This week, in fact the last 10 games, have been good for the Boston Red Sox and their fans. Red Sox Nation, finally, has something to strut about when concerning their favorite team. Boston has won seven of their last ten games, and sit a mere one game from leap-frogging the Baltimore Orioles and Tampa Bay Rays for third place in the American League East. As much as they are likely too far back to make the postseason, there’s something to be said for being only seven games out of a wildcard spot, especially when the season looked to get much worse after the All-Star Break.
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Two players in the last seven games have stepped up more than the rest. Another player, a pitcher, deserves an honorable mention, as well.
Designated hitter David Ortiz was going to get the award this week, even if he didn’t have the best numbers. The one number in particular was when he reached 500 career home runs. He became just the fourth player in MLB history to have 500 homers or more and three World Series championship titles. With Cooperstown debates being stirred by Big Papi’s big bat, was there even a question that Ortiz would receive this week’s Strut award?
If you want to look into the rest of the numbers anyways, Ortiz would have still deserved the award, even if he fell short of the historic moment.
Ortiz hit a slash line of .444/.545/1.111 (the slugging percentage is not a typo), with three home runs and nine RBIs. He also crossed the plate five times, himself. He’s seeing the ball so well. Even on his milestone long ball, it was as if he knew it would be a fastball and where it would be located before the pitcher even uncoiled. Ortiz was already steadying his leg kick as the pitcher delivered the beachball-looking pitch. Ortiz has looked like that a number of times this past month, let alone this week.
He is still, unquestionably, the leader of the ballclub and continues to play at a high level. Instead of people asking about retirement, Ortiz just keeps feasting on pitches as if his career is prime rib.
Sep 9, 2015; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox pitcher Joe Kelly (56) delivers a pitch during the second inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
This one was harder to choose, with two starting pitchers coming through for the Red Sox in different ways.
Ultimately, the decision was made that Joe Kelly deserved the nod, this week. Much like Ortiz, Kelly has been red-hot for the Sox over a month, now. In his last eight games, Kelly is a perfect 8-0 against pretty tough opponents like the New York Mets and the Toronto Blue Jays.
For the week alone, Kelly won his game with a 1.56 ERA, allowing a single run on six hits, two walks, and five strikeouts. He held opposing hitters to a .286 batting average.
The kid, sporting a dashing-yet-odd bit of lip hair, just keeps on winning, after such a poor first half of the 2015 season. This accomplishment deserves recognition and respect, especially if he can keep it going for 2016.
A man also worth noting for the Red Sox is Rick Porcello, otherwise known by some in Red Sox Nation to be the prodigal son. After spending time in the minors to recover from injury and find his game, Porcello has pitched much better. In his last two starts, Porcello recorded the victory both times, allowing three runs a game and an opposing average of just .250. He pitched 14.1 innings in the combined starts, being just over seven a game, which for Porcello is incredible considering he had multiple games where fans wanted him out before the fourth inning was over. Sometimes even earlier than that.
Normally, that effort and the two wins would have given Porcello the Strut award for the week. Even Henry Owens went 5.1 innings of one-run ball. However, Owens was out because he didn’t have the victory locked up and Porcello had more runs per game than Kelly. That’s if you had forgotten that Kelly’s week added on to seven previous and also amazing starts in a row before that.
With Kelly and Porcello finding their game and young pitchers like Owens learning their craft quickly, the nightmare of 2015 will soon be over and the promise of 2016 should seem much more hopeful.
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