Red Sox Report: Move Needed at Deadline to Cope Through Madness

boston-red-sox

Welcome to this week’s edition of Red Sox Report. With the deadline quickly approaching, the Red Sox may be looking to acquire another pitcher. They are in touch with the White Sox about Chris Sale, who wants a trade. Plus, the White Sox may want him gone after what he did. The Sox could really use another pitcher to work through a brutal 11 game west coast road trip against the Angels, Mariners and Dodgers. However, Craig Kimbrel could be back for that, and we have an injury update on him. We also have Hanley Ramirez in a hot streak despite struggles from Bogaerts and Ortiz since the break. But the Orioles and Blue Jays are also hot, and the Red Sox still aren’t winning the games they need even with Hanley hot. Will they pull ahead or fall behind? It’ll all be mentioned today.

Red Sox Need To Up Their Game Or They’ll Have Problems Coming Up

image

You think the Sox have it tough right now? They should be winning these games. In some, the pitching wasn’t there, in others, our typical clutch guys have failed to come through. Today the Red Sox enter an 11-game west coast trek to Anaheim, Seattle and Los Angeles. Sure, the Angels might be easier than the rest of the trip but a) They’ve won against the better teams lately b) They’ve done well against the Red Sox and c) Most of the games are at 10:00 PM! Then you have Seattle, a decent team. They could split with us, but for them, that 10:00 is 7:00. They’re used to it. The Sox aren’t. Then the Dodgers are already a good team. Add on late night games and the fact that they haven’t had a day off in over 2 weeks, and it looks as if the Dodgers will earn the 3 game sweep. The Red Sox needed to nail this home stand, and the fact that they struggled makes this road trip even more crucial and tough if they want to be playoff contenders.

Do The Red Sox Need to Make a Move?

image

The Red Sox have had a pretty good season compared to recent years, but still are having a tough time in some games. The lineup is usually strong but lately, pitching has just gotten worse, and the Red Sox lineup has not been great in clutch situations. Take a game like Tuesday night’s for example. Our lineup did some pretty great things that night. We scored 8 runs! But pitching was terrible, especially Steven Wright, who is still on track for an awesome season despite a rough outing. His ERA got bumped up over 3.00 after giving up 8 runs in 4.2 innings. Robbie Ross Jr. gave up a ninth run, and we were in position for Big Papi to hit his second dinger of the game, but instead, he grounded out, leaving it up to Hanley Ramirez, who also failed to stay hot. The clutch guys in the middle of our lineup failed to come through. They lost, 9-8, and now the Sox have lost 4 out of the last 5 games.

That’s when a trade can come in handy. This is a good Red Sox team that will contend, and they already have a wild card spot. But in order to advance in the playoffs, they need something more, they’re going to be buyers. Pomeranz is some help, but clearly not enough as he lost both games he started anyways. Like I said in my midseason report, we have some options. Chris Sale is one, he wants a trade, and the White Sox may not want him anymore, so he may be on discount. But one of two things is bound to happen, a) Sale will do well and lead us to a deep playoff run, but the prospects Chicago acquires turn out to be great or b) Sale will get into trouble with Boston after we get him on discount, and it turns out he ripped up the jerseys because he has behavior problems, not because he wanted to be traded. Hey, we could get lucky, but I doubt it with the way the Red Sox have had it. Sale might struggle and the trade could be a total bust. Who knows? That’s where the options come in.
Someone like Julio Teheran is much less risky, however, he’s not quite ace material. The Braves would also want some big name prospects. They cannot just give away their best pitcher. Jose Fernandez could be another option. It’s likely the least risky and Fernandez is good enough to be considered an ace. They will however want major league players like Travis Shaw and Blake Swihart as they run at the playoffs themselves. Still, I don’t trust Aaron Hill at third, especially in future years when he needs to resign with us to stay. Shaw may never come back if we trade him, and I don’t like the idea of Pablo Sandoval starting at third next year with Farrell desperate for options so Panda can spend time on the bench where he belongs for the rest of his sucky Red Sox stint. The Marlins might even want more from us, like Mookie Betts and JBJ. The Red Sox may have some risk involved with each of their options, but they need to pick one, and just go with it, because they will be desperate for pitching if they don’t make a trade. There’s no good pitchers in 2016-17 free agency either. They will have relentless problems coming up if they don’t change things up a bit.

