Red Sox Shutout Mariners, Streak Extends to 6 Games

3-0 Red Sox.  The Mariners’ best hitter, Robinson Cano, was up.  He hits a high fly ball to deep center.  It nearly hits the wall for a huge double, but Jackie Bradley Jr. jumps up to save it!  The next inning, Bradley crushed a dinger to center.  Good defense led to good offense.

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Brian Johnson also pitched a complete game shutout, striking out 8 and giving up no walks and just 5 hits.

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The Red Sox started to score in the bottom of the 1st.  Betts walked, and Pedroia was hit on the arm.  Mariners pitcher Rob Whalen was out of control in his first start of 2017.  Xander Bogaerts knocked Betts in on a RBI single, but Pedroia was out at third.  Whalen continued to struggle as Benintendi hit a single to knock in Bogaerts.  Hanley Ramirez was also hit, and Whalen looked exhausted after walking one, hitting two and giving up two hits.  Ramirez stole second as Whalen walked JBJ.  It was 2-0 Red Sox, and they weren’t done.  Sandy Leon hit a single to drive in Benintendi.  However, Ramirez tried to score and was ruled out.  3-0 after 1 inning.

Meanwhile, Brian Johnson was on fire, and he was being backed up by good defense.  Mookie Betts saved a home run ball in the 4th, and JBJ made a leaping catch in the 6th.   In the bottom of that inning, Mitch Moreland singled to right, and JBJ hit a two-run shot to left.  5-0 Red Sox.  Brian Johnson continued to do well.  He finished his 4th 1-2-3 inning of the game in the 8th and the Red Sox scored one more run in the bottom of the inning.  Hanley Ramirez drove the ball to left for a base hit, and after a wild pitch got Hanley to second, Mitch Moreland hit the RBI single to drive him in.  The Red Sox led 6-0 through 8.

In the top of the 9th, Johnson was still in the game.  He struck out one, and then defense backed him up to end the inning.  JBJ caught Nelson Cruz’s line drive on a diving catch, and he made the catch of the game to wrap it up.  Seager hit another line drive, and JBJ leaped up for another big catch.  The Red Sox won 6-0.  Johnson tossed a complete game, and JBJ and Betts combined for 4 great catches.

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The Red Sox now have a 6 game winning streak and Porcello starts today.  Can the streak live on in the series finale against the Mariners?

Errors, Lack of Hitting Cause Sox to Lose

The Red Sox lost their streak and their momentum with a 3-0 loss last night.  Rick Porcello actually pitched really well, with 0 earned runs.  It was errors that allowed the Blue Jays to score.


Pablo Sandoval had an error again.  Even Gold Glove winner Mitch Moreland had an error in addition to going 0-4 after hitting really well during the winning streak.  The 2nd inning was when the Jays scored all their runs.  The two errors happened back to back at the start of the 2nd inning and all of the sudden it was 2nd and 3rd.  After Justin Smoak struck out, Darwin Barney got a base hit that knocked both of them in.  2-0 Jays.  Kevin Pillar singled to make it first and second.  Then Ezequiel Carrera hit a single down the line for a third run.  It was 3-0 Jays, but Porcello didn’t have a single earned run.  


It was pretty quiet after that, and pitching was pretty good.  But the Red Sox also blew several scoring opportunities.  In the 5th, Sandy Leon grounded into a double play with 1st and 2nd.  Hanley Ramirez did the same thing in the 6th!  Instead of 2 innings in a row where they successfully scored, there were 2 innings in a row of blown opportunities.  

Both starting pitchers, Rick Porcello and Francisco Liriano had amazing games.  Neither gave up any earned runs, Liriano gave up just 4 hits in 5.1 innings, and Porcello gave up just 6 hits in 7 innings.  

I was expecting the defense to back up Porcello but Porcello did fine.  The defense was the problem.  Hopefully, Porcello’s good pitching will combine with good defense for a win the next time he starts.  


The Blue Jays ended up winning, 3-0.  Unfortunately, Liriano got the win, and Porcello got the loss despite a great pitcher’s duel that was ruined by errors.  


Chris Sale starts in today’s game at 12:30.  Will the Red Sox win their 5th out of the last 6 and take this series, or will the Blue Jays surprise them again and win?  

