Five memorable moments from the first half
FIVE MEMORABLE MOMENTS FROM FIRST HALF
BOSTON -- Here’s a look back at five of the most memorable moments from the Red Sox first half of 2016 . . .
5. THE EMERGENCE OF STEVEN WRIGHT
It’s not so much a specific game or moment that’s made Steven Wright’s first-half run so memorable. It's that he's been the rock of the starting rotation.
As most everyone remembers, he was a question mark to make the team during spring training. Then Eduardo Rodriguez got hurt and Wright was the “temporary” fix.
The season started and David Wright struggled. Joe Kelly was terrible. Clay Buchholz was worse. Rodriguez came back and was even worse than that.
And as all that was happening, Steven Wright was making the case to be the American League's starting pitcher in the All-Star Game.
He and Rick Porcello have been the reliable arms in the rotation -- which is both good and bad as far as Wright is concerned. Good for the wins, but bad because for as much good as Wright has done, the knuckleball is a funny pitch that's never the same on a given day. It's tough to depend on a knuckleballer for a quality start every time out, which is what the Sox have been forced to do.
4. 'WASN'T THE WORST PERFORMANCE'
That was Clay Buchholz' self-assessment after he'd been knocked out in the fifth inning of the Red Sox' 21-2 loss to the Angels on July 2.
Technically, he was correct. Even though he allowed seven hits and six runs in 4 1/3 innings, it wasn't the worst he'd pitched this year. And -- while he was only speaking of himself and not of the teammates who followed him to the mound that night -- he was also right if he'd actually been comparing himself to them. All that is pretty memorable, you must admit.
But the fact is, this game could have been more than memorable. It could have been transformative. After all . . .
1. It was only the 14th time in the 116-year history of the franchise that the Red Sox allowed 20 or more runs in a game.
2. With Buchholz' stinker, the flailing Sox rotation hit rock bottom.
3. It was their 17th loss in 28 games.
All of which raised questions about John Farrell's job security.
But then the Sox rallied. Sean O'Sullivan righted the ship with five strong innings the next day, enabling the Sox to win the game and the series. They won five of the last six games on the homestand and headed into the All-Star break on a roll. Things quieted, and Farrell now seems secure for the rest of the year.
So it was just memorable and not transformative. But boy, was it memorable.
3. THE HITTING STREAKS OF BOGAERTS AND BRADLEY
One lasted 29 games, the other 26.
Both were dominant tears that showed off Boston's young talent.
While Xander Bogaerts' 26-game run was special, he had been dominant before it started -- rightfully earning the starting spot as the starting shortstop for the American League All-Stars.
Jackie Bradley Jr.’s 29-game tear was a whole different animal -- even if it only lasted extra three games.
Prior to the run, JBJ was hitting .222 with no home runs, three doubles and a triple through 16 games. During the 29-game streak he batted .415 with eight home runs, nine doubles and three triples.
Since the streak ended, his hitting has dropped significantly -- .234 in 38 games -- but JBJ has hit six long balls, 10 doubles and two triples.
While his average has dipped, one things for sure with Bradley’s bat: There’s a lot of pop in it.
The hitting streak wasn’t just a nice story for Boston’s center fielder. It was his coming out party.
2. SANDY LEON > CHRISTIAN VAZQUEZ
Christian Vazquez has been dubbed Boston’s catcher of the future because of his defensive abilities. There’s no question his arm makes opposing runners think twice, and that he’s quite possibly the best receiver in all of baseball.
But his bat has been non-existent.
With injuries to Ryan Hanigan and Blake Swihart, Sandy Leon was called up to spell Vazquez -- who’s still on the mend from last year’s Tommy John surgery -- on occasion. And his bat has been, well, existent.
He's hit .455 (25-for-55) since coming up. So when Hanigan returned from the disabled list, Vazquez was sent down because Leon had was out of options.
“I think players are understanding of what goes on around them -- I think they’re fairly aware,” John Farrell said after announcing the move. “At that position you’re always a foul tip away from needing another guy.”
For the Red Sox, hopefully they don’t just get solid play from Leon, They also hope Vazquez realizes that while his defense is good, it's not good enough to make him irreplaceable if he doesn't hit.
1. A CLOUD OF ROSIN COVERING DAVID ORTIZ
May 14 was a typical game for the first-half 2016 Red Sox. Clay Buchholz gave up a run in the first to the Astros, but the Red Sox scored two for him in the bottom half. Then he gave up four the next inning. But Boston’s lineup chipped away and tied it at 5-5 on a two-out triple by David Ortiz in the ninth.
Ortiz came up again with a runner on in the 11th inning and did what he does best: He ended the game with his bat, doubling home the winning run.
That 3-for-5, three RBI performance was a single shy of the cycle and just another day in the life of David Ortiz.
His farewell tour has left everyone wondering, “Why is he retiring?”
He’s hitting .332 at the ripe age of 40 and leads the league in doubles (34), OBP (.426), Slugging (.682), OPS (1.107) and intentional walks (10). Not to mention he has 22 home runs and 72 RBI.
If it weren’t for his foot being a constant issue, there would be no baseball-related reasons for Ortiz to hang them up.