Holt Grand Slam, Impressive Bullpen Leads Sox to Comeback Win

Bases loaded, 1 out.  Toronto led 7-2.  Then suddenly, Holt cracked it into right, and it was gone!!!!

The Red Sox came back to haunt the Blue Jays after trailing by five at the end of the fourth.  Their bullpen held the Jays to no scoring from innings 5-9, and their lineup produced 6 runs in the span of two innings.  Brock Holt had a monstrous game, going 2-3 with 5 RBI, 1 run, a double and a grand slam.  Xander Bogaerts added a 3 hit, 3 run game.

The Sox started off sloppy in the first inning with a 1-2-3 and a run given up by Joe Kelly.  Kevin Pillar hit a lead off triple and with first and third, Edwin Encarnacion hit the sac fly that scored the run.  By the end of the inning, despite two strikeouts, Kelly had given up a triple, two walks and a run off a sac fly.  The Red Sox turned things around in the next couple innings.  Hanley Ramirez got a single but was caught running to second.  Travis Shaw and Brock Holt made up for it with back to back doubles that scored a run for the Sox.  Starting Brock Holt and Travis Shaw rather than Panda and Castillo was worth it.  It didn’t end for them there.  Holt and Shaw had become a crucial part of the lineup.  A Xander Bogaerts single along with an impressive RBI double by Big Papi scored the 2nd run for the Sox in the 3rd.

Joe Kelly also had more control in the 2nd and 3rd, he had two straight innings with only 1 hit or walk, but no 1-2-3 innings.  In the 4th, Kelly just lost it.  With Kevin Pillar up, he had given up four straight singles and a 2nd run.  That’s when things just got worse.  He hit Pillar in the head, scoring another run!  Then Josh Donaldson, reigning AL MVP, came up to the plate.  He crushed one into right and there went a grand slam.  It was now 7-2 Blue Jays, Kelly had barely made it three innings, (he got pulled after the grand slam) and worst of all, it looked like the Red Sox could not win without David Price. Noe Ramirez even gave up two more hits before a third out in that same inning.

But in the 6th, the Red Sox began to prove everyone wrong.  Xander Bogaerts drove a double to left, and Big Papi walked.  When Hanley Ramirez grounded out, they both advanced a base.  Travis Shaw then walked to load the bases.  Guess who was back up?  Brock Holt.  Holt just barely got the grand slam to right.  It looked like he would have to settle for a double but just reached the bullpen.  The Sox had suddenly cut Toronto’s lead to just 1 run.

Meanwhile, the bullpen was impressing everyone.  The Blue Jays lineup was held to just 1 hit since the dreaded 4th inning.

In the 7th, the Red Sox went on a two run, four hit rally.  David Ortiz drove in run #1 of the inning on a base hit that drove in Pedroia.  Hanley Ramirez drove in the 2nd run with Big Papi on first and Bogaerts on third.  With that Bogaerts scored his third run of the game.  It was now 8-7, the Red Sox leading.  Junichi Tazawa additionally got the Boston bullpen their first 1-2-3 on the Jays.  They were trying their hardest to stay in control until Craig Kimbrel was ready to close the game.  After a quiet two innings for the Sox lineup, Kimbrel went out to finish the game on a 1-2-3.

After a game full of grand slams, rallying and big surprises, the Red Sox had come back to take down the Blue Jays 8-7.  If they keep playing like this, they could actually fight for a playoff spot.  Even if their rotation is iffy beyond Price, just as I said in my Opening Day Preview,  the powerful lineup and bullpen just need to stay consistent for a good season.  To go beyond getting a wild card, the Sox will need to be capable of outplaying the Jays head to head.  That could be their key to their first pennant in three years.  Catch game 2 of Red Sox @ Blue Jays on NESN.  The Bruins also play their final regular season game as they fight for a playoff slot. Things are looking up for Boston Sports this weekend.

 

Opening Day: Modified Standings and Bold Predictions

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It’s just a couple of hours until the first full day of regular season games starts, and I’m here to get you ready.  Sure, you may have have seen my MLB Preview, but this is a condensed, more accurate version.  I even have some bold predictions for the season.  Let’s get started.