Kimbrel Working His Way Back For Road Trip
image

The Red Sox bullpen is going through some tough times. Although they do have Brad Ziegler and Matt Barnes, the original revamped bullpen from the offseason is down to one healthy pitcher, Junichi Tazawa. Koji Uehara’s timetable for his injury is undetermined and Carson Smith’s season is done. Going into this west coast trip, the Red Sox will need their bullpen in good condition, especially if they don’t step it up with their starting pitching or trade for someone at the deadline. However, one more guy could come back soon, and earlier than we thought. That guy is closer Craig Kimbrel. Kimbrel will throw another bullpen session today and could be in for a rehab assignment this weekend. He may return for the road trip, but personally, I think he should take his time since we have Brad Ziegler to close. Nobody wants a banged up Kimbrel to close for us. So, Kimbrel could be back for the road trip, but should he pitch, especially in these late night, tight games, or should he rest up for the next home stand? The decision will come soon.

Hanley On Hot Streak, Hit 5 Dingers in 7 Games

image

The Red Sox may be struggling in clutch situations, but that doesn’t stop Hanley Ramirez from being streaky old Hanley Ramirez. Thankfully, this time it’s a hot streak. Ramirez won AL Player of The Week after hitting .333 and hit 5 home runs and drove in 12 runs in the 7 days the Sox played the Giants and Twins. Hanley has slowed down a bit in this series, but he went from 8 to 13 dingers and bumped up his average to nearly .300. If Ramirez can keep up the act it would further power the Red Sox lineup and make his signing worth it for once. Can Hanley continue to pull it together, even on a tough west-coast road trip? If he can, that would be pretty amazing.

Division Competition: Can The Sox Keep Up With Baltimore, Toronto?

The Red Sox are currently in third place in the AL East despite a strong record, enough for a wild card slot, but they have not been able to keep up with their division rivals, the Orioles and the Blue Jays. The Orioles had won 5 in a row, sweeping the Indians before losing the last two, but the Red Sox also got swept by the Tigers in a rough series, and that didn’t help. The Jays have won 3 of the last 4 games, and had a 3 game winning streak snapped last night. But the Red Sox fell so far behind in struggles from this home stand that the Jays snuck into second. If the Sox can’t do well in this home stand, the upcoming road trip will be a train wreck. They only have so many home games left. Could that be why the Sox have done well so far? Is this whole good record for the Red Sox a fluke? They need to step it up ASAP if they want to stay in contention.

 

The Red Sox have had a good season, but something needs to change if the Red Sox want to stay in contention through the tough late July, August and September schedules. Will they stay in contention after the trade deadline, fresh out of a big trade, or will they flop after doing nothing at the deadline? The decision is in Dave Dombrowski’s hands.

 

Advertisements

Red Sox Midseason Report: How They’ve Done and What’s Next

boston-red-sox

After having some of the worst seasons of the century in three of the last four years, the Red Sox have actually put up some decent numbers in 2016’s first half.  They’ve gone 49-38, and those 38 losses haven’t even come in groups of more than 3 straight, despite only winning 4 straight.  We’ve had extensive hitting streaks, young power, and even a glorious final season for Big Papi.  The biggest thing that made us improve greatly from the disaster of ’15 is that the lineup is finally hitting.  JBJ’s finally developed, Betts is more consistent, Hanley’s bouncing back, slightly, and Xander Bogaerts and David Ortiz have continued to shine.

But pitching has still been an issue.  Sure, Steven Wright’s finally broken through, and Rick Porcello has bounced back, but David Price isn’t himself, and Clay Buchholz and Joe Kelly have done nothing to prove they deserve a slot in the rotation.  E-Rod has even struggled since returning from a knee injury.  The bullpen upgrades weren’t worthwhile either, with Craig Kimbrel not doing his job and Carson Smith shut down for the season.  Koji Uehara and Junichi Tazawa aren’t everyday relievers anymore either.

