Red Sox @ Yankees May 8-10 2018: Series Preview

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The Red Sox have had it easy in terms of their schedule over the last week and a half.  They played the Rays, Rangers, and Royals, taking 7 of 10 during that stretch.  But now they face the Yankees, who have won 15 of 16 against some of the AL’s best.  They swept the Twins, Indians, and Angels, and nearly swept Houston.  They have been boosted by the emergence of Miguel Andujar and Gleyber Torres, and are doing fine without 1B Greg Bird.  How will they fare against Boston, the only AL team that still has a better record than the Yankees?  They will fight for not just the AL East crown, but the American League crown in this series.  They are arguably the two best teams in baseball right now, which makes this intense rivalry even better.

Previous 2018 Results

The Red Sox have already played the Yankees once this season at Fenway Park.  The Yankees had even more injury problems and did not have Gleyber in the majors back in mid-April when this series occurred.  Despite losing Xander Bogaerts to the DL shortly before the series, the Red Sox, who had started 8-1 due to spotless pitching and an easy schedule, took advantage.  They took 2 of 3 in the series.  The Red Sox lineup had dominated in Game 1 to bring the Sox a 14-1 win.  David Price had a rough Game 2 and left early with an injury.  But the Red Sox attempted to come back, and after Tyler Austin spiked the infielder sliding into 2nd, Joe Kelly got revenge when he hit Austin.  It ended in a bench-clearing brawl that got Kelly and Austin suspended.  Porcello continued a strong start in the 3rd game as the Red Sox won, 6-3.  I did a recap of that game when the Sox and Bruins won important games on the same night.

Big Night For Boston: Sox, Bruins Win On Big Stage

 

How They Line-Up Now

Both teams have powerful, home-run hitting lineups.  But both of these lineups have a weak spot.  The Yankees have seen several hitters who are usually pretty good slump.  Brett Gardner, Giancarlo Stanton, and Gary Sanchez all have a batting average under .230.  Sanchez is batting .198.  It is balanced out by strong seasons from Didi Gregorius and Aaron Judge, as well as early success out of Andujar and Torres.  I was never too high on Gregorius, but he has really proven himself this year.   The Red Sox do not have reliable hitters at the end of the lineup.  Both regular catchers and JBJ are batting under .200, and Eduardo Nunez has also struggled.  But J.D. Martinez, Mookie Betts, Hanley Ramirez, and Xander Bogaerts have all thrived and led this team.

The Red Sox have the starting pitching advantage, but not all of the pitching match-ups in this series are favorable for the Red Sox.  The Red Sox don’t have too much of a bullpen to rely on, either.  Craig Kimbrel has been flawless, but the rest of the bullpen has not always stepped it up when the starter struggles.  The Red Sox have to rely on either an offensive explosion or a spotless, long-lasting starter to win quality games.

Pitching Match-Ups

Game 1 (5/8): BOS: Image result for drew pomeranzDrew Pomeranz (1-1, 6.14 ERA)

vs. NYY: Image result for luis severinoLuis Severino (5-1, 2.11)

By no means is Severino going to be easy to face but I could see Pomeranz stepping it up on the big stage here.  Once Severino leaves, it will be the offense’s turn to make an impact.

Note: Price has been scratched from his Wednesday start due to hand numbness.  I’m beginning to agree with that 98.5 caller who talked about the stress disorder with David Price.  Can he handle the pressure of a Red Sox-Yankees game?

Game 2 (5/9): BOS: Image result for rick porcello Rick Porcello (5-0, 2.14 ERA)

NYY: Image result for MASAHIRO TANAKAMasahiro Tanaka (4-2, 4.39 ERA)

Tanaka has been pretty good this year, but Porcello has been flawless this year.  Moving him a day up brings this pitching match-up into our favor.

Game 3 (5/10): BOS: Image result for Eduardo Rodriguez Eduardo Rodriguez (3-0, 5.29 ERA)

NYY: Image result for C.C. Sabathia C.C. Sabathia (2-0, 1.39 ERA)

I like Eduardo Rodriguez.  He has very high potential, but C.C. Sabathia has been great when healthy, and I’m wondering how E-Rod will perform under the pressure of Yankee Stadium.

