Boston Red Sox: 5 Things We Learned from the Cubs Series
Things looked pretty bleak for the Boston Red Sox after a 3-0 loss to the MLB-worst Chicago Cubs on Friday night. The Sox had fallen below .500 yet again, and the stagnant offense could not find a way to scratch out a run against a terrible opponent.
However, despite the blistering Chicago heat, the Sox managed to remain cool and composed, taking the next two games (and the series). They got strong pitching first from Jon Lester and then surprise starter Franklin Morales.
The news wasn’t all good, as two more players hit the DL for the beleaguered Boston nine. Ryan Sweeney (foot) and Josh Beckett (shoulder inflammation) were both shelved prior to Sunday’s game, only adding to the Sox’s already comical array of injuries.
The Sox offense continued to be erratic, scoring 11 runs over the three games against a team that averages 4.58 runs allowed per game. They got big hits from David Ortiz and Jarrod Saltalamacchia, both of whom are proving to be the two most reliable bats in the lineup.
The Sox will head back to Fenway to begin an interleague series with the Miami Marlins on Tuesday, but before they do, let’s take a look back at five key lessons from this past weekend’s clash at Wrigley.
David Ortiz’s Hot Start Is for Real
After going through a bit of a lull recently, Big Papi has come back strong at the plate. Playing in all three games of the series, Ortiz went 4-for-10 with a double, home run and two walks.
With a .311 average, 16 home runs, 43 RBI and a .993 OPS on the season, the Sox DH has essentially matched his production to this point of last season (.320-17-45-1.002). However, this contribution has been even more valuable this year due to the injuries to Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford, as well as the struggles of Adrian Gonzalez and Dustin Pedroia.
The Sox will need Ortiz to continue hitting if they hope to get back into the thick of the AL East race, and based on his performance so far this year, there’s no reason to think he won’t be standout performer all season long.
Franklin Morales Will Be a Good Fill-in for Josh Beckett
Formerly a starter for the Colorado Rockies, Morales was pressed into duty this weekend to replace the injured Josh Beckett in the Sox rotation. With Daniel Bard, Justin Germano and others waiting in Pawtucket for a chance to help the big league club, Morales needed to come through to stay in the rotation.
The Sox had to have liked what they saw.
Morales was fantastic on Sunday, allowing just four hits and two earned runs in 5.0 innings and 80 pitches of work. His nine strikeouts were a career high.
While Morales will certainly be heading back to the bullpen when Beckett returns, Sox fans can take comfort in knowing the left-hander is capable of shouldering the load until then.
The Right Fielder of the Future Has Arrived
After a very long wait, Ryan Kalish made his Red Sox debut on Sunday, starting in center field and batting eighth. He went 1-for-4 with an RBI single and also scored a run, helping the Sox earn a 7-3 win.
While Kalish will need to ease back into playing every day as he continues to recover from his shoulder injury, it would be surprising if the Sox decided to send him down again this year. He is a player the team feels is a key part of their future, and his bat could prove useful in efforts to spark the erratic Sox offense.
Kalish’s arrival also likely means the end for Darnell McDonald, who will become expendable when either Ryan Sweeney or Cody Ross returns.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia Is an All-Star
After a strong series that saw the Sox backstop homer, double and drive in three runs, all concerns over Saltalamacchia’s recent struggles can finally be put to rest. His 5-for-38 skid going into Saturday’s game, though mildly alarming, belies just how valuable he has been to the Sox this season.
Both compared to his peers (leads all MLB catchers in home runs and is fifth in OPS) and his teammates (second to Ortiz in nearly every offensive category), Saltalamacchia has proven to be an elite hitter and has finally begun to reach his lofty potential this season.
This type of production should be rewarded, and although he likely will not be voted in by the fans, he nevertheless deserves to be chosen to represent the Sox at the All-Star game.
Scott Podsednik Is the Answer at Leadoff
As unfathomable as it may have seemed less than a month ago, Podsednik has become a spark plug for this Sox offense. After another excellent performance (5-for-11, two steals) this past weekend, Podsednik has proven that he belongs in the lineup every day.
Since joining the Sox, Podsednik’s batting average has never dipped below .364, and his six steals—already good for second on the team—have given their sometimes one-dimensional offense an added boost.
When the team lost Jacoby Ellsbury, it seemed unrealistic to think that they’d be able to find an adequate replacement. Although he lacks Ellsbury’s power, Podsednik has the range in center and ability to make contact at the plate that might just give the Sox offense a crucial jump start.