Red Sox

Defiant Red Sox players refuse to give up, want to prove doubters wrong

Defiant Red Sox players refuse to give up, want to prove doubters wrong

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The Red Sox may be down an MVP and Cy Young Award winner, but that doesn't mean the players left behind have quit on 2020.

Not very many Red Sox teams get to legitimately play the "no one believes in us" card, but this year will most definitely be an exception, and there's nothing athletes like better than proving the doubters wrong.

"We don't care what anybody says," outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. said on Tuesday. "You have to go out there and play the game. You don't know who is going to win. You have to go out there and perform and take care of your business, because if you could always guess who was going to win, what's the point of playing the game? You can write us off, you can give us some predictions, I want to see who's going to be the closest."

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The trade of Mookie Betts (MVP) and David Price (Cy Young) to the Dodgers will make the Red Sox worse in 2020, which chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom admitted on Monday night. But it doesn't make them hopeless, especially as the us-vs.-them narrative already takes hold in the clubhouse.

"Listen, Mookie and DP were phenomenal players and still are phenomenal players," said reliever Matt Barnes. "But you look around our team, we've got a bunch of All-Stars and a bunch of phenomenal players, and we still feel we're going to compete for a championship."

Expect to hear a lot of this all spring. While major questions remain about the health and viability of ace Chris Sale and third starter Nathan Eovaldi, there's little question the Red Sox boast a powerhouse lineup, with or without Betts.

From Rafael Devers to Xander Bogaerts to J.D. Martinez to Andrew Benintendi, Alex Verdugo, and even Christian Vazquez, the Red Sox boast no shortage of dangerous bats, which gives them a chance.

"We're focused on the guys in this clubhouse," Barnes said. "I'll tell you as many times as you want how great (Betts and Price) were as teammates and people and players. But we're focused on our clubhouse right now.

"Anytime you lose an MVP, it's going to be hard. And then you lose a guy with a track record like DP, he's got a Cy Young and what he did in '18 for us, but at the same time, we can't focus on that. We've got to focus on who's inside that clubhouse and what we're doing as a team moving forward this year."

Bradley, the subject of trade rumors all winter, is just looking ahead.

"Well, time to move forward," he said. "It's one of those things that's part of the business and you kind of go with the flow."

How two missing setup men have created a cascade of woe for Red Sox

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How two missing setup men have created a cascade of woe for Red Sox

For two rookies who weren't on anyone's radar until about this time last year, Darwinzon Hernandez and Josh Taylor have turned out to be massive losses for the Red Sox.

The two young power left-handers stabilized the bullpen over the final two months of 2019, with Hernandez striking out batters at a record rate and Taylor emerging as an every-other-day workhorse.

Hernandez struck out a staggering 57 in just 30.1 innings (16.9 K/9), with a 4.45 ERA. In 23 appearances from July 16 through Sept. 6, he posted a 2.31 ERA. Taylor, meanwhile, was even more consistent. He delivered a 3.04 ERA in 57 appearances, and from July 2 through the finale, allowed only eight runs in 40 innings.

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Both feature 95-mph fastballs and both figured to play expanded roles in this truncated season, but when spring training 2.0 began in July, both were missing because of failed COVID tests. Taylor quarantined in his hotel near Fenway Park while battling fatigue. Hernandez remained in his native Venezuela for the first three weeks of July.

They're both now in Pawtucket, facing hitters for the first time in months. Each threw live BP over the weekend, and Taylor could be activated this week, manager Ron Roenicke said on Friday in New York.

The trickle-down effect has been significant. Roenicke has had little answer for innings two through five, relying on lesser arms like Austin Brice, Zack Godley, Matt Hall, and Jeffrey Springs either to serve as openers or bridge the gap to more established relievers like Marcus Walden, Heath Hembree, Matt Barnes, and closer Brandon Workman.

As a result, on the days Nathan Eovaldi doesn't start, the Red Sox have finished the fifth inning trailing by an average score of 5-2.

A healthy Hernandez and Taylor could alter that dynamic in two ways. First, one of them could start and contribute as an opener. Roenicke said the Red Sox are stretching out Hernandez to throw two or three innings, which would make him a more dynamic candidate for the role than some of the flotsam the Red Sox have been forced to feature in his absence.

But even if both remained relievers, they'd either be available to throw in the early innings instead of Springs (33.75 ERA) or Hall (15.43 ERA), or they could bump someone like Walden or Hembree down there. Ten games into the season, too many games have already been lost before Roenicke could even warm his better relievers.

With the lack of legitimate starting pitchers forcing Roenicke to finesse his way through four out of every five games, the Red Sox can ill afford to enter battle without their full complement of weapons. Who knew that two guys we had barely heard of early last season would end up being such pivotal missing pieces?

Yankees' Aaron Judge set an MLB record during huge series vs. Red Sox

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Yankees' Aaron Judge set an MLB record during huge series vs. Red Sox

The Boston Red Sox just got swept by their nemesis, but hey, at least they were part of history.

The Red Sox fell 9-7 to the Yankees on Sunday night after New York slugger Aaron Judge belted a go-ahead, two run home run off Matt Barnes in the eighth inning.

The blast actually was Judge's second of the game and fourth in the three-game Red Sox-Yankees series alone. What's even more impressive (unless you're a Sox fan) is that all four of Judge's homers vs. Boston gave New York the lead.

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Judge also hit a go-ahead long ball against the Baltimore Orioles last Thursday, which means his second dinger Sunday set a Major League Baseball record.

Oh, and Judge also has an MLB-leading six home runs in eight games, tied with Alex Rodriguez for the most in Yankees franchise history through the first eight contests of the season.

Judge has done most of his damage this season against the Red Sox' inept pitching staff, using Ryan Weber, Zack Godley, Matt Hall and Barnes as launching pads during his historic start.

If Sox fans want a silver lining, at least Boston actually had a couple leads before Judge intervened. That's been a rare occurrence during the Red Sox' 3-7 start, which has them in the American League basement with one sixth of their season gone by.