Red Sox

5 Takeaways from a weekend that might've finally turned around the Red Sox season

5 Takeaways from a weekend that might've finally turned around the Red Sox season

There's an old proverb I made up when it looked like the Red Sox might lose Sunday's finale vs. the Rays: A starving man shouldn't demand dessert if he's just been fed shrimp cocktail and a porterhouse steak.

Thankfully, the Red Sox were feeling gluttonous.

A weekend series that already qualified as an unquestioned success became a smashing one following Sunday's 4-3 victory in 11 innings at the deflated birthday cake of a ballpark known as Tropicana Field.

After taking two hard-fought games to open the series, the Red Sox continued playing championship-caliber baseball in the finale, overcoming a 2-0 deficit and then maintaining their composure despite blowing an eighth-inning lead for the second straight day.

It's hard to overstate the significance of sweeping the first place Rays. Not only did the Red Sox draw within five games of Tampa, they finally looked like the team that won it all last year.

There's so much to feel good about after the most entertaining weekend of the season, let's just dive right into the decadence as the Red Sox rediscovered their mojo.

1. They beat a good team that played well

The Red Sox did not catch Tampa in a valley. The Rays had won eight of 10 and they played like it. All three games were tied in the eighth inning, and the Red Sox managed to prevail against Tampa's imposing bullpen, twice denting overpowering closer Jose Alvarado. They won the three games by a total of four runs.

Sunday's contest provided a perfect example of the Red Sox executing in the clutch, from a diving stop by third baseman Rafael Devers to end the ninth, to a well-executed sacrifice bunt by Jackie Bradley Jr. and sacrifice fly by Christian Vazquez to lift them in the 11th.

Coming on the heels of Vazquez's gutsy pickoff to clinch Saturday's 6-5 nail-biter, and back-to-back homers in the eighth by Mookie Betts and Mitch Moreland to take the opener, the Red Sox played the kind of baseball that characterized their march to last year's championship.

It's about time.

2. Chavis brings energy

In a perfect world, Michael Chavis would be nowhere near the big leagues. The in-between power prospect -- what is his position, exactly? -- was summoned after injuries shelved Dustin Pedroia, Eduardo Nunez, and Brock Holt, but we were told he wouldn't necessarily play second base.

That lasted all of one day, after Chavis delivered a booming double off of a 99 mph Alvarado fastball on Saturday. He started at second on Sunday and worked Alvarado for the walk that put the winning run in scoring position.

With the Red Sox looking listless and lifeless, they needed a spark, and the exuberant Chavis has provided it. Who knows how much more he'll give or how much longer he'll be here, but he has supplied a badly needed infusion of energy.

3. Mookie is turning a corner

When Betts grounded out in the fourth on Friday, he saw his average drop to .197. That's inexcusable production for the defending MVP, but particularly one who hasn't even reached his prime. It felt like only a matter of time before he mattered again.

Two and a half games later, Betts has lifted his average to .244 and his OPS nearly to .800. He recorded multiple hits in all three games, a feat he had only managed twice all season.

He also struck the biggest blow of his 2019 by smashing a 97 mph fastball to dead center for the go-ahead homer in the opener. As we noted after the game, it was amazing to see him smile again. Maybe he can finally exhale and put this rough start behind him.

4. It looks like we have a closer

While it will probably still fluctuate depending on the matchups, a pecking order is emerging in the bullpen: Matt Barnes in the eighth, Ryan Brasier in the ninth.

The former struggled this weekend, allowing game-tying homers in back-to-back games. But the latter was outstanding, saving all three games and bouncing back perfectly from the go-ahead grand slam he allowed in Yankee Stadium on Wednesday.

Relievers have spent the last 25 years telling us they prefer defined roles, and the Red Sox seem to be finding them.

5. A series win!

It's impossible to defend a championship without winning any series, and the Red Sox finally accomplished that elusive goal by handing the hosts their first series defeat of the year. Losing can snowball in Boston, and taking care of business this weekend will keep the wolves at bay while reminding the roster what it's capable of doing.

With Tampa and New York out of the way, the Red Sox can turn their attention to the Tigers for four games before the Rays visit next weekend. Perhaps they're finally about to start rolling, where they can gorge on as many confections as they'd like.

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Michael Chavis on kid-PA announcer: 'That kid might be lucky. We need to bring him back'

Michael Chavis on kid-PA announcer: 'That kid might be lucky. We need to bring him back'

BOSTON -- The raw enthusiasm of the introduction caught Michael Chavis by surprise, so he responded with a wave. One pitch later, both Chavis and the 5-year-old guest PA announcer who had just shouted his name really had something worth celebrating.

The fan's name was Jackson, and he announced Chavis with some serious exuberance in the fifth, beaming broadly and sporting a Red Sox cap.

"NOW BATTING! … SECOND BASEMAN! … NO. 23! … MICHAEL CHAVIS!"

Chavis pointed to the booth and then promptly destroyed a first-pitch cutter from Wade Miley over everything in left field to start the Red Sox on the road back from a 3-1 deficit in Sunday's 4-3 victory vs. the Astros.

"Screaming," said manager Alex Cora. "That was fun. That was cool. We need more of that. We need more. The fans love that stuff. It was cool."

Chavis loved it, too. He not only pointed to young Jackson from the box, he did so again after he crossed home plate following his eighth home run of the season.

"I didn't get a warning that it was going to happen, so I just heard a kid's voice and I'm sure on video you can see me look up because I was so surprised," Chavis said. "And then he kept talking, and I was impressed at how confident he was, because when I was a little kid, I would've been so nervous, I don't think I even would've done it. I was kind of laughing to myself, like good for that kid. Right before I got into the box, I felt like I should say good job."

Chavis felt even better after blasting Miley's offering 420 feet. He thought of the fan as he rounded the bases, and so he pointed again after crossing the plate and clapping.

"Honestly, it was cool," he said. "I don't know if I'm ever going to meet him, but it was a cool moment for sure. I got to see a little bit of a video of it and how it played out. It's something I'm going to remember, and hopefully he does as well."

As for any future at-bats, Chavis wouldn't mind hearing that enthusiastic little voice again.

"That kid might be lucky," he said. "We need to bring him back."

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Remarkable stat about Chris Sale's record over recent stretch

Remarkable stat about Chris Sale's record over recent stretch

Chris Sale wasn't at his best down the stretch of the 2018 regular season, and he got off to a tough start in 2019. However, despite his relative struggles, his record over a recent stretch of games is still remarkable.

Per the Red Sox Stats Twitter account, Sale has only won one of his last 14 starts.

It's strange to see a pitcher like Sale post these kinds of numbers, especially given how dominant he had been throughout the early portion of the '18 season.

For context, this 14-game stretch dates back to Sale's final four starts of the 2018 regular season. Over the course of this 14-start stretch, Sale has posted a slightly below-average 4.21 ERA, but he still had 101 strikeouts over 68 1/3 innings. Yet he has only logged a 1-5 record with eight no-decisions in that span.

Over the course of his previous 14 starts, Sale posted a 9-3 record. During that time, he had a much better ERA (1.84) and a higher strikeout total, too (141). Though he was pitching better, it's still strange to see such a huge disparity in his record between the two separate stints.

Sale has been regaining his form after a rough start to his 2019 campaign, so perhaps his next 14 starts will start to see improvements in his record. He has totaled 27 strikeouts of the course of his last two starts, so that is a good sign for him moving forward.

Chavis compared to former MLB second baseman>>>

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