The weekly article series where we examine the two players who deserve to strut their stuff for the Boston Red Sox. This time, we also look at first half strutters.
We’ve reached the All-Star break and the first half of the season is complete, so I thought we would take a look at the best first half performers as well as the normal best players of the week for this edition of the Red Sox Strut. There were just four games since the last Red Sox Strut and Boston was able to finish the first half strongly with four straight victories – one game over Texas on Wednesday and then a three game sweep over the lowly Rays over the weekend.
POSITIONAL PLAYER (This Week): David Ortiz
There were a couple solid candidates that were worthy of the possibility of Strutting through the All-Star break for Boston. Jackie Bradley Jr. had at least one hit in all four games with a couple doubles and an RBI. Bryce Brentz had two solid games himself going 4-6 with four RBI in those couple outings. Unfortunately, he would finish the week going 0-7 in the next two.
Xander Bogaerts added a homerun and four RBI for the week, but there were still two better performers than the X-Man this week. The rights to Strut came down to the man that has been on top of the Strutting world for a while now and the veteran leader of the clubhouse. I’m of course referring to Mookie Betts and David Ortiz. While Betts had seven hits on the week and an average of .438 with two stolen bases, Big Papi ruled the week with his two monster homeruns and six RBI.
Ortiz cleaned up when the team needed it most, although he did have an 0-3 performance at the plate in the second game of the Tampa series. Still, his week was very impressive and earned him the rights to Strut through the All-Star break to the second half.
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POSITIONAL PLAYER (First Half): David Ortiz
The Red Sox offense had a great first half of 2016 and really picked up the whole team in order to put them in second place in the AL East while the pitching struggled mightily at times. The team as whole is first in runs scored with 490, first in batting average (.292), OBP (.359), slugging percentage (.474) and OPS (.833).
So the master Strutter of the first half is really not hard to determine at all. David Ortiz leads the team in batting average (.332), homeruns (22), RBI (72), OBP (.426) and slugging (.682). He has been a force at the plate and is locked in for his final season.
Due to the potency of Boston’s lineup, opposing pitchers are finding it difficult to pitch around Big Papi, and he’s making them pay. His homerun stroke has never looked better and he is on a mission to lead this team as far as he can possibly take them. While Betts and Bogaerts clearly inject the team with a young energy, Ortiz’ calm, cool yet imposing demeanor at the plate is life-blood of the Sox in 2016. If he can somehow stay healthy – not a given by any means – Ortiz is going to have one of the best final seasons for a hitter in the history of the game. More than anything though, he wants to finish on top as a winner. For now, he can Strut!
PITCHER (This Week): David Price
While Boston did win all four games since the previous Red Sox Strut, it was quite easy to figure who would get to Strut this week for the pitching staff. Steven Wright got the start against Texas on Wednesday night and was really just mediocre. He went six innings with the Rangers scattering nine hits, and he gave up five earned runs. He did send seven batters down by way of the K though.
Sean O’Sullivan struggled through five innings against Tampa giving up four runs on seven hits, but the bullpen was able to pick him up for the victory.
Rick Porcello was very solid yet again to earn his eleventh win of the season. He gave up just one run in seven innings and added five strikeouts.
There were also some good bullpen performances this week with Koji Uehara earning two saves in the absence of Craig Kimbrel, although one of those was a bit shaky with Koji giving up a run. Newly acquired reliever Brad Ziegler also earned his first save for the Sox.
But this week, everything came full circle and the ace of the staff looked like an ace yet again. David Price cemented his standing in the rotation and made sure that Boston would sweep their way into the All-Star break. His outing on Sunday was magnificent against his old team. He had ten strikeouts, his fourth game in a row with double-digit K’s, and he was able to go eight innings to give most of the bullpen some added rest. He only gave up four hits and shut out the Rays on his way to Strutting through All-Star week. Well done David! Now, we just need that same guy to cruise through three more months of meaningful baseball.
PITCHER (First Half): Steven Wright
While just about every starter went through some rough outings for Boston, Steven Wright has been a model of consistency throughout the first half. Sure, Rick Porcello leads the team in wins with eleven, but Wright has ten of his own and leads the team with a 2.68 ERA. That is almost a full run better than Porcello’s 3.66.
Also, Wright has given the team a chance to win in just about every one of his outings this season. There have only been a couple starts that you say were “bad”. Quality starts is precisely what this team has been missing. With an offense as electric as Boston’s, they just need a pitcher that is going to keep them close. The knuckleballer has done just that.
He is also an innings eater. He is second on the team with 114 innings pitched and has given the bullpen some much needed rest many nights. There is also the fact that this came out of nowhere for Wright. He barely made the rotation to begin the year, and now he is arguably the most reliable arm they have and an All-Star (despite the fact that he won’t get to start the game).
If Wright can keep this up, he may go down as the most unlikely of pitching heroes to pitch on Yawkey Way. Boston will be relying on Wright and Price to lead the staff in the second half. Until then, the knuckler can Strut his way to San Diego for the All-Star game and then back to Boston.