 

AL East

  1. Boston Red Sox 91-71
  2. Toronto Blue Jays 86-76
  3. Tampa Bay Rays 82-80
  4. New York Yankees 76-86
  5. Baltimore Orioles 72-90

The Red Sox made a good move starting Travis Shaw over Pablo Sandoval, and Hanley Ramirez has adjusted well to first.  This lineup is new and improved, and ready to take over a weak but tight division.  Even if the rotation behind David Price is a concern, their bullpen makes up for it.

I just don’t believe the Blue Jays can function without better pitching.  When they lost David Price and LaTroy Hawkins, it was back to square one.  The Rays made some good off season improvements but their lineup still lacks power, and the Yankees are just getting too old to be good anymore.  Starlin Castro was a good first step.  Lastly, the O’s don’t have anything to convince me.  Their outfield is seconds away from shattering, and after Miguel Gonzalez’s release, their rotation is still short a pitcher.   So it looks like easy pickings for the Red Sox, even if they’re a shaky team.

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AL Central

  1. Kansas City Royals 93-69
  2. Detroit Tigers 89-73 (WC)
  3. Chicago White Sox 87-75
  4. Minnesota Twins 78-84
  5. Cleveland Indians 74-88

The Royals cannot be beaten in this division, it just won’t happen.  With a strong lineup and balanced rotation, they’re not going down.  They will be closely challenged however as the Tigers and White Sox improve.  They still have weak areas more than the Royals, but they will compete for wild card spots.  They made key signings like Justin Upton and Austin Jackson that take their teams to the next level.

The Indians aren’t horrible like I said but can’t compete in a tough division after such a quiet off season.

The Twins have a reborn lineup but the pitching can’t support young sensations Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano yet.  This division is up for grabs beyond Kansas City, but the Royals have first place locked up.

 

AL West

  1. Texas Rangers 95-67
  2. Houston Astros 88-74 (WC)
  3. Seattle Mariners 81-81
  4. Oakland Athletics 76-86
  5. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim 68-94

 

Alright, at least I have the Astros in the playoffs.  I just believe that the Rangers have more than Houston.  The Astros don’t even have a starting first baseman, and their young rotation is inconsistent.  The Rangers probably have the best trio of batters in the AL with Prince Fielder, Adrian Beltre and Elvis Andrus.  They have some good lineup improvements to support their lineup this off season and their rotation is completely revamped and healthy.

The Mariners went on a full shopping spree this off season, but they didn’t necessarily fill their main holes, so they’ll only be mediocre.  The Athletics are only slightly improved, and the Angels clearly aren’t going anywhere with such an inconsistent rotation and lineup.  So this division will be a tight dogfight between the Rangers and Astros with the Mariners in the wild card bidding.

AL Playoffs

Wild Card: Tigers over Astros

ALDS: Red Sox over Royals

Rangers over Tigers

ALCS: Rangers over Red Sox

 

NL East

  1. Washington Nationals 93-69
  2. New York Mets 90-72 (WC)
  3. Miami Marlins 83-79
  4. Philadelphia Phillies 67-95
  5. Atlanta Braves 64-98

 

Yes, in my modified predictions, the Mets make the playoffs.  I have always underrated them so maybe if I predict a wild card, they’ll win the division.  Even though I usually overrate the Nationals above them, the Nats have a case this year with an improved lineup, and strong rotation.  Who needs Jordan Zimmermann when you have Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez?

The Marlins have the next best chance but are still working on a weak bullpen, and the Phillies and Braves have absolutely no chance and have practically abandoned their teams for the year.  So that leaves the Mets and Nats to have the best battle yet.  I say they both make the playoffs and lose in the NLDS.  What do you think?

 

NL Central

  1. Chicago Cubs 97-65
  2. St. Louis Cardinals 91-71 (WC)
  3. Pittsburgh Pirates 88-74
  4. Cincinnati Reds 73-89
  5. Milwaukee Brewes 69-93

With the exception of maybe last year, this Cubs team is by far the best Cubs team of the century.  They are favorites to win the World Series, and will not be stopped in this division.  The Pirates and Cards still had good off seasons, but have tapered off from last season’s teams.  They have lost many of their best like Neil Walker, Lance Lynn (temporarily) and Jason Heyward.  They will only compete for the playoff spots behind Chicago.

The Brewers and Reds are both in rebuilding stages after making a splash in 2013 and 2014.  They are two of the worst teams in the league and will not compete for this division in any way, shape or form.