Best Before The Break

jbj-1st-half.jpg

  • We haven’t had many winning streaks due to bad pitching, but we’ve had a powerful lineup.  What’s the one thing that can come when the lineup is good, but pitching blows some of the games?  Hitting streaks, and other impressive batting stats.  From late April to early June, the Red Sox led the league in hitting streaks.  Jackie Bradley Jr. started his 29 game hitting streak in late April.  JBJ stretched his streak into late May.  It was ended in an upset loss to the Rockies in the series finale after leading the series 2-0.  Xander Bogaerts came next.  Bogey stretched his streak to 26 games, nearly beating Bradley’s streak after it had ended.  Bogaerts already had 16 games when Bradley’s streak got terminated.  We even had a couple more double digit streks after that, by Mookie Betts, Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz.  We also have four players batting over .300, Pedroia, Betts, Bogaerts and Ortiz.  At one point, Bogaerts led the AL.  Big Papi also has 22 dingers and 72 RBI, and Mookie Betts is on pace for a 30/3o season with 15 stolen bases and 18 homers.
  • Most of the Red Sox rotation has had some very ugly moments, but one guy who has been on fire this season is Steven Wright.  This guy has an inspiring story.  Before he was a knuckleballer, Wright was thinking about quitting baseball after struggling.  But he came back, as a Red Sox knuckleballer.  For a knuckleballer, he’s pretty impressive, putting up a 2.68 ERA and going 10-5 in a career high 17 starts.  Combined with David Price and Rick Porcello, who have been decent, the three have 50 starts, 27 wins and 12 losses, a 3.66 combined ERA, and have pitched 322 1/3 innings.  All other Sox starters have gone 7-12 with a 7.22 ERA and pitched 154.2 innings in 32 starts.
  • I’ve already said the Red Sox lineup has been good in general, but I’d like to point out a few guys who I really enjoyed watching in this half.  First off, the Killer B’s.  These three young stars are the future of the lineup, and have given it an extra spark in Big Papi and Pedroia’s shadow.  Mookie Betts has done some pretty impressive things for a leadoff.  He had 5 home runs in two games, four in the first two innings of games.  He’s now on pace for about 35 dingers and 30 stolen bases.  Bogaerts and Bradley both had massive hitting streaks, and Bogaerts has a .329 batting average and led the AL for a bit.  This is especially impressive for JBJ considering he’d never hit consistently before.  Big Papi has also been very impressive for a 40 year old retiring after the season.  He’s batted .332 with 22 homers, 72 RBI and a 1.107 OPS!  Ortiz leads the league in doubles, OBP, slugging PCT, and OPS!  He’s 40 years old!  Lastly, this may surprise you, but I have been legitimately impressed by Sandy Leon this season.  In just under 100 at bats, he’s hit between .400 and .500 for most of the season with a 1.173 OPS.  For a .242 career hitter, that is mind blowing.  The Red Sox had 4 hitters starting at the All Star Game for a reason.

One Last Thing

One thing I’ve found very interesting this season is the Red Sox’s outfielders’ celebration dance.  Where did they come up with this?  What does this mean?   Who knows, but one thing I know about it is that I’m loving it.

Worst of the 1st (Half)

  • Alright, the hitting has really boosted the Red Sox, but pitching has been a major problem.  We’re lacking quality starts, and quality starters.  Nobody who we needed to come through this season has come through consistently.  Henry Owens hasn’t come through, E-Rod has began to struggle, Buchholz and Kelly have had very rough years, pretty much everyone except Steven Wright, and maybe David Price and Rick Porcello.  Under no terms would I even consider them a big three!  The Red Sox are a good team this year, but if they can’t make do with what they have, or get better pitching, they will not win the division, maybe even miss the playoffs.
  • The bullpen has also had issues, and this partially draws back to the pitching problems.  Especially through some rough times in June, Red Sox starters have failed to go deep into games without getting shattered.  It’s been cause and effect with the bullpen.  Relievers have had to pitch numerous days in a row, even Koji and Tazawa, and the worst part is, Craig Kimbrel’s struggled and Carson Smith and Roenis Elias have done nothing.  There goes the Wade Miley and Manuel Margot trades down the toilet.

Basically, most of the problems have been caused by pitching and injuries to key hitters, so I don’t have much more to say.