My Prediction: Red Sox Take 2 of 3

 

 

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Red Sox Report: Sox Slowing Down, But It’s Understandable

When the Red Sox began the season 17-2, I knew they would not be able to finish the season going at that pace.  So it is understandable that the Red Sox have gone 8-7 in their last 15 games.  It does not mean the Red Sox are a fluke.  They have still shown signs in the last 14 games that they are capable contenders.  But they cannot win every game, and 8 to 10-game winning streaks interrupted by just a loss or two is not realistic for any team to maintain.

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But Mookie Betts is still on fire, and Hanley Ramirez has still put up much better numbers to start 2018.  J.D. Martinez has also begun to heat up.  Betts has gotten to the point in his hot streak where he’s breaking HR records.  We will look at Betts’ records, the cooling off of the Red Sox, and much more in this edition of the Red Sox Report.

Red Sox Beginning to Cool Off, But It’s Not a Major Concern

As I said above, although the Sox have cooled off, the Red Sox have still shown qualities of an elite playoff contender.  I still think they have the potential to make a deep run this year.  What concerns me a little bit is who they have been losing to.  They lost a series to the Rays to start their most recent homestand.  Tampa barely has a starting rotation.  But even a blind squirrel eventually finds an acorn.  They also struggled and got no-hit against the Athletics.  The A’s are not terrible, they have a powerful young lineup and an improving rotation.  But after a 17-2 start, I did not expect A’s SP Sean Manaea to no-hit the Red Sox.  It shows that our lineup is very streaky, feast or famine.

Struggles against the mediocre teams is a problem, but the Red Sox have been pretty good against tough opponents like the Angels and Blue Jays.  What the Red Sox need right now is to be competitive against playoff contenders.  If they continue to prove that they are capable of that, I will be much more confident in their World Series chances.  But if they cannot show up against subpar teams, how will they be able to continue to thrive against contenders?

Sox Lineup Has Been Streaky But Has High Ceiling

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The Red Sox lineup has really struggled at times. They have scored 3 or fewer runs in 4 of their 9 losses so far. But when the lineup is on a good streak, it can carry the team. At its best, this lineup could probably carry the Red Sox all the way to the World Series.  But several guys have failed to come through in recent weeks. Christian Vazquez, Sandy Leon, and Jackie Bradley Jr. are all batting under .200, and Eduardo Nunez hasn’t looked like the same guy that boosted the Red Sox lineup on the brink of contention.  Everyone in this lineup has struggled at some point this season.

But when on a hot streak, this lineup can take the league by storm.  There were several hot hitters that led us to our amazing start, and a few of our hitters are still on fire.  J.D. Martinez is 21 for his last 47 (.447) and has hit 3 dingers in that span.  Mookie Betts has been on fire all season.  Read more about Betts’ hot streak in the next section.

Mookie Betts Still On Fire, Now He’s Making History

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Betts is batting .352 (5th in the league) with 13 home runs (leading the league) and a 1.257 OPS (leading the league) on the season.  In addition, he’s 12 for his last 23 (.522).   He has hit 11 of the homers in his last 15 games and has had two 3 HR games this season (one soon after Marathon Monday in Anaheim, and another at Fenway this week against the Royals).  It’s only the start of May, and he had these 3 HR games within two weeks of each other.  He also had a pair of 3 HR games back in 2016.  He and Johnny Mize are the only players to ever have a pair of 3 HR games two times in their career.

Betts also passed Ted Williams for the most 3-HR games in team history.  Betts is only 25.  He has plenty of time in his career for more multi-HR games.  Could he become the first person to have two 3-HR games in three different seasons?  Could he eventually break the MLB 3 HR game record?  It is currently held by Mize and Sammy Sosa (6).  Betts is in the Top 10 with 4.  Betts is tied for 2nd with Manny Machado for multi-HR games since 2016 (11).  Betts and Machado are behind just Giancarlo Stanton (14).  Betts is more than just our leadoff hitter.  He is one of baseball’s biggest stars.  But there is an argument for why he should remain our leadoff hitter, and I look at that in my next Baseball Bits.

Injury Report: Thornburg Begins Rehab, Several Activated Over Last Two Weeks

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The Red Sox have continued to be hit by the injury bug.  Brock Holt went on the DL in late April with a hamstring strain.  Mookie Betts was also hurt for a few days in late April with hamstring issues but has since returned and continued to dominate.  He also left today’s game with a wrist injury.  But several of our previously injured players have returned over the last couple of weeks.  Xander Bogaerts was activated last weekend, and he lost his hot streak on the DL, but he went 3-4 in his first game back and has continued to hit well, batting .303 since his return.  Bobby Poyner has also returned from his injury but did not return to the big league roster until May 4th after a stint with the Paw Sox.

