Boston Red Sox: Why It Was Inevitable They'd Be Best Team in Baseball
After a forgettable start, the Boston Red Sox have gone on to record a memorable May, going 19-11 and scoring the amount of runs that most people expected them to in the offseason.
Consistency, particularly when it comes to starting pitching, is still a big question mark, but the team is now only one game back from the New York Yankees in the AL East, and although they’re in a small skid, the ship finally appears to be righted.
Although it is yet to be reflected in the standings, the Sox are well on their way to being the best team in baseball. Here’s why…
Proof Not Always in the Pudding
After starting the season 2-10, much of Sox Nation was prepared to hit the panic button, ready to send Carl Crawford back to Florida and implode the bullpen before they self-destructed on their own.
Even with the numbers in the books, though, this team was never as bad as they appeared early on in the standings. Yes, things could have gotten very ugly if the Yankees or Rays had gone on incredible runs, but the entire AL East has been underwhelming so far, allowing the Sox to stay in the race, even when they lacked the fight to do it themselves.
Slumps are a part of baseball. It just so happened that this team started their season with a historic one, but barring any injuries, they are too stacked to let history repeat itself.
With the temperatures rising outside, the Red Sox offense has been heating up as well. The hot-hitting lineup produced two consecutive 14-run games recently (and a 15 for those keeping count), and when you’re scoring touchdowns in baseball, you’re putting checks in the win column.
The team was 21st in MLB in runs scored for the month of April. Fast forward 31 days, and the Sox are now first in that category, plating 156 batters throughout May.
No one questioned this team would be able to hit, but now that Ellsbury, Crawford and Youk (and even Salty to some degree) are swinging their bats and getting on base, the team has surged.
If you plate them, you will win, and they have. They will make pitchers cry in the process.
Patience is a Difficult Virtue
It’s no secret Crawford got off to a bad start. In fact, it was a horrendous start. Dropped down in the order, he continued to slump, showing no signs of reversing his luck or his sinking batting average.
Then the final week of May happened.
In the seven-day stretch, Crawford went 11-for-26, kickstarting the engine on his sleeping offensive output and snapping a 97-at-bat homerless streak. He’d go on to hit three for the week.
You can’t really say Crawford is back because he was never really here in the first place, but it sure is nice to see the player who once tormented Red Sox pitching now doing the same on Boston’s behalf.
Papi With Pop
Given the many new acquisitions and old homegrown favorites who returned to the lineup in 2011, almost everybody had overlooked Mr. Clutch and how his contributions would affect Boston’s season.
David Ortiz and his big bat have taken notice.
Returning to vintage form, Papi is off to a torrid 2011, forcing fans to forget about his recent slow starts and embrace his nostalgic resurgence. With 10 home runs in May, he’s been the silent tiger in the Sox lineup, hammering pitchers and driving in runs, all with little fanfare.
With the DH position lacking consistent production across much of baseball, Ortiz is a pleasant production-producing surprise. Once again a true threat in the batting order, he is forcing opposing pitchers to choose their spots more carefully while also making Sox Nation think twice before sending aging players out to pasture.
Living Up to Expectations
Players often come into Boston and perform as advertised. The hype machine is a powerful thing, and while it usually blinds us to what is beneath the surface, it’s safe to say Sox Nation got what they expected in the form of Adrian Gonzalez.
The slugger has been solid all year long, but May was his homecoming. A hitter who can hit to all parts of the ballpark, Gonzalez has lived up to expectations, leading the league in RBIs and smacking 10 home runs to date. He is also fourth in the league in batting average, a surprising stat that speaks to his growth as a hitter.
Can you say Manny who?
In baseball, speed can mean the difference between stranding a player at first and plating a player at home. When you’re running, the opposing pitcher is uncomfortable, and uncomfortable pitchers make mistakes.
Ellsbury has been tearing up the basepaths as of late, swiping 19 bags and helping land him in the top 10 in runs scored. Crawford, just now getting on base at a consistent clip, is heating up in the shoes as well, stealing seven so far with plenty more to come.
A surprising stealing stat comes from Dustin Pedroia, who already has 12 on the year and could help to make the front end of the Boston lineup a very formidable one if he and Ellsbury continue to be too antsy to wait comfortably at first base.
When this team is running, runs are being scored. When runs are scored, wins are recorded.