 

NL West

  1. Los Angeles Dodgers 92-70
  2. Arizona Diamondbacks 87-75
  3. San Diego Padres 86-76
  4. San Francisco Giants 86-76
  5. Colorado Rockies 63-99

The Dodgers still rule this division even after a weak off season.  The Giants are overrated and young, the D-Backs just aren’t ready yet, and the Padres are a big sleeper but have the potential to be a bust as well.  LA has a strong rotation with great depth and despite numerous injuries, the Dodgers’ spot starters are happy to help, and they do.  The Rockies have done a minimal amount of improvements, and I don’t see them going anywhere.  Their rotation is a mess, and they have such big holes at positions like first base that they’ll have to call up players off of the 40-man roster.

NL Playoffs

 

Wild Card: Mets over Cardinals

NLDS: Dodgers over Nationals

Cubs over Mets

NLCS: Cubs over Dodgers

 

World Series: Rangers over Cubs

 

10 Bold Predictions for the 2016 Season

  1. Former Mariners Smoak and Saunders both bat above .270

Justin_Smoak

Justin Smoak and Michael Saunders’ contributions in Seattle have not yet showed up on the Blue Jays.  I say they both have comeback years and Smoak earns his job back from Chris Colabello easily.  After a .273 avergage in 2014, Saunders batted just .194 in ’15 in just 9 games played.  Saunders missed most of the year.  Smoak has never put up that good of stats, but he has a chance to rebound from the last two years, as he sucked in 2014.

  1. Starlin Castro finally breaks through, as the Yankees star player

You can’t spell Starlin without Star.  Year after year the Cubs have gotten their hopes up about the young shortstop.  However, this young guy has showed his skills and I think he’s ready to fully breakthrough.  I have this guy hitting between .310 and .320 with a personal best in average and dingers.  Hopefully, he can adjust to the Yankees system and be strengthened by the Yanks.

  1. White Sox and Tigers will each get at least 85 wins

Both teams sucked last season, what happened?  They both made very bold moves in the off season, as I had said.  The Tigers have a much better rotation in 2016, while the White Sox have revamped their lineup.  They may not beat the Royals in the division race, but between the two of them, they could put on a big fight.

  1. Eric Hosmer and Jason Heyward win MVPs

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The Royals have had Hosmer his entire career and he’s just been a subpar star the whole time.  When will he fully breakout and have a rampage season?  2016 of course.  Hosmer’s stats have increased recently as he takes a lead role on the Royals.  He is a well known veteran in Kansas City and it’s time that his name is known league-wide.  Heyward meanwhile has developed really well and after a strong year with the Cardinals, he looks like a serious MVP candidate.  He put up a career best .293 average last season.  The Cubs have put him in a crucial role and Heyward’s ready to nail it.

  1. Yu Darvish wins AL Comeback Player and AL CY Young

yu-darvish

I have Yu Darvish winning both the AL Cy Young and AL Comeback Player of the Year.  The guy looked outstanding in his rookie season and when he’s healthy, I think he could still do great things.

  1. Mets infield hits 3 times more homers than Yoenis Cespedes

Between Asdrubal Cabrera and Neil Walker, the Mets have made a splash in the infield.  Add on David Wright and Lucas Duda, and you’ve got yourself the infield of a super-team.  Between all those guys, I think they will hit 3 times the homers of Yoenis Cespedes.  I think Cespedes will hit about 40 homers.  However, I think each of the Mets infielders will hit 20-35 dingers this year.  They have a lot of potential.  That’s what potential can do.

  1. Harrison and Freese combine for 70 dingers and Pirates only win 88 games

Yes, even with the Pirates winning just 88 games and missing the playoffs, I see the hitting doing surprisingly well this year.  I have two mediocre guys combining for 70 taters, and one of them isn’t even a full time starter.  That doesn’t even include Andrew McCutchen, Gregory Polanco and Starling Marte.  The Pirates lineup is overpowered to an extreme level.

  1. At least one Reds player comes in the Top 5 in the NL for AVG, HRs or ERA

There are many candidates on the team that could do this.  Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, even Raisel Iglesias or Homer Bailey.  But I think despite the Reds not being that good as a team, they have veteran players that can do big things when given the chance.  The Reds had a somewhat healthy year last year, and I’m feeling it will happen again.