Steven Wright has returned from the DL too, but he is currently serving a 15-game domestic violence suspension.  Joe Kelly recently returned from his 6-game suspension after the Sox-Yankees brawl in April.  Eduardo Rodriguez was also out for a few days on a family medical leave but was activated on the 5th to start against the Rangers.  He did not miss a start during his absence.  Tyler Thornburg, Austin Maddox, Marco Hernandez, Brock Holt, and Dustin Pedroia are the players that remain on the DL.  Thornburg has begun his rehab assignment, and Pedroia has been rehabbing at extended spring training.  Pedey is targeting a May 25 big league return.  Brock Holt is expected to return next week.

Sox Have Caught a Break vs. Royals, Rangers, But Round 2 With Flaming Hot Yankees Ahead

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After a tough road trip, the Red Sox have enjoyed a relatively easy schedule over the last week and a half.  They have played the Rays, Royals, and Rangers.  Despite having a tough time against the Rays (who have won 11 of their last 14 on a hot streak), the Red Sox have caught a break against the Royals and Rangers, who they won 5 of 7 against.  But after that, the Red Sox could have another difficult stretch ahead, starting with a 3 game series at Yankee Stadium.  The Yankees have won 14 of their last 15, and this was against playoff contenders.

The Yanks have swept the Twins, Indians, and Angels, and took 3 of 4 in Houston.  If the Yankees continue to thrive against Boston, they will be proven as serious contenders.  But Boston had an impressive 17-2 stretch of their own.  Although it may not have been against as difficult opponents, the Sox did take 2 out of 3 when they hosted the Yankees.  However, the Yankees were without C.C. Sabathia and Aaron Hicks in that series.  They have also called up Gleyber Torres, who has done very well since that series.  They have lost Jordan Montgomery and a couple relievers to the DL since the series though.

That’s all for this edition of the Red Sox Report.  Stay tuned for more Red Sox posts coming soon.

My 2018 NHL Playoff Bracket

I have finished my predictions for the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Here is my bracket:

The Bruins have a very tough road ahead. They will face a tough Maple Leafs team in the first round, and will likely see the Lightning in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, another tough team. Their defensive struggles will definitely hurt them in the later rounds, especially if they face the Pittsburgh Penguins, Washington Capitals, or the dominant Nashville Predators. I do think the Bruins will win in the end though. If they can stay healthy from here, they have a lot of talent that is capable of keeping the offense going. The defense should be alright without Brandon Carlo, especially if Zdeno Chara, Charlie McAvoy, and Torey Krug do well in the playoffs.

Here are some other notes about my bracket:

  • I have picked most of the higher seeds in the East besides the Bruins and Penguins. But in the West, I have picked several upsets. The Golden Knights were the league’s biggest surprise this year, but they are inexperienced in the playoffs, and regressed down the stretch after appearing to be the league’s best team in the early months. I think the Kings will give them a rude awakening and Vegas will struggle under pressure.
  • The Sharks will also go deep. I think they have a better roster than the Ducks and will outmatch them head to head. They will top the Kings, a lower seed after LA shocks the Golden Knights and advance to the Western Conference Finals. The Kings will win in Round 1, but do not expect them to go any further. But the Predators are too good for them. I also picked the Wilds over the Jets for similar reasons.
  • I think the Bruins would’ve been much easier off against the Devils. The Lightning will dominate in New Jersey. I think the Florida Panthers, who just missed the playoffs and a lot of other teams would have given their opponents a bigger challenge than the Devils.
  • In my opinion, although the higher seeds in the East will win in the 1st Round, lower seeds like the Maple Leafs, Flyers and Blue Jackets will give their opponents a good challenge. As I said earlier, I think the Devils will be the easiest first round opponent.

That’s all for my NHL Stanley Cup Playoff Predictions. Stay tuned for more coverage.