Betts, Moreland Lead Sox to Victory in High Scoring Showdown

The Red Sox came through again.  They topped the Blue Jays 8-7 in a high scoring showdown.

Brian Johnson really got rattled early.  In the first inning, Kevin Pillar led off with a double, followed by an RBI single by Kendrys Morales.  1-0 Jays already.  But Toronto wasn’t done.  Tulowitzki got a base hit to make it first and second and a Justin Smoak double scored a second run.  The Jays were up 2-0 in one inning.  Johnson was able to get out of the inning after that.  But in the 2nd, after a walk, Pillar doubled again, and after intentionally walking Jose Bautista, Johnson was stuck with the bases loaded.  Thankfully, the Red Sox defense helped him get out of the inning without a run.  Hopefully, they’ll do the same for Rick Porcello tonight.


The Red Sox struck back in the third though.  Bogaerts and Benintendi started he rally with back to back singles.  Then Betts made that three singles in a row and a run scored.  2-1 Toronto.  After a strikeout, Mitch Moreland hit another RBI single to score two more runs!

The Red Sox had a 3-2 lead, but not for long.  Justin Smoak smoked a leadoff solo shot to left to begin the bottom of the 3rd.  It was a tie game, 3-3.

The Red Sox took the lead back in the 5th though.  Betts got another base hit, and Hanley Ramirez knocked him in with a long double over Jose Bautista’s head.  It was 4-3 Sox.  But the next at bat, Moreland hit his 10th double of the year to knock in Hanley Ramirez.  That was Moreland’s 3rd RBI, and it was 5-3 Red Sox.  After that, Stroman was done.  Aaron Loup came in, but Sandoval just got another RBI hit to knock in Moreland!  6-3 Sox.  The Blue Jays went to their bullpen again, and Dominic Leone finished the inning.


The Blue Jays just struck right back though. Russell Martin crushed a solo homer, and the Jays narrowed the lead to 2 runs.  It was 6-4 Jays to end the 5th.

But in the top of the 7th Mookie Betts answered.  He nailed a solo shot to left, and made it 7-4 Red Sox.  The 3 run lead was back.  Betts also had his first homer.  The one week I don’t start him in my Home Run Derby pool, he hits a homer!  But it’s good for the Sox.


After Brian Johnson was done, the Red Sox bullpen actually did a somewhat good job quieting down the Jays.  They got in a couple of jams, but managed to hold the Blue Jays without a run for a few innings.    Kevin Pillar actually hit a third double, but Fernando Abad and Matt Barnes (after Abad was done) got them out of the inning. The Blue Jays also had 1st and 2nd in two other innings, but the Sox managed to shut them down.

In the top of the 8th the Sox scored again.  Pablo Sandoval started it with another base hit!  He was 3 for 4 on the day, with one RBI.  The Jays almost got him out on a pickoff but after a review, he was ruled safe.  After Marco Hernandez walked, Benintendi drove in the run with a ground rule double. It was 8-4 Red Sox going into the bottom of the 8th.

After a quiet 9th inning for the Sox, Barnes stayed in the game for the bottom of the 9th.  But he almost blew the game.  After 2 outs, Russell Martin walked, and Steve Pearce hit an RBI single to knock him in.  Then Ezequiel Carrera pinch hit, and he nailed a two-run homer to make it 8-7.  It was a close game now.  The Blue Jays almost came back.  But Matt Barnes put them away before any more scoring occurred.  This was all with two outs, so all that was needed to end the inning was one line drive.  That was it.

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The Red Sox just barely saved the game, a game they would’ve lost without an explosive lineup.  Brian Johnson actually got his first major league win.  The Sox cannot do this every game, but they’ve somehow won 4 in a row since Porcello’s horrid start on Friday.


Porcello starts again tonight.  Will the winning streak live on or will the Red Sox and Porcello blow it?  Check out my latest Baseball Bits for more on Porcello’s case.

NBA Playoffs Have Begun: Who Will Win It All?

The playoffs are here for the NBA.  It’s a little late, but my predictions are ready.  Who do I have winning it all?  Find out my surprising pick below.  I have hesitated to write about the NBA since Durant signed with the Warriors and the Cavs and Warriors became unbeatable super teams, but with the Celtics in the #1 seed, I’m feeling optimistic about a different final outcome.