  1. Giants run out of even-year luck, miss playoffs

Yes, the Giants don’t win the World Series in 2016, or even make the playoffs.  The NL just has too many teams that are better this year.  The Mets aren’t going to miss the playoffs even if the Nats beat them out in the NL East!  That leaves the Cards, D-Backs, Pirates and Giants to fight over Wild Card #2. Compared to those three teams, the Giants look like garbage.  Well what if they win the division?  No way, not happening.  The Dodgers are just too hard to beat even after such an empty off season, and if they don’t win, the D-Backs have a pretty good chance too.

  1. Entire Dodgers rotation ends up with ERAs under 3.50

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The Dodgers rotation is stacked.  Despite injuries, it’ll start the season looking like this:

  1. Clayton Kershaw
  2. Kenta Maeda
  3. Scott Kazmir
  4. Hyun-Jin Ryu
  5. Alex Wood

Even without Brett Anderson and Brandon McCarthy, that rotation is pretty overpowered.  Kenta Maeda was a star in Japan and I think he can adjust, and if Scott Kazmir pitches like he did in Houston, then the Dodgers top 3 is ready to shut down the league.  Hyun-Jin Ryu is efficient and powerful when he’s healthy, and Alex Wood can really pitch if they need him.

 

Enjoy your Opening Day!  Go Red Sox!

 

Ranking The Teams 18-13: My Version: Who’s Weaker Than You Think?

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Alright, welcome to Part 3 of my preseason power rankings.  Most of the bad teams have been mentioned, but there are 18 teams left.  The rest of these teams are playoff contenders, but what teams have unclear weaknesses that will cause them to just miss the playoffs?

18. sanfran-giants San Francisco Giants

So, the Giants did all this stuff in the off season to improve their team and attempt to win their fourth straight even year world series, but what happened?  They have holes.  The rotation has really improved between Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija.

However,  the bullpen is short on people and the lineup has some missing aspects.  They have a solid closer and set-up crew but beyond that, what is there?  Especially after losing Yusmeiro Petit the Giants are short on extra bullpen insurance.

The lineup also has some issues.  The lineup has some really bold players, like Hunter Pence, Buster Posey and Denard Span, but the rest of the lineup lacks power.  Sure, Matt Duffy, Joe Panik and Brandon Crawford are all right, and they make up for it on defense, but in the lineup, they aren’t major contributors.  They needed to sign some powerful hitters if they wanted to win another World Series.  So, the Giants may look good on paper, but when it comes to game-time scenarios, they are somewhat deprived.

Projected Record: 84-78

 

17.  houston-astros Houston Astros

I know what you’re thinking.  “The Astros?”  “They’re stacked, and they’re going to be a contender”.  Yes, the rebuild helped this team escape insanely bad times but sometimes there’s such thing as too young.  They don’t have enough veterans.  I think that the young, short duo of Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa are overrated.  Some aspects of the lineup are short on power.  Sure, they have a very strong outfield, but the infield players are overrated hitters and don’t contribute as much of the lineup.

The rotation is mixed between very good veteran pitchers and young new guys to the rotation,  The rotation is really good but they do have their weaknesses.  The bullpen needs depth and the lineup is lacking power.  This team looks similar to the Giants, but younger, and some of these once prospects aren’t paying off. causing them to be worse.

Projected Record: 79-83

 

16. new-york-yankees New York Yankees

The Yankees had a decent 2015, but besides a few trades, they haven’t changed or improved much.  The pitching staff is stacked.  After adding closer Aroldis ChapmanAndrew Miller and Dellin Betances will serve as strong set-up men.  The rotation is also really good but it lacks an ace.  Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda, maybe even CC Sabathia may have to share the role.

The lineup is a bit of an issue.  First things first, it again lacks power, they don’t have any all star players to lead the lineup.  Also, the lineup has no youth to it.  It is made of a bunch of washed-up older players.  This whole team is a very old team, the players, even the franchise itself.  Unless they rebuild, working with their strong farm system, it looks like the Yanks will be stuck in this position for a while.