Crazy 8th for Sox 8th Win

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After a 7-1 start to the season for the Red Sox, things were not looking good for them today.  They were down 7-2 heading into the 8th inning, as the Rays had scored at least one run in six straight innings.  Eduardo Rodriguez had been knocked out of the game after 3.2 innings, forcing the Red Sox to use numerous relievers to finish off the game.  The bullpen struggled as Hector Velazquez, Bobby Poyner, and Brian Johnson gave up four runs in 3 1/3 innings But the Red Sox came all the way back to beat the Tampa Bay Rays 8-7 and extend their winning streak to eight games.  Hanley Ramirez and Mookie Betts extended their hitting streaks to 7 games each, as they led the Sox offense.

The Red Sox started off strong with a leadoff double by Mookie Betts, and Betts was driven in by Hanley Ramirez’s groundout.  But the Rays struck back quickly, with DH C.J. Cron hitting a solo homer.  Early on, Eduardo Rodriguez was doing well, striking out five batters, including the side in the 1st inning.  But the Rays were working the count and and E-Rod’s was over 70 after three innings.

While the Rays were not crushing the ball after Cron’s home run, they scored one run every inning from the 2nd all the way to the 7th. In the 3rd inning, E-Rod gave up a walk followed by a infield single that was originally ruled an out. Matt Duffy was clearly safe, so it was a smart challenge by the Rays.  The run scored on a double by Carlos Gomez.

In the 4th inning, Daniel Robertson reached on another infield single for the Rays.  3B Rafael Devers could not make the throw in time.  That was followed by a Brad Miller walk, and Adeiny Hechavarria drove in the run with a bloop single that Andrew Benintendi couldn’t quite get to.  The Rays were trying to continue the rally, as Matt Duffy singled again after E-Rod left the game, but Hector Velazquez came in to get the last out.

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Velazquez gave up a run in the next inning, as Daniel Robertson singled, stole second, and came home on Brad Miller’s base hit.  The Sox chipped away in the bottom of that inning.  They loaded the bases after a walk, a Christian Vazquez single, and another walk.  Rays reliever Ryan Yarbrough had come in to replace Andrew Kittredge after two innings. Today, the Rays reliever combo to start was game was able to hold the Sox to just two runs through six innings, but it was not easy.

With two outs in the fifth, Hanley Ramirez ripped an infield single that Adeiny Hechavarria snagged to save more runs from scoring.  J.D. Martinez followed, but struck out with the bases loaded. Martinez was the only Sox starter without a hit, but that did not keep the Sox from winning.

The Rays scored again in the 6th after Kevin Kiermaier hit a triple off the Green Monster to drive in Matt Duffy, who had walked.  Kiermaier hit the triple off of Bobby Poyner, but Velazquez was charged with the run as he had walked Duffy before leaving the game.  Brian Johnson came in in the 7th and struggled, giving up two more runs.  Daniel Robertson walked, and came home on a triple by pinch hitter Joey Wendle.  On that play, Xander Bogaerts hurt his ankle as he had to chase the ball into the Rays dugout after throwing to third before Devers was there.  He will be evaluated further on Monday, but his timetable is currently unknown. Bogaerts was helped off the field, and it was really concerning when he couldn’t leave without assistance because he has been Boston’s best hitter so far this season.  Brock Holt came in to replace him.

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Tampa scored their second run of the inning off Johnson after a sac fly drove in Wendle.  The Sox failed to get things going in the bottom of the 7th, but after Carson Smith came into the game, the Rays failed to score another run.  They loaded the bases after a walk, a Carlos Gomez single, and a walk.  But Smith escaped the inning by striking out Daniel Robertson.

This looked like it was going to be a Rays win, as after Hanley Ramirez led things off with a single and advanced to second on a wild pitch, the next two batters struck out and flew out.

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But with two outs, Mitch Moreland, who was a doubles machine last year, hit his first double (and hit) of 2018, driving in Ramirez to make it 7-3 Rays.  Eduardo Nunez singled and Moreland advanced to third.  Rafael Devers then knocked a ball down the third base line that bounced off the left field garage, allowing both Moreland and Nunez to score.

With that, Rays reliever Matt Andriese was done, and Rays closer Alex Colome came in, hoping to secure the 7-5 lead the Rays were still holding on to. The Red Sox had done well against Colome in the home opener. Just in case the rally continued, Cora got star closer Craig Kimbrel warming up in the bullpen next to Joe Kelly.