This is my 2017 NBA Playoff Prediction.  Not many surprises early on, with the top seeds winning in every match-up except two, with the #5 Hawks beating the #4 Wizards, and the #6 Thunder beating the #3 Rockets, which could easily happen.  I don’t think the Rockets will be as good in the playoffs, they’re only slightly better than they were last year when they were seeded #8.  The Thunder have triple-double shooting Russell Westbrook on their side.  That should last them at least until they play a Top 2 seed.

The Conference Semifinals is where I have the first of a few shockers.  I have the Spurs, Celtics, and Cavs reaching Conference Finals as expected.  But I do have one surprise in the West.  Golden State will lose in the Conference Semifinals.  For many years now, I have seen Los Angeles as a legitimate contender in the West.  I think they are a team that can beat the Warriors.  They’re not the better team, but in a head-to-head match-up, the Clippers can overpower Golden State.

The Conference Finals bring more surprises.  I think the kind of shocker the Celtics pulled over Cleveland in their one regular season win against the Cavs could happen again.  They would need multiple wins in Cleveland, but especially if Kevin Love is not 100% by the Conference Final, the Celts do have a chance.  Sure, the Celtics won’t be going any further, but they have a chance to win here and go further than they’ve been since 2008.

Now, when they or Cleveland get to the NBA Championship, that will be the end.  I think no matter what happens, a Western Conference team will win the NBA Championship.  Neither the Celtics or Cavs are capable of beating Golden State, San Antonio or LA in a 7 game series.  So, it’ll be a team from the West raising the trophy.  My pick right now for that team is the Spurs.  They have a good defense, the stars they need on offense and a good all-around team.  This is the year San Antonio finally wins after a few years of waiting on a super team that’s come so close.  They won in 2013-14, and they’ve come so close since, but they can do it again three years later.   It’s hard to believe the Spurs have only won one NBA Championship in the last 5 years with the roster they have.

Benintendi, Porcello Lead Sox to Opening Day Victory


The Red Sox won again on Opening Day.  They topped the Pirates 5-3.  The Red Sox were powered by stellar pitching from Rick Porcello and a 5th inning rally started by a JBJ triple with two outs.  He nailed it into the right corner and speeded around the bases.  Pablo Sandoval went on to drive him in, and by the time Benintendi walked up to the plate, it was 1st and 2nd and the Red Sox had a 2-0 lead. Then, Benintendi nailed a homer into the right field corner, giving the Red Sox a 5-0 lead in the 5th inning.  

Early on, it was a pitchers duel.  In the first 4 innings, Gerrit Cole gave up just 1 hit and struck out 2.  Rick Porcello gave up just 3 hits and struck out 5 in the first 6 innings.  He was backed up by some great defense by JBJ and Andrew Benintendi.  After the 5th inning rally, the Red Sox slipped up a little bit, but recovered.  However, in the 7th inning, the Pirates got back into the game.  

With David Freese on first, Francisco Cervelli crushed a double into left field.  Then soon after Josh Harrison drove David Freese in.  With that, Porcello left the game while it was still going well.  He was credited with a quality start.  Then Matt Barnes came in.  But the rally continued with another RBI single, followed by a walk and a sac fly.  It was now 5-3.  After the 7th inning, the pitchers began to thrive again.  The rest of the relievers that came in during the 7th and 8th were doing well.  Then Kimbrel came in for the Sox in the top of the 9th.  Despite letting the Pirates get away with 1st and 2nd, Kimbrel earned the save.  


The Red Sox won again on Opening Day.  They return to action on Wednesday night, as Chris Sale debuts.  

Ranking The Teams 6-1, My Version: The Dominant

Welcome to the 5th and final day of my MLB preseason power rankings.  We have finally made it to the top of the list.  The most dominant teams are here.  However, each of them had one Achilles Heel.  That will be revealed today.  Last time, we looked at some other contenders that had problems that were really holding them back.  This time, the problems aren’t as big, and because of that, these 6 teams will dominate.  Let’s get started with #6.

Missed a previous article?  Check below:

Ranking The Teams 30-25, My Version: The Ugly

Ranking The Teams 24-19, My Version: The Bad

Ranking The Teams 18-13, My Version: The Mediocre

Ranking The Teams 12-7, My Version: The Contending

 

Now that the series is over, you will be able to view all the articles under the “Ranking The Teams” tag.

