The Red Sox’ division lead is up to 9.5 games after a sweep of the Yankees where they showed that they are a force to be reckoned with.
Over the weekend, the Boston Red Sox showed the baseball world that they are for real with a four-game sweep of the New York Yankees.
The series provided a few key takeaways that they should be looking at during these final two months of the season. There are both positives and negatives to look at, but they should all serve to help the team going forward.
Game one of the series brought the least dominant pitching performance from a Red Sox starter. Brian Johnson went five innings while giving up five runs (four earned) and striking out a career-high 11 Yankees. Even though he gave up the five runs, the 11 strikeouts should be an encouraging sign for manager Alex Cora as he soon has a decision to make with Eduardo Rodriguez making progress in his rehab.
If that game was encouraging, the feeling was multiplied by 10 in each of the next three games. Friday brought a Pedro-esque performance from Rick Porcello, who pitched a complete game one-hitter with only 86 pitches. Saturday showed that Nathan Eovaldi is the real deal as he went eight scoreless innings against his former team.
But Sunday was the real eye-opener as David Price proved once again that he is a very good-to-great pitcher. Although he was charged with two runs, he got through six scoreless innings before walking the first two batters in the top of the seventh, both of whom were allowed to score by Heath Hembree. But this was not a complete meltdown against the Yankees for Price, as it has been multiple times this season. In fact, it was the complete opposite. He came up big for them, and perhaps even bigger for his own confidence.
Red Sox starters gave up five, one, zero and two runs against this potent Yankee lineup. This is keeping in mind that both Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez missed the series due to injury, but it is still an impressive showing.
The bullpen, on the other hand, was shaky when they were given opportunities. Hembree, who has been great at stranding inherited runners this season, promptly gave up all four of New York’s runs upon his arrival to the game.
Overall, the Red Sox high leverage relievers still performed better than those of the Yankees. When Aroldis Chapman came in with a three-run lead in the ninth inning, just as Kimbrel did, he gave it up and looked bad doing it. Chapman is one of the best closers in the game, but the Red Sox showed yet again that they are not intimidated by him.
Three out of the four games in the series were dominant wins by the Red Sox in which they barely struggled. But the fourth game required them to show resilience and toughness to win.
Sunday night was their fifth walk-off win of the season, and they were down by three with two outs in the ninth. But as every great team does, they didn’t give up.
It was indicative of their season as a whole. They are 7-3 in extra-inning games and 18-10 in one-run games.
When it comes down to it and the game is on the line, this team doesn’t give up. Especially not walk-off hero Andrew Benintendi, who is now hitting .353 with 11 RBI in 12 games against the Yankees this season. Benintendi is showing a knack for clutch situations, which is a good sign for the Red Sox.
The Red Sox’ resilience as a team should continue, too. They are playing like this even without Blake Swihart, Rafael Devers, and Ian Kinsler. But all three of those guys should be good to go within a week.
Finally, this series win has given the Red Sox a 9.5 game cushion in the AL East. They are on pace to have one of the best seasons in MLB history. The team could go 21-28 the rest of the way and still finish with 100 wins. In all likelihood, they will perform much, much better than that over the last two months.
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A good finish to the season should give them home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, which would greatly benefit them. They are 42-15 at home this season while outscoring opponents by 112 runs.
Against the Yankees specifically, the Red Sox are 6-1 at home and have outscored them 55-27. This should detract from the narrative that they can only beat the bad teams. They are 12-11 against the Yankee, Astros and A’s – the teams currently in the American League playoff picture (minus the Indians, who they have yet to play).
They should get the chance to prove that they are for real in the coming weeks, as they have two series against the Indians, one against the Astros and two more against the Yankees. They should be expected to be up to the challenge.
This Red Sox team is really good. They have a unique chance to finish as one of the best teams in franchise history. Maybe even the best team in franchise history. Every team has a weakness, and with the Red Sox, it’s their bullpen. But winning baseball games is about how the whole team bands together to be stronger than the weakest link and this team just showed yet again that they are more than capable of doing that.