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Christian Vazquez kept the rally alive with a base hit.  Devers scored, making it 7-6 Red Sox.  Vazquez advanced to second on another wild pitch.  Mookie Betts tied it up with a line single to left as Vazquez came in to score with a nifty slide to avoid the tag.  Andrew Benintendi kept the rally alive by doubling to the left field gap to drive in Betts.  The outfielders were playing shallow as Benny’s double did not reach the Green Monster. It was now 8-7 Red Sox.

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Kimbrel came in and quickly retired the side, as the Red Sox locked up their comeback victory, 8-7.  This was by far their most exciting game of the season.  The Sox faced easy opponents, but the Red Sox are now 8-1 to start the season, their best record ever after nine games. They had not even started 7-1 since 1904, a World Series-winning year.

The Red Sox head into their three-game series against the Yankees on fire.  Will they win their first series against their archrivals?  The Yankees have been depleted by injuries, and are just 5-5 after losing to Baltimore today in a 12 inning game.  With Gary Sanchez, Greg Bird, Brandon Drury, Aaron Hicks, Jacoby Ellsbury, C.C. Sabathia, and Billy McKinney all injured, the Sox should certainly have the edge.

Red Sox Report: Sox Off to Dominant Start, But Could Face Tougher Road Ahead

Welcome to my first Red Sox Report article of 2018.  Today, I will be talking about my opinion on the Red Sox this week, and what I expect in the coming days.  I will also be talking about interesting recent Red Sox headlines.

 

Is It Time to Get Concerned About The Red Sox’s Offensive Struggles, Especially J.D. Martinez’s?  

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Up until today, J.D. Martinez had not hit a home run, and the Red Sox had only scored more than 4 runs in a game once this season.  Keep in mind that this is against rebuilding teams, and the Rays only have three regular starters, filling the rest of their rotation with committee days.  Besides Xander Bogaerts, who has shown flashes of power in a potential breakout season, and Hanley Ramirez, who is looking to rebound, the Red Sox have not been that good at the plate.

Sure, they had a 10-run game today.  So they are capable of hitting. But will the lineup show up when they need to?  J.D. Martinez is the most concerning to me. He was here to be a clutch home run hitter, and so far he has hit just 1 home run, which came when the Red Sox had already practically locked in a victory.  Despite a 6-game hitting streak, I am getting worried.

Red Sox Rotation Looking Dominant, Sign of Good Things to Come?

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The Red Sox rotation has looked great so far, and they were without Drew Pomeranz, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Steven Wright to this point.  David Price has looked like his old self in two starts against his former team, the Rays. But will he be able to keep this up against tougher opponents?  I’m sure Chris Sale will be able to keep doing what he’s doing, especially if he pitches to contact more like new manager Alex Cora was hoping for. Rick Porcello also looks like he could rebound, and he has just had two strong starts against the Rays, who caused him serious problems in 2017.

Even Brian Johnson and Hector Velazquez, who are not going to be starting regularly much longer are doing well.  But like I said, the Sox are playing rebuilding teams, so we better hope that the offense wakes up and the rotation keeps up the good work when we start playing tougher opponents.  Things also depend on how E-Rod and Pomeranz do in their return, but if they struggle, we do have Johnson, Steven Wright (who is also hurt at the moment), and Velazquez.

Will Alex Cora’s Unique Decisions Help the Red Sox Significantly?

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Cora has been a big part of this team’s success so far.  He has made good moves by giving guys the rest they need, helping Chris Sale and David Price get more innings by pitching to contact, and saving their best stuff for later in the year by giving them rest, and only challenging plays when absolutely necessary.  I like his conservative style, and he will help the Red Sox, but if he goes too far, he could cost us early on by resting guys when they could be helping the team win. He wants to save guys for October, but early success is key because the playoffs are no guarantee for any team.

Injury Update: E-Rod To Return Sunday, How Will The Injuries Affect Us Down the Road?

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It appears that we have done fine without Drew Pomeranz, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Dustin Pedroia so far, but as we face tougher opponents, it may hold us back.  However, there is good news. E-Rod will come off the disabled list to make a start against the Rays tomorrow. If he can get off to a good start and is not held back by his knee injury, he will help the Red Sox significantly.  We may be able to get away with a 4-man rotation until Pomeranz comes back, especially in weeks with more days off.