My Final Say

I have to give the Red Sox a lot of credit for being able to keep stable and finish the half with a winning record despite some terrible pitching.  Between an amazing lineup, some luck, and some shocking saved games, the Red Sox have not backed down and stayed in contention for most of the half.  The Red Sox are actually interesting to watch this season.  If they can bring in a big name player, just that minor improvement could make the Red Sox a playoff team.

Grade So Far: B+

The Recent Buzz and How It Impacts The Near Future

red_sox_brad_ziegler_071016.jpg

The Red Sox went into the break with a much needed sweep of the Rays.  David Price pitched the way he should, and the Red Sox had some efficient innings on the mound and at bat.  They also started to make some moves.  They brought in Aaron Hill as an extra infielder.  I think Hill could end up playing Brock Holt/Josh Rutledge’s old role, an extra infielder for injured or tired players.  They also acquired super utility Michael Martinez, who I’m sure will also make an impact.  Finally, at 1:00 AM on Saturday morning, we traded two prospects to Arizona for Brad Ziegler, who will help the bullpen and close in place of Kimbrel while he’s out.  They didn’t have to give up much, but Hill and Ziegler are free agents after the season.   We even got a middle rotation starter, Drew Pomeranz.  He hasn’t always been in the rotation, but this year he helped a weak Padres rotatin after some time with the A’s.

But I think that these small moves have to lead up to something big.  These guys like Hill, Ziegler and Martinez will be deserving of bigger roles when our dinged up team returns strong after the break.  Maybe even a better pitcher.  There have been rumors of trading Blake Swihart and Travis Shaw and maybe a top prospect for a pitcher.  There’s been Yoan Moncada rumors in the air.  But what are some realistic trade scenarios for us?

Note: In all of these, trading a prospect is likely necessary but Moncada will not likely be in the first offer.  If a team is offering an ace for Moncada, I would take it though.

Red Sox Receive: Chris Sale

White Sox Receive: Yoan Moncada, Blake Swihart, Travis Shaw

This may not make sense, as the White Sox won’t have Shaw start, but Shaw could backup some games at third, maybe even learn the middle infield.  Swihart may be on the 60 day DL but when he comes back, he could be an efficient outfielder or backup catcher for Chicago.  Moncada might be what the White Sox are looking for to change their future, and that could end up being the deciding factor in the trade.  Imagine Price and Sale, forever rivals, on one team.

Red Sox Receive: Jose Fernandez

Marlins Receive: Travis Shaw, Michael Kopech, Yoan Moncada

The Marlins may be a .500 team, but this team could use the prospects, especially a young pitcher that could be the future ace.  Shaw would actually be very helpful for Miami, as they could use some depth at third and first.

Red Sox Receive: Julio Teheran

Braves Receive: Travis Shaw, Blake Swihart, Yoan Moncada

The Braves definitely have depth problems at the moment, and guys like Shaw and Swihart who are young and still on their first contract could help them for the next couple of years as well.  But the Braves are in rebuild and a big name prospect could do a lot.  Imagine the future middle infield in Atlanta, Moncada and Dansby Swanson.

How Trades Like These Would Impact Us

It may not be necessary now that we have Pomeranz and Ziegler, but the truth is, the Red Sox could still use more pitching.  E-Rod is not ready to return to the rotation yet, and we don’t have other options right now.  Giving up Shaw or Moncada would not be great, Moncada could be the future at second or third and Shaw is our third/first baseman for next year with Aaron Hill hitting free agency.  But a big trade may be necessary for the Red Sox to contend, and they need to beat their division rivals to the best pitchers on the market.  Most of the top teams in the AL East have a strong lineup, but lack pitching, a lot like us.  Right now, it looks like whoever has the best pitching after the trade deadline wins the division.

Second Half Predictions

 

Who Will Make The Playoffs?

AL

Division Winners:

 

East: Red Sox (92-70)

Central: Indians (90-72)

West: Rangers (96-66)

 

Wild Cards: Orioles (91-71), Tigers (89-73)

 

After all these moves, I think the Red Sox are in position to beat out the Orioles.  Baltimore has gotten lucky, riding to playoff contention on just a strong lineup.  The Sox now have the pitching they need to win the division, their main advantage over the Orioles, who have not made any trades yet.  The Red Sox have made 4.  There have only been 8 in the league this year, so they were involved in half of them so far.