6. cleveland-indians Cleveland Indians

Off-season Review

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The Indians had a very brief off-season, but the moves they did make made a big impact.  They signed Austin Jackson, Edwin Encarnacion, and Boone Logan.  Each of these players will help the team in a different way.  Jackson is a veteran mentor in the outfield that will rotate with the younger players.  His bat will be helpful for the Indians.  Edwin Encarnacion will play DH or first base, and his big bat will lead the Indians lineup.  Logan will be a late inning reliever and helps this bullpen’s depth.  These moves make the Indians look better than before and give them that last little push that makes them AL Central favorites.

The Case for the Indians

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The Indians are in store for another strong season.  Despite small holes, the Indians’ lineup is looking better than before.  With Michael Brantley healthy, they could kick but.  The rotation’s top three will still kick butt, but there are problems in the 4 and 5 spots.  Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin aren’t the greatest options out there.  The Indians have always had bullpen depth issues as well, but helped resolve them by signing Boone Logan and claiming Tim Cooney off waivers.  The Indians made some big moves this off-season and will hope that leads to a bigger season.

The Achilles Heel

It’s hard to point out one singular Achilles Heel for the Indians.  The problems they have are all pretty small, but all together, they cause bigger problems.  If there was one clear weakness on this team to point out, it would probably be the outfield.  The rotation and bullpen aren’t that bad and have gotten better in recent years.  Most of the lineup is good, but the outfield could be a problem.  Michael Brantley should be good to go, but there aren’t many significant players around him.  This wouldn’t be a problem if Brantley was 100%.  But the Indians don’t have a good outfielder fully healthy.  Austin Jackson is getting older, and the Indians don’t have another significant outfielder to fill the last slot. The last slot will have to be filled by players who aren’t quite ready yet.  The choices are limited.

Best Case Scenario: The rotation thrives and a strong lineup leads the Indians back to the World Series.

Worst Case Scenario: The rotation struggles and the lineup can’t really do that much better as the Indians fail to win the AL Central.

Projected Finish: 92-70, 1st in AL Central

 

5. boston-red-sox Boston Red Sox

Off-season Review

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Much like the Indians, the Red Sox had a very brief off-season but made the most of the moves they made.  With Big Papi retired, the Red Sox added Mitch Moreland to preserve the dominant status of their lineup.  They also traded away Yoan Moncada and three other prospects to the White Sox but got ace Chris Sale in return. Lastly, they traded Travis Shaw away for Tyler Thornburg.  Hopefully, a slimmed-down Pablo Sandoval will fill Shaw’s role.  Now, the lineup, rotation, and bullpen are better.

The Case for the Red Sox

The Red Sox are my team, so it’s hard not to be biased, but this is a very talented team.  The rotation is one of the best in the league now, led by three ace level pitchers who are all Cy Young candidates.  The lineup is still overpowered even without Big Papi, and if the back of the rotation struggles, the bullpen is improved as well.  This is a strong all-around team but could they have a weak spot?

The Achilles Heel

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Yes, even teams like this have an Achilles Heel.  Without David Ortiz, there is a strain put on the lineup.  Travis Shaw and Aaron Hill are also gone.  Hanley Ramirez will move to DH. Mitch Moreland will fill in at first.  But who plays third?  Pablo Sandoval has not proved himself worthy since he joined the Red Sox.  Maybe now that he lost some weight, he will have a bounce back year.  But it is pretty risky putting him in the full-time starting job at third.

Best Case Scenario: The lineup continues to do well, the rotation kicks butt, and the Red Sox win their fourth World Series since breaking the curse.

Worst Case Scenario: The lineup struggles without Big Papi, the rotation can’t find a rhythm, and the Red Sox struggle to make the playoffs.

Projected Finish: 92-70, 1st in AL East

 

4. St_Louis_Cardinals St. Louis Cardinals

Off-season Review

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Like many good teams, the Cardinals didn’t go all out this off-season but made a couple bold moves to improve.  They got the Cubs back and picked up Dexter Fowler, who will be a leader in a young outfield.  Now there’s competition in a tight NL Central.  They also signed Brett Cecil to add to a strong bullpen.  The Cardinals are in good shape.