But I’m sure Johnson will get starts, and Velazquez may even stick around.  Cora’s philosophy has been giving guys more rest, not less. So keeping more starters in the rotation despite injuries may be a good idea.  They could even consider sticking with a 6-man rotation to save their best stuff for October, especially when Wright and Pomeranz return. As for Dustin Pedroia, I think we should be fine with Nunez at second until he returns, but when he does, we will be able to give more infielders rest, including a recovering Pedey.

We will need strong pitching from the rotation, as our bullpen has been inconsistent and unreliable.  Craig Kimbrel has done well, but the Sox have nobody to set him up.

Will Hanley and Bogaerts Build On Their Early Success?

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Xander Bogaerts has been straight up dominant so far.  He has hinted at a breakout season by hitting two homers, including a grand slam in the team’s first eight games.  He has batted .371/.405/.743 with 9 RBI. I think he can emerge as a 5-tool player, adding power hitting to his resume.  

I could also see Hanley Ramirez bouncing back.  He led this team during the 2-game series against the Marlins, where Hanley started his career.  But he also thrived at Fenway, as he was the hero of the home opener in an extra-innings walk-off win.  He has also hit a home run, and now that he is healthy and motivated (he is in a contract year), he will be a strong asset for the Sox.  I just hope Hanley and Bogey can keep it up against tougher opponents, especially in their upcoming series against the Yankees.

How Will Michael Chavis’ 80-game PED suspension affect the Red Sox?

Chavis was Boston’s top prospect, and while we have Devers at third, it’s always good to have a strong farm system, and this is a major setback for Chavis, and down with Chavis will go the Red Sox farm system.  The Red Sox traded away many of their strongest prospects in a once stacked farm system when working their way back towards contention in 2016 and 2017. It hurts to lose Chavis, one of their top prospects remaining, to a suspension.  Using PEDs could give him problems staying out of trouble throughout his career, as players who use steroids have a history of frequent suspensions after being caught. We will also have to see if Chavis is really the same without relying on PEDs.

Led by Rotation, Bogaerts, Devers, and Hanley, Red Sox Start Season 7-1, Hope to Continue Success vs. Yankees and Beyond

I expected a strong start for the Red Sox due to their schedule, but I have been overall impressed with how they have done, and if they stay hot, they could continue to dominate.  They have a 7 game winning streak going, led by a strong rotation. The lineup has struggled a bit, but Bogaerts, Devers, and Hanley have made up for the struggles of the rest of the lineup.  I hope J.D. Martinez can begin to help the lineup more too.

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The Red Sox will face their true test this week when they host their archrivals, the New York Yankees.  The Yankees are facing the injury bug right now, and have had depth problems with so many players injured.  They have had to force players into starting jobs who aren’t quite reliable starters yet. But they are still a tough opponent, and the Red Sox will have to be at their best to win this series.

That’s all for this edition of the Red Sox Report.  Stay tuned for more Red Sox coverage coming soon.

NFL Week 12 Picks: Which Contenders will Lock Up A Playoff Spot?

Welcome to my NFL Week 12 Picks.  I went 10-4 last week, placing my overall record at 88-72.  How will I do in this week’s slate of games?  Read below and comment with your thoughts.  This week could start factoring into the playoff chances of all 32 teams.  Who will lock up a spot?  Who will be eliminated from contention?

 

To see my picks for the Thanksgiving Day games this week, click here.

 

Note: In the images, the team on the top is the road team, and the team on the bottom is the home team.

 

Lock of the Week

 

Emerging as a top QB in the league, Carson Wentz has led the Eagles offense to become one of the best offenses in the league.  The Bears will be their next victim as the Eagles blow them out.  The Eagles offense is as good as it gets.  They have 3-4 strong running backs, who will dominate against a weak Bears defensive front.  They have a trio of great receivers and a top 5 tight end in Zach Ertz, who will just be too much for the young Bears secondary.
The Bears will struggle to strike back as young QB Mitch Trubisky is under too much pressure, and the Bears’ own RB duo is shut down by Philly’s strong run defense.  The Eagles will end up winning by one of the largest deficits seen this season.
Upset of the Week
RB Devonta Freeman is out for the second straight week, and that will cause the Falcons offense to struggle this time around.  They were able to survive without him last week, but this week Atlanta will start to miss him.  The Bucs defense will take advantage of that fact and will shut down the weakened Falcons offense.  For the Bucs, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick will continue to do well in the place of QB Jameis Winston, leading the Bucs to victory with the help of his receivers as well as RB Doug Martin.