With the central, I think it will be close, but I can’t see these mediocre teams taking the division?  Playoffs?  That’s highly possible, but they have to make it in as wild cards.  The Tigers are the best and healthiest of the three middle teams in the Central, edging out a banged up Royals squad, a surging Astros team and the collapsing Blue Jays.

The Rangers have the AL West this year.  Their closest competitor for most of the year, the Mariners, went from serious contender to .500 team.  The Astros have recovered from a rough start and took second, but after the monstrous first two months they had, they can’t win the division.

 

NL

Division Winners:

 

East: Nationals (94-68)

Central: Cubs (96-66)

West: Giants (93-69)

 

Wild Cards: Dodgers (92-70), Pirates (89-73)

 

In the East, I actually don’t think any of these teams have had that great a year, the Nats have just beaten their rivals up the most.  The Mets need Cespedes and David Wright to contend, and I think that the Pirates will get hot and surpass them, with a strong, young rotation and an acceptable lineup.

Even with the Pirates bound to surge, the Cubs will take the Central easily.  With a mix of young guns and powerful veterans, this team has the perfect formula for a great season and playoff run.  They may be struggling currently, but this World Series contender should snap out of it, and beat out the Pirates and Cardinals for the division title.

In the West, I think this will end up being down to the Dodgers and Giants.  With a healthier team coming out of the break, the Dodgers could really get ahead in the 2nd half, but a division title?  Not with the Giants already doing awesome.  Remember, it is an even year.  It happened in 2010, 2012 and 2014.  The Giants won the World Series.  With a revamped rotation this year and a very similar lineup besides young Matt Duffy playing in place of Pablo Sandoval, they’ll at least take the division!  They should be glad Sandoval’s gone, who’s stuck in nothingness right now after three rings and amazing Octobers with the Giants.  He’s hurt, so fat he can’t fit in his belt, and can’t play at all anymore.  He lost his starting job to Travis Shaw before he got hurt!  I thought they would be mediocre when I did my preseason predictions, but they have proved to me that they can really dominate with luck and a good off season on their side.

 

Major Changes in the Standings

  • I think the Blue Jays will fall out of things a little bit.  The gap will narrow between them and the Yankees, and a rotation lacking depth will struggle.  They also have to figure out a way to make their feast or famine lineup consistent, and things will be tough for them, especially without Jose Bautista, who they may have to get used to playing without.
  • The Tigers and Royals will surge past the White Sox and come closer to the Indians.  The Tigers lineup is so powerful when everyone’s healthy, and their rotation has its flaws, but I don’t think it’s that bad.  The Royals have done amazing considering the fact that Mike Moustakas, Alex Gordon, Lorenzo Cain, Omar Infante or more than one of them have been out most of the season.  If the Royals can keep this young lineup up and polish up the rotation a bit, they could contend as well.
  • The Phillies will, well, be the Phillies!  If they can keep things up the way they’ve been running their lineup, rotation and bullpen, I’d be amazed.  Some major re-organization, change and rebuilding is needed for this team to keep their current conditions.  Odubel Herrera, Peter Bourjos and crew can’t do this all the time!  It just won’t work!  Their division rivals will also fall behind the Nats and out of contention.  The Marlins have gotten more good than bad from a truly mediocre team, and they just aren’t a playoff team.  The Mets just have too many injuries and developing holes.
  • The Pirates will slide into contention.  This powerful lineup is ready to set on fire, and coming out of the All Star Break is the perfect way to do it.  Personally, I think this team has far more talent than the 2nd place Cardinals and could compete for a wild card behind the struggling, but really almost invincible 2016 Chicago Cubs squad.
  • I think we will see some minor changes in the NL West, but not much important stuff.  I think a healthy Dodgers team can definitely narrow the gap between them and 1st place, especially with their anticipated full health rotation up and running.  I also think the hard hitting Rockies are no match for the young, all-around talented D-Backs.  Arizona should beat the Rockies out for 3rd place.

 

Looking Ahead: World Series Contenders

As of right now, my World Series prediction is the Cubs topping the Rangers 4-2.  The Cubs will have tough competition in the NLCS, whoever they face.  It could be the Dodgers, the perfect mix of old and new when they’re healthy.  Or the Giants, who have a big three pitching group and even year luck on their side.  Maybe the Nationals, an all around strong team who may not be the NL’s biggest bully, but have enough power to upset the best.  But I think the Cubs are the most capable team in the NL, and they can work through some of the bigger threats.

