Boston Red Sox: Carl Crawford and 5 Players Most Responsible for Hot Streak
What a difference a month can make in the baseball universe.
The Boston Red Sox will begin the month of June with a 30-26 record, good enough for second place in the American League East. The team got there in a hurry, digging themselves out of the basement of their division in one month's time.
At the beginning of May, the Sox were in shambles. By May 1st the team had played 27 games and their record never once reached the .500 mark, after struggling mightily out of the gate. It took until May 15th, when Boston compiled a 20-20 record, to finally reach that feat and the team earned their first positive record two days later.
The Sox weren't done with their ascension. By May 26th the team's record of 28-22, which tied them for the lead in the East, and one day later Boston took sole ownership of first place. The Sox ranked dead last in their division on May 6th, and just 20 days later they laid claim to first.
After a four-game slide, Boston currently sits a game-and-a-half back of New York and they'll be gearing up for another run at first when they play again on June 3rd.
Now let's take a look at just who is responsible for this incredible turn around in Beantown, over the last month.
6. Carl Crawford
Carl Crawford's 2011 season has mimicked the Red Sox record to this stage and after getting off to a rough start, the left fielder has begun heating up in a big way.
Crawford is tied for second on the team with 19 runs scored over the last month, and he's knocked in 14 runs while hitting .296 over that span. He's also been solid in left, committing his only two errors of the season over the last 30 days.
The lefty has been hitting towards the bottom of the lineup for the majority of the season, as manager Terry Francona attempts to find the right place for him in a lefty-heavy offense. His slow start likely contributed to his placement as well.
Crawford's offensive awakening has calmed many nerves in Red Sox nation and in the organization. The team invested nearly $150 million in the 29-year-old who had never played in a large market like Boston. Crawford has not only begun to earn those hefty paychecks, he's beginning to turn into the All-Star caliber player that Boston knew he could be.
5. Clay Buchholz
You can't have an epic resurgence in the standings without epic pitching performances, and that is precisely what Clay Buchholz has been putting on since the start of May.
The 26-year-old has turned in quality start after quality start over the last month, going 3-0 with an absurdly low ERA of 2.08. In his last 39 innings, he's given up only eight walks and has compiled 29 strikeouts.
Buchholz has made six starts since the beginning of May and the earliest he's exited a game has been in the fifth inning, a game in which he only gave up two hits. He made it into the sixth and seventh innings in every other game, giving up three or less runs in all of them.
The young right-hander has had one knock against him over his short career, and that has been sustained success. Buchholz often regressed after displaying his undeniable talents, but that doesn't appear to be an issue any longer and his ceiling is sky high.
4. David Ortiz
David Ortiz leads the Boston Red Sox in batting average over the last month of the season.
No your eyes do not deceive you, Big Papi is actually leading this team with a .346 average. This is the same player who hit for unsightly low averages for much of the month of May in 2010. The 35-year-old also leads the team with 10 dingers, and he's tied for third on the team with 14 runs driven in.
Ortiz has only struck out 10 times in his last 107 at bats, to go along with eight walks. His 17 runs scored are also tied for third on the team.
The big man is earning his $12 million this year, to say the least, and Boston may have to re-evaluate his long-term future with the team, as his deal only takes him through the end of 2011.
3. Jacoby Ellsbury
2010's biggest disappointment is quickly displaying how much of a fluke that season was for him.
Jacoby Ellsbury has picked up right where he left off in his record-setting 2009 season. The 27-year-old center fielder has snagged 19 bases to this stage, with 10 of them coming over the last month. He's stealing bags at such an impressive clip, because he's on the base paths so often.
Ellsbury has hit for a .316 average since May, while scoring 19 runs. Good enough to rank second on the team. His re-emergence as the leadoff hitter has helped Boston tremendously, as he's really the only player in the lineup with the ability and willingness to hit at the top of the order.
2. Josh Beckett
Clay Buchholz's performances over the last month have been epically good, but Josh Beckett has outdone him.
With a minuscule ERA sitting at exactly 1.00, over his last six starts, Beckett is even outdoing himself. He left three of those six starts with a zero on the board, and he allowed only a combined four runs in his next three starts. In his last 36 innings, the rejuvenated ace has struck out 31 batters as well.
With an ERA of 1.80 on the season and only one loss in his last 10 starts, the 31-year-old Beckett may very well be on his way to his first Cy Young award.
1. Adrian Gonzalez
While it's hard to out rank Josh Beckett over the last month of the season, it's even more difficult to out rank first basemen Adrian Gonzalez, who has been on an MVP-type tear.
Gonzo has collected 31 of his league-leading 46 RBIs since the start of May, in the heart of the Red Sox lineup. He leads the team in RBI and runs scored over that span, while ranking second in home runs hit as well as batting average, by just a hair (Gonzalez is hitting .345 compared to David Ortiz's .346 average).
The 29-year-old slugger has been getting well acquainted with the Green Monster, knocking many of his 17 doubles off the wall. All has gone according to plan to this point, and Gonzalez has been worth every penny of his mega $154 million contract extension.
Time will tell, but it doesn't appear anyone will be able to dethrone this man from his rightful place atop this list anytime soon.