Sunday’s Games

 

 

QB Tom Brady and the Pats offense will thrive against their divisional rivals, even without key receivers Chris Hogan and Martellus Bennett.  The Dolphins secondary will struggle to cover their powerful receivers like Brandin Cooks and Rob Gronkowski.  The Dolphins will also struggle offensively, as their run game looks hopeless without Jay Ajayi.  QB Matt Moore will also struggle to find his receivers and be picked off frequently by a stingy Pats secondary.  Pats win easily.

 

 

The Chiefs will struggle to bring life to their offense, but they will dominate defensively in this game.  The Chiefs will overpressure whoever is at QB for the Bills.  The QB problems will cost them as the Chiefs defense dominates against Buffalo’s troubled offense.

 

 

The Panthers young guns will help lead Carolina to victory, even without WR Kelvin Benjamin and TE Greg Olsen.  The Jets will keep it close with a strong offensive game, as the Panthers secondary struggles to cover the Jets receivers.  But the Panthers defensive front will shut down the Jets run game.  The Panthers will win after the younger players step it up, including RB Christian McCaffrey and WR Curtis Samuel.

 

 The Bengals offense will continue to come up big against the struggling Browns defense.  TE Tyler Kroft will continue to make a big impact for them in the role of the injured TE Tyler Eifert.  The Bengals D will also thrive in this game, shutting down the strong Browns run game.  They will pressure QB DeShone Kizer, causing him to struggle regressively.  The Bengals will win after dominating in all three aspects of the game.
The Titans will win as their balanced attack dominates against a struggling Colts defense.  QB Marcus Mariota will throw for 300+ yards and toss 2 TDs to his group of versatile receivers.  In addition, the Titans RB duo of DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry will rush for 150+ combined yards and one TD each.  Colts QB Jacoby Brissett will also lead his offense to a big game, but it won’t be enough as the Titans outscore them in an offensive shootout.
QB C.J. Beathard will lead the 49ers offense to another strong game, but this time, their injuries, as well as the Seahawks relentless defense, will have a big impact on slowing them down.  For the Seahawks, the offense will continue to thrive, even without new RB Mike Davis playing against his former team.  The 49ers troubled defense will fail to slow them down significantly, and the Seahawks will win.
The Jaguars will win after their defense dominates, shutting down Cardinals RB Adrian Peterson as well as Cardinals new starting QB Blaine Gabbert.  Gabbert will struggle to find his receivers under so much pressure, especially with WR John Brown out.  The Cardinals defense will also hold up QB Blake Bortles and the Jags offense, but the Jags will still win after their amazing defensive performance.
The Broncos beat the Raiders in Denver, but that was without QB Derek Carr.  This time, Carr will lead the Raiders offense to thrive against the tough Broncos defense  His versatile receivers will be too much for the No Fly Zone, scoring 3 TD on them.  Broncos QB Brock Osweiler will try to lead the Denver offense to rebound, but it won’t be enough to outplay the strong Raiders offense.
The Rams will beat the flaming New Orleans Saints, led by RB Todd Gurley’s huge game.  QB Jared Goff will also rebound from a rough against another strong team, the Vikings, last week.  Despite the fact that one of their best receivers, Robert Woods, is out, the big games out of Goff and Gurley will help lead the Rams to victory.  The Saints RB duo will struggle against the tough Rams run defense, and that will cost the Saints.
SNF
The banged-up Steelers offense may come in unprepared, but they will still do well against the Packers defense, especially with Clay Matthews hurt.  For the Packers, QB Brett Hundley will struggle to find his receivers, as the Packers offense fails against the Steelers without their top two RBs.  The Steelers will win as the Packers continue to fall apart without QB Aaron Rodgers.
MNF
The Ravens will win as the Texans continued to struggle without QB Deshaun Watson.  With WR Will Fuller out, QB Tom Savage and the Texans will struggle to produce offense against the tough Ravens D, despite the fact that three of their best defensive players are banged-up.  For the Ravens offense, QB Joe Flacco will thrive against a Texans D that’s also depleted by injuries.  Baltimore will win despite several injuries of their own.
That’s all for my Week 12 Picks.  Feel free to comment with your thoughts.

 

Sox Lineup Delivers After Slow Start

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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!