The Case for the Cardinals

The Cardinals couldn’t compete with the Cubs in 2016, but they have gained on the Cubs.  The addition of Dexter Fowler has helped.  The bullpen is also better.  The rotation should improve most of all.  Lance Lynn is coming back, and I could see Mike Leake bouncing back.  That fills a strong rotation that will help lead the Cardinals.  The lineup is also better and after this off-season’s changes, the Cardinals will compete with the Cubs.

The Achilles Heel

The one problem with this team is that there’s too much pressure on the young guys to do well.  Consistency is tough for young players, and parts of their lineup include younger players like Stephen Piscotty, Randal Grichuk. and Aldemys Diaz.  You never know with these younger players.  Until players reach their prime, it’s hard to foresee how they will do.  That’s where the Cardinals are at, and they’ve been facing that problem since they decided to let their younger players take over.

Best Case Scenario: The rotation dominates, the lineup looks better and the Cardinals win the NL Central with ease.

Worst Case Scenario: The young team is inconsistent and struggles, leading them to miss the playoffs for a second straight year.

Projected Finish: 93-69, 2nd in NL Central

 

3. washington-nats Washington Nationals

Off-season Review

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Unlike most good teams, the Nationals were super busy this off-season.  They got two new catchers, Derek Norris and Matt Wieters.  They also signed Adam Lind and traded Lucas Giolito to Chicago for Adam Eaton.  They also upgraded their bullpen, signing several guys including Joe Nathan.  Will these moves be enough to finally win the Nats a World Series?

The Case for the Nationals

The Nationals are in good shape for 2017.  The rotation still looks pretty good and is led by the best duo of starters in the league.  The bullpen did have depth issues, but after this off-season, that shouldn’t be a problem.  The lineup is also looking a little bit better after an active off-season.  There could be a hole at shortstop if Trea Turner can’t play there, but Turner is the likely starter.  The Nats are looking better in 2017 and could run for a championship.

The Achilles Heel

The one problem with this team is the infield.  When Danny Espinosa left for LA, he left a hole.  Now, there are questions remaining.  Can Trea Turner adjust smoothly?  How will the lineup and infield fare without Espinosa?  Those questions must be answered, and if the Nats can say “yes” and “good” to those questions, they will do very well.

Best Case Scenario: The lineup looks better, the pitching dominates the league, and the Nationals go on to win the World Series.

Worst Case Scenario: The off-season’s lineup changes don’t work out, the rotation fails to stay healthy and the Nats fail to win the NL East.

Projected Finish: 93-69, 1st in NL East

 

2. texas-rangers Texas Rangers

Off-season Review

The Rangers are looking good after their off-season moves.  I know a lot of people think they’ll flop, but this team can be dominant, I can’t see them missing the playoffs.  They improved their rotation.  They signed former Padres pitchers Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross to add to a strong top of the rotation.  The bullpen isn’t as good after losing Shawn Tolleson.  The Rangers also signed James Loney and Mike Napoli to fill the gaps that Prince Fielder and Mitch Moreland left.  They also resigned most of their key free agents, which preserved most of what they had last year.

The Case for the Rangers

This team is better than it looks.  You may think this lineup is getting older, but young stars are actually taking up a good part of it.  The lineup will dominate.  Meanwhile, the rotation has continued to improve.  After boosting the top of the rotation the last two years, they signed two more starters to fill out the rest of the rotation with Derek Holland gone.  The bullpen is looking better, but does it still need work.

The Achilles Heel

If you think that the lineup is the problem, you’re wrong.  The rotation isn’t perfect.  It can’t do everything.  The weak bullpen will be a problem.  It’s lacking depth, which can’t happen when the rotation is not completely solid.  This isn’t the best rotation in the MLB.  They can’t do the whole pitching job, and until they find some bullpen help in Texas, the pitching staff’s depth problems will be the Rangers Achilles Heel.

Best Case Scenario: The rotation is solid, the lineup is dominant, and the Rangers find themselves in the World Series.

Worst Case Scenario: The pitching staff holds the Rangers back, the lineup declines, and the Rangers are led to finish 3rd in the AL West.