Projected Record: 85-77

 

15. arizona-dbacks Arizona Diamondbacks

The D-Backs were very bold in the off season.  They went from one of the most horrible teams just after a rebuild to a middle ground team that could potentially be a playoff contender.  They now have some foundation to their pitching staff, a good front three starters, and a good closer and set-up man.  New additions to the Diamondbacks pitching staff include Zack Greinke, Shelby Miller and Tyler Clippard.  They already had a strong closer in Brad Ziegler who will now take the spot of A.J. Schugel, helping Evan Marshall in the 8th inning.  The rotation is looking a lot better, with Greinke, Miller and Patrick Corbin taking the top, and young pitchers with lots of potential, Robbie Ray and Rubby De La Rosa, in the back end.  However the lineup still lacks power.

They might have Paul Goldschmidt and A.J. Pollock, with David Peralta and Yasmany Tomas making some contributions but there are no solid hitters besides that.  Neither Jean Segura nor Chris Owings have learned to hit much.

Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a bit, I’ve never been fond of young D-Backs stars Jake Lamb and Chris Owings, and I might be underrating them.  I might  be underrating this team.  If you D-Backs fans and players think I am, show me what your team can do and I’ll give them more credit mid-season.  Could the D-Backs be world series champs of the future, and playoff, even division contenders now?

Projected Record: 88-74

 

14. seattle-mariners-logo Seattle Mariners

The Seattle Mariners were a very sucky, disappointing 2015 team.  But, they made a bunch of off season moves that made them look a whole lot better.  The lineup still doesn’t have enough strength in it between Kyle Seager, Nelson Cruz, newcomer Norichika Aoki and others, but they really improved their pitching.

Their bullpen looks a lot better, now led by Steve Cishek and Joaquin Benoit.  Justin De Fratus is another contributing factor along with Charlie Furbush.    The rotation looks better too.  The Mariners re-signed Hisashi Iwakuma and acquired Wade Miley and Nathan Karns to help.  Taijuan Walker also has a lot of room to grow and develop into a high level pitcher.

Between a mediocre lineup with a new look and a completely revamped pitching staff it looks like the Mariners could be contenders.  Their not necessarily going to dominate the postseason, but they could snag a wild card for their first playoff appearance in ages.

Projected Record: 87-75

 

13. Toronto_Blue_Jays Toronto Blue Jays

The Blue Jays had the best lineup in baseball going into 2015 but didn’t really have much pitching until the trade deadline.  They lost their ace David Price but have a strong back end to the rotation and an acceptable bullpen.  But the Blue Jays lost more than just their ace this off season.  They lost outfielder Ben Revere, and some reserves in their lineup.

Their bullpen still lacks back of the bullpen pitchers and is mostly filled with middle relievers and long relievers who missed the rotation.  Their lineup is a little too old despite a decent farm system ready to take over some of the team and their rotation has no clear SP1 or ace that can be a leader in the pitching staff.  This team has some good players, but what they have doesn’t quite fit their specific needs.  It’s a great team if they have other players to fill the holes and all a stars have a position to play.

Projected Record: 89-73

 

 

So, that’s all for this portion of my preseason power rankings.  Who will be in Part 4?

Red Sox Pass Blue Jays, Estrada Collapses

The Red Sox defeated the Blue Jays 4-3 by pouncing on them early.  In the top of the 1st, Betts reached on an error by Devon Travis.  Then, after walking four batters with two outs, it was 2-0 Red Sox.  Swihart struck out to end the inning.  In the top of the 2nd, Jackie Bradley Jr. hit his first home run since May 31, 2014.  3-0 Sox.  And in the 3rd, David Ortiz crushed his 13th homer of the year high in to the right field stands of the Rogers Centre.  Jays pitcher Marco Estrada left the game after only 2.1 innings, giving up 2 homers, 4 walks and 4 runs, 2 of them earned.

Meanwhile, Eddie Rodriguez held the Blue Jays scoreless, until the 4th inning that is.  Edwin Encarnacion hit a ground rule double to center field.  Chris Colabello singled him in, advancing to second on the throw.  Rodriguez went six innings with only one earned run.  But when Tommy Layne came in on relief, there was trouble.

Kevin Pillar singled and advanced to second on the ground out that followed.  With two outs, Jose Reyes knocked a ball into the bullpen for a home run.  Alexi Ogando settle the Blue Jays down, and Koji Uehara finished the game, earning the save.  The Red Sox edged the Blue Jays 4-3.   They will play a day game today at 1:00 that I may cover in my free time at Multi-Media camp.