As for the Rangers, they have the best chance at representing the AL, as the rest of the contenders have hidden flaws.  The Red Sox still have pitching issues, even after the Pomeranz trade.  The Indians lack a true superstar, and the Orioles have some hidden problems of their own.  Who knows what to expect from them here on out?

I have the Cubs because they had a strong off season that paid off, and after such a big drought, the past few years, the Cubs have put so much into rebuilding, in hopes of eventually having this, a super team.  The Rangers pitching staff is no match for the Cubs’ monarchy of a lineup.

 

So, between the ups and downs, I think that the Red Sox are in for a strong 2nd half, and could be on their way to their first playoff run since the 2013 World Series campaign.

 

Sox Lineup Delivers After Slow Start

bogaerts-10th-dinger.jpg

Pedroia on first.  Bogaerts at the plate.  He hits it high into left, will it be enough?  GONE!!!! Xander Bogaerts nails a homer over the Green Monster and the Red Sox are on the board!  

The Red Sox got the job done, beating the Rays 4-1.  Rick Porcello pitched 7 strong innings, giving up just 1 run.  He is now 11-2 on the season!  I was at the game, starting a new winning streak as a fan at Fenway.  I am now 8-3 when I go, the 3 losses all coming last season.  

I’d like to give a shout-out to David Gagne for giving us the tickets with a great view in the right field box near Pesky Pole!  

The Red Sox couldn’t find their groove in the first three innings.  Porcello’s home run issues continued as he gave up a moonshot over the monster to Brad Miller in the first. Porcello gave up 3 hits and let one batter into scoring position in the next 3 innings.   There was also a throwing error by Xander Bogaerts on a routine ground ball in the 4th but Souza Jr. was caught stealing to end the inning.

The Sox offense was quiet in the first 3 innings other than a Mookie Betts blooper robbed by Oswaldo Arcia with a miraculous sliding catch.

Things changed for the Sox in the bottom of the 4th.  For the first three innings Moore was efficient with his pitches and only faced 10 Sox batters.  Matt Moore had less than 40 pitches through 3 innings.  But Pedroia led off the inning by working an 8 pitch walk.  That was the turning point of the game.  Moore struggled terribly after that.  Bogaerts launched a badly located 2 strike fastball for a 2-run HR over the monster seats.  Moore escaped the inning but not before walking Ortiz and giving up a single to new Sox Aaron Hill.

It looked like Porcello would fail to hold to the lead as he missed location on a 3-2 fastball to Nick Franklin.  The Rays left fielder started the inning with a double off the wall.  According to quora.com, 60% of the time at least one run scores after a leadoff double!

But Porcello got what he needed to get out of the inning without letting Franklin score.  He struck out the 8th and 9th batters, Arcia and Casali.  Then Bogaerts flashed his glove with a diving stop of a Forsythe one hop liner.  Shaw helped finish the play with a nice scoop of Xander’s 1 bounce throw.  And the Sox and Porcello escaped the top of the 5th still holding a 2-1 lead.

And the Sox kept their momentum going in the next inning.  Sandy Leon got things started with an infield single.  Mookie Betts then lined a shot to the center field gap that Souza Jr ran down but he took his eye off it as he almost ran into the wall.  He dropped it! A costly error put Betts and Leon into scoring position.  Pedroia made the Rays pay with a hard base hit to left and just like that it was 4-1 Red Sox.  Pedroia hit it so hard but Betts’ aggressive base running helped him beat the off-line throw and Pedroia took second.  The Sox would not score again but the damage was done.  

The next inning, Porcello got in another jam.  He gave up back to back singles with one out.  But Steven Souza Jr’s bad day continued as he grounded into a routine double play to short.   

Things settled down after that.  Matt Moore was pulled after 6 innings as the Sox got his pitch count up to 107 pitches after rough 4th and 5th innings.  Porcello went for one more inning before calling it a day, giving up only 1 earned run through 7 innings, doing what he needed to do to earn a victory.