Projected Finish: 94-68, 1st in AL West

 

1. Chicago_Cubs Chicago Cubs

Off-season Review

The Cubs did lose Jason Hammel, but they improved their depth in the rotation and bullpen.  They signed Brett Anderson and claimed Eddie Butler of waivers to help their rotation.  In order to upgrade the bullpen, they also signed Koji Uehara and traded away Jorge Soler for closer Wade Davis.  In addition, with Dexter Fowler leaving they signed Jon Jay. The Cubs are looking like World Series contenders for the third year in a row, can they make what they have into a dynasty for years to come?

The Case for the Cubs

The lineup here is looking as good as last year.  The fifth spot in the rotation could be a problem, but this team has so many bullpen options, and a few of them could compete for that 5th starting job.  This team looks ready to dominate again in 2017.  Their depth everywhere else isn’t as good as last year, but the lineup is solid, the rotation could be great, and the bullpen will help fill in the pitching’s holes.

The Achilles Heel

For such a perfect team, it’s hard to find an Achilles Heel without nitpicking.  There is one problem, though.  The lineup should be fine, but despite good options in the bullpen, if the Cubs don’t have a solid 5th starter, then the bullpen will start to get overtired, and this will cause widespread pitching staff issues.  These problems will only occur if the rest of the rotation can’t pitch a lot of innings and the 5th spot isn’t filled well., which may or may not happen.  This team is spotless for the most part.

Best Case Scenario: The lineup is at its best, the rotation dominates, and the Cubs are a lasting championship winning dynasty in years to come.

Worst Case Scenario: The rotation is problematic, depth of the lineup becomes a problem, and the Cubs lose in the ALDS.

Projected Finish: 96-66, 1st in NL Central

 

That’s it for my preseason power rankings.  Hope you enjoyed it.  Comment with your feedback and predictions.  Now, the first Baseball Bits of 2017 is coming soon, and be on the lookout for a Red Sox spring training article.

 

Baseball Bits #1: Only Four Teams To Win World Series with Higher ERA than 2016 Red Sox

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The Red Sox have finally had a strong record, but with a tough schedule coming up, can they stay in contention?  They have scored plenty of runs this season, but the pitching has struggled.  They didn’t make a move at the deadline beyond Drew Pomeranz (who can’t find his groove), and relievers Fernando Abad (who struggled) and Brad Ziegler (who surprisingly has thrived).  The Red Sox have put up a 4.33 team ERA this season.   Only four teams have won the World Series with a higher ERA.  If the Red Sox don’t improve their pitching, could they be in trouble, or could they be the next team.  Well I’ve done research to prove my point, and in this post, I will show you what I came up with and what we can conclude about the World Series hopes of this year’s Red Sox team.

Below is a PDF with all my research.  I have put together the World Series winning and losing teams’ ERAs and runs per game.  Below the PDF are some “Baseball Bits” I found after the research.

Baseball Bits (Update) — World Series Team Stats from 1903 to present — Year Descending — 2016-08-03

 

World Series Teams ERA and Runs Per Game (RPG)

  • Only 4 Teams (that’s just 3.6%!) have won the World Series with an ERA over the Red Sox’s 2016 ERA to date:

o    2006 Cardinals (Last To Do It)

o    2000 Yankees

o    1996 Yankees

o    1987 Twins (First To Do It)

  • Last team to win WS with ERA over Red Sox’s current 4.33: 2006 Cardinals
  • Last team to win WS with ERA over 4.00: 2009 Yankees
  • Only 6 teams have made the WS with ERA over 4.33
  • Only 12 teams have Won the WS with ERA over 4.00, the first being the 1929 Cubs
  • 21 teams have made the WS with ERA over 4.00, just 9.4%!
  • 3 teams have won the WS with ERA under 2.00:

o    1910 Philadelphia Athletics

o    1907 Cubs (1.73 ERA is lowest by WS winner)

o    1906 White Sox

  • 76% of the teams that made the WS with ERA over 4.00 had 5.00 or more RPG and many others were close to 5 RPG
  • Typically teams that made the WS with an ERA over 4.00 did it in a hitter favored baseball year

 

The Verdict

In conclusion, good team pitching beats good team hitting when it come to the World Series.  If the Red Sox score enough runs per game in this hitter friendly season, they could have a chance to win it all.  However, it would’ve helped to trade for a pitcher and it will also help to have pitching improvement, especially David Price and Clay Buchholz.  You never know because in the 4 occasions when teams have won the WS with a higher team ERA, it’s been in the last 30 years.