Buchholz, Red Sox Defeat Blue Jays

Clay Buchholz led the Red Sox to a victory with a gem of a start (8.0 IP, 1 ER, 5 K, 5 H, 0 HR).  It was pretty much a pitcher’s duel.  The Sox had RISP trouble in the 2nd inning, with 2nd and 3rd after a passed ball, with Sandy Leon striking out.  In the 3rd, JBJ walked.  Betts singled him to second.  Then Brock Holt walked to load the bases.  Then Xander Bogaerts hit a 2-run double.  2 RISP.  Three pop outs.  Inning over.  They took a 2-0 lead, but blew two more runs.  Come on.  You only needed a sac fly.  You should score  at least one more if not two.  in the 5th, Betts tripled for the first hit since the 2nd.  Then Brock Holt scored him in with a single.  3-0 Sox.  No more hits until the 6th.  Devon Travis reached on an infield single.  He advanced to second on a ground out.  Then Donaldson doubled Travis in. For the rest of the game, only one hit.  And Koji got the save with a 1-2-3.   The Red Sox easily had a 3-1 lead over the Blue Jays. Look for tonight’s post and a game recap.

Martin’s 11th Inning Homer Boosts Blue Jays Past Red Sox

The Blue Jays won their 10th straight while the Sox lost their 5th after Russell Martin’s 11th inning solo blaster, giving Toronto the 5-4 lead.  The Blue Jays scored first, right off the bat in the 2nd inning.  Encarnacion, Colabello and Martin singled back to back to back to load the bases.  Smoak struck out looking, put Kevin Pillar drove in a run and kept the bases loaded on an RBI single. Then Goins drove in another two runs with his base hit, and all of a sudden it was 3-0 Blue Jays.

They struck again in the top of the 4th. There were two outs.  Pillar and Goins singled.  1st and 2nd.  Then Jose Reyes singled and Pillar scored, just like that 4-3 Toronto, all with two outs, and Buchholz ready to strike out the side after striking out two.  In the bottom of the 4th, the Red Sox rallied.  It was 1st and 2nd, R. A. Dickey walked Big Papi and Ramirez got a base hit before it, and he now stood at second base.  Bogaerts singled to drive in Ramirez.  1st and 3rd, only one out.  Then Pablo Sandoval singled, and both Ortiz and Bogaerts crossed the plate.  4-3 Blue Jays.

Big Papi hit a leadoff solo shot into deep right field to tie the game in the 6th inning.  From there it was pretty quiet.  Toronto got stranded with bases loaded in the 7th and got no other hits.  The Sox were held to two hits.

4-4, top of the 11th.  Russell Martin leading off the inning.  Strike one.  Strike two.  Then, WHAM!!!!  Martin crushed the ball in to center field and it was gone. 5-4 Blue Jays.  The Blue Jays defeated the Red Sox in their 5th straight loss.  The lineup has been no problem, but Napoli has not been hot since June tipped off.  Maybe trade Napoli for cash considerations or a player to be named later.  Bring Holt or Hanley to first, and call up JBJ. I don’t exactly like the idea of it though.  Napoli is still a decent firstbaseman and we could use his help.  Besides, Iif the lineup is good, don’t make any major changes to it.  I’m starting to gain a liking for this lineup: Pedroia 2B, Betts/Holt CF/RF, Ramirez LF, Ortiz DH, Napoli 1B, Sandoval 3B, Bogaerts SS, Swihart C, Castillo RF/CF, except for the wacky ending.

Maybe it’s time to give Henry Owens a try, or try Justin Masterson again.  Joe Kelly is not worth keeping as a starter after what he did yesterday.  Trading Lackey for Kelly and Craig was a horrible deal.  Lackey’s a decent Cardinals starting pitcher.  Craig and Kelly have stunk this year.  It’s time to try something different, that’s all I know.  Be on the lookout for my post on today’s 1:30 game.  The Red Sox conclude the series against the Blue Jays.  Minus will just start calling them the Dead Sox, if they can’t meet their expectations or even come close.  They play the Braves who they’ve swept the last two times, including the dreadful 2014 season series.  Being just as bad this year, and Atlanta rebuilding, can they pull it of again?  I can’t be sure even if they’ll win at all for a while.