Both bullpens shut down the sides through the 7th and 8th.  Dylan Floro did get in a bit of a pickle in the 8th when JBJ doubled and the Sox had 1st and 2nd after an intentional walk to Shaw.  Then Forsythe bobbled what should have been an inning ending double play ball hit by Bryce Brentz.  Brentz was called out on a fielder’s choice.  John Farrell challenged the play because replays showed what appeared to be a tie to the runner.  But the call was too close to overrule and then Sandy Leon struck out to end the inning.

Koji Uehara, the acting closer, came in to pitch for the 2nd straight day a go for his 2nd straight save.  A difficult task for a pitcher Koji’s age.  

Farrell had no choice but to use Koji as Craig Kimbrel is having knee surgery and will be out 3-6 weeks.  Dombrowski traded 2 prospects to Arizona for their closer Brad Ziegler but Ziegler couldn’t make it in time for the game as the trade was made just before midnight in San Francisco where Arizona was playing.  

So Koji Uehara took the closer role and got the job done anyway.  He gave up a lead-off single but settled down to strike out the last two batters, the 1st looking on a questionable call and the last batter on a splitter in the dirt.

The Red Sox got the job done as they begin to gain in the division.  Can they lock up the sweep before the All Star Break despite the Orioles winning?  Can David Price pitch the way he’s supposed to and will the Red Sox go into the break in good shape and come out of it as playoff hungry buyers?  Today’s 1:30 game decides it all and a 7-2 homestand before the break would feel much better than 6-3.  Go Sox!

I Have A YouTube Channel!

A few days ago, I was at a Multimedia Camp.  We were deciding on projects to show at a showcase that concluded the camp.  My brother, Ryan and I each did YouTube channels.  Ryan’s is a gaming channel, but mine is a sports channel.  I am using my YouTube as an extension to my blog and a way to advertise for it, but I figured I would share it with my current blog viewers as well.  I already have 3 videos from the camp.  I am currently taking a short break from uploading to my channel, but to watch my four videos I’ve made so far and any new uploads in the future, click here.

American Ninja Warrior: Women Set Record on Tough Philly Course

These Qualifiers keep getting harder, and Philly is no exception.  The episode was full of surprises.  Many veterans finished the course, but new faces, including three women besides Michelle Warnky also conquered it.  The 5th obstacle, the Rolling Thunder, knocked out 21 people!  Today, we look at the best, most surprising and most inspiring runs.  

 

Obstacles

 

  1. Floating Steps
  2. Log Grip
  3. Paddle Boards
  4. Wall Drop
  5. Rolling Thunder
  6. Warped Wall

 

Women Thrive

jesse-labreck.jpg

Michelle Warnky was among few women who had a strong run last season, but this season, Warnky inspired three.  Warnky looked good on the Paddle Boards and Wall Drop, but failed on the Rolling Thunder.  People shouldn’t be surprised by this.  Women are inspired to prove people wrong, and women can be just as good of ninjas as men.

 

Jesse “Flex” Labreck was an elite track and field athlete in high school, but is now a full time caregiver for Emeline Sterpe, a 20 year old girl with Cerebral Palsy who cannot move her arms and legs or talk after moving to Boston.  She communicates through a computer controlled by her glasses.  “Jesse will crush the course”, she said.  She did, flying through the first four obstacles, with Emeline watching with amazement and a smile, before Labreck became another victim of the dreaded Rolling Thunder.

 

Rachael Goldstein just barely made the City Finals.  Just like the other women, she flew through the first four obstacles, but the Rolling Thunder stumped her as well.

 

Allyssa Beird is a school teacher that lives in Marlboro, Massachusetts.  I live just one town away in Northborough!  Beird just made the Finals after two ninjas fell on the Log Grip to save her.  She flew through the first four obstacles before becoming one of 21 Rolling Thunder victims.  

 

New Ninjas Inspire Many and Conquer Course

 

anthony-defanco.jpg

Jon Alexis Jr., known as Jon the Giant, flew through the course, despite some slip-ups.  His height helped, he’s the tallest ninja of Philly at 6’6”.  If he wasn’t that tall, he would’ve missed the dismount on the Wall Drop!  Alexis finished the course with a Top 3 time, sandwiched between rookie Anthony DeFranco and 3-year vet, the Ninja Weatherman Joe Moravsky.  

