future Hall of Famer.
Down 3-2 in the series, Chara and the Bruins will look to force a Game 7 in TD Garden by first taking care of business on Sunday night at Enterprise Center.
The St. Louis Blues took a 3-2 lead in the Stanley Cup Final last night, winning 2-1 despite being out-shot 39-21 by the Bruins.
A key moment in Thursday night's match occurred just midway through the third period, as Bruins fourth-liner Noel Acciari was the victim of an obvious slewfoot from fellow center Tyler Bozak. No penalty was called, Acciari was injured on the play (he didn't return to the game), essentially giving the Blues a 5-on-4 as they ended up scoring to take a 2-0 lead:
Incredibly, the NHL's official Twitter account didn't even bother showing what actually happened prior to the goal scored by David Perron:
Jake DeBrusk scored his fourth goal of the playoffs and first of the series with 6:26 left in the third to make it a 2-1 game. Although getting some solid chances to score down the stretch, the Bruins were simply unable to find the equalizer.
Boston out-shot St. Louis 17-8 in the first period, and 14-7 in the third.
On three power-play opportunities, the Bruins were unable to score; the Blues failed on one such chance.
Ryan O'Reilly opened the scoring with his third goal in two games 55 seconds into the second period, back-handing one past Tuukka Rask on a nice behind-the-net feed from Zach Sanford:
It was O'Reilly's second straight game with a first-minute goal in a period, as he scored 43 seconds into Game 4.
Unsurprisingly, Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy was not happy with the blown non-call:
Boston dressed seven defensemen in the game as David Backes sat out; Steven Kampfer was added to the blue line along with the six that took the ice in Games 3 and 4.
With their backs against the wall, the Bruins will look to force a Game 7 on Sunday night in St. Louis.
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.