 

Anthony DeFranco was cancer survivor Greg Smith’s closest friend.  They were on the track team in high school together, until Greg got diagnosed with serious cancer.  When he was cured in 2013, Smith and DeFranco began training for American Ninja Warrior together.  Smith fell on the Paddle Boards, but DeFranco, his training partner showed him how it’s done by finishing the course with the top time.  

 

Najee Richardson lives right in Philadelphia, and had his whole family to cheer him on.  He dominated the course and was the first finisher of the Rolling Thunder and the whole course.  For a rookie, that struck me into amazement!  Did he get to train on the actual course or something?  Richardson will be highly anticipated at the city finals.  

 

John Gowder Jr. is doing this for his dad, John Gowder Sr.  He has MS which has slowly gotten worse.  He is now in a wheelchair permanently.  However, John Sr. was guiding Gowder every step of the way.  Gowder showed his dad how it’s done by making it to the fifth obstacle, but he was puzzled by the Rolling Thunder.  

 

John Loobey didn’t make it very far on the course, but still made the history books.  At 64, the Sunday School teacher is the oldest to get past not just the 1st obstacle, but 2 obstacles.  John says that the young guys don’t scare him, in hopes to not just get past the 1st obstacle, but hit the buzzer.  He also said that he’ll be back next year at age 65 to try and top that.  

 

Vets Come Up Big

 

geoff-britten.jpg

Joe Moravsky still finished with a top time, even after spending a lot of the past year taking care of his daughter Emily, limiting his time for training and sleep.  This was Emily’s first American Ninja Warrior event of many to come, and the Ninja Weatherman impressed his daughter by doing what he does best, flying through the course and working the clock to snag a top time.  

 

Geoff Britten is the only person to hit all 6 buzzers in one season.  Not even Isaac Caldiero did that!  Britten was the first American Ninja Warrior, but Caldiero got the $1,000,000 due to a faster time.  The Rolling Thunder has stumped many, but Britten had no issues, dominating it and the rest of the course.  He hit his 7th straight buzzer with a Top 10 time.  We’ll see if he can make that 8, and faster at the City Finals.

 

Jamie Rahn, otherwise known as Captain NBC, came back with the same outfit and crazy hairdo.  He used his ninja “superpowers” to dominate the course once again, and quickly.  He finished 6th overall, just 3 seconds shy of 3 minutes.  Rahn also came 3 seconds away from a Top 5 time.  Najee Richardson finished in 2 minutes, 54 seconds.  Rahn hopes to do even better at the City Finals.  

 

Ryan Stratis is one of a very small group of ninjas that have competed on all eight seasons of American Ninja Warrior. He’s dominated year after year, but this year was different.  Stratis is four months removed from severe shoulder surgery.  It took hard work to regain the strength in his shoulder.  He even had to stretch it out on the course.  But Stratis persevered and just barely hit the buzzer and finished in 4 ½ minutes.  

 

Surprising Fails

 

Abel Gonzalez made it all the way to Stage 3 last season, and he was looking good early on.  He nearly knocked Marlboro native Allyssa Beird out of the Top 30, preventing the women in the Finals record from being broken.  But he made an illegal step on the Paddle Boards, and it was ruled a fail on the 3rd obstacle, ending his season.

 

Chris Wilczewski is a 7 year veteran on American Ninja Warrior.  He was on a good run, until his foot dipped into the water at the dismount on the Rolling Thunder.  Wilczewski made a rookie mistake, as Matt Iseman said.  He still finished 13th after a stellar start, so he will have his chance for redemption this season.  

 

Run Of The Night


I have to give this to Geoff Britten.  He may have struggled time-wise, but hey, he completed the course, that’s a free ticket to the City Finals.  It’s not that Britten had a mind-blowing run in this season, it’s what he’s done recently.  He finished all four stages of Mount Midoriyama and the city qualifier and finals last season.  If he keeps this up he could be in for 12 straight buzzers.  No matter how tough it is, it seems like this guy perseveres, and is determined to extend the streak and hit the buzzer.  I may be a Joe Moravsky super fan, but I’m starting to like Philly in general.  I’ve seen many great people that took on the Philly course, so this was very hard to choose.