Red Sox

Red Sox opponents fear Boston's about to get hot, and win over Dodgers was a good start

Red Sox opponents fear Boston's about to get hot, and win over Dodgers was a good start

BOSTON -- For three days, Alex Cora and his staff heard a consistent message from the best players in the American League: we know how good you are.

From Astros to Indians to Rangers to A's, they're aware that the Red Sox are capable of going on a serious run, and they didn't just make their feelings known to Cora.

"They're dangerous, man," said Astros right-hander Gerrit Cole. "They're dangerous."

On Friday, in the official start to the second half, the Red Sox took a first step towards proving it. Facing a loaded and motivated Dodgers team with not only the best record in baseball, but revenge on its mind over last fall's World Series, the Red Sox didn't just beat L.A., they pounded it.

The 8-1 victory featured an outstanding start from left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez, who elicited a Pedro-esque 18 swings and misses against the launch angle poster boys, who chased high fastballs and outstanding changeups like they were trying to capture the world's rarest butterflies.

Offensively, the Sox rode home runs from the three emerging pillars of their offense -- Rafael Devers (of course), Christian Vazquez (why not?), and Xander Bogaerts (it's his team now).

And just like that, they stayed on a roll after winning five of six to end the first half. For one game, anyway, it looked like those All-Stars knew what they were talking about.

"I think that was the coolest thing in the All-Star Game, how many people in that clubhouse still believe in us," Cora said. "I don't know if they really like it or not, but they let us know how good we are. If we forgot about that, the three guys that were there on the coaching staff, the players reminded us of that, so that was the cool thing about the All-Star Game.

"They were like, your run is coming," Cora added. "They know we're very talented, and for how positive it is, probably like hopefully it doesn't happen, but it was good to hear from other people."

A run wouldn't be unprecedented. The 2017 Cubs entered the break two games under .500 and were then the best team in baseball the rest of the way en route to 93 wins and a berth in the NLCS. Last year's Dodgers, meanwhile, followed their World Series loss by starting 16-26 before ripping off 43 wins in their next 63 games to take control of the NL West en route to their second consecutive NL pennant.

The Red Sox have the talent to mimic either of those teams, especially if they add another arm. Their offense has turned into one of the best in the game, and that's without Andrew Benintendi or Mookie Betts really hitting his stride yet.

It turns out it wasn't a night for making up ground, as every other American League wild-card contender either won or was in the process of winning when the Red Sox ended. Then again, the Red Sox don't need to concern themselves with the Rays, Indians, A's, and Rangers so much right now as simply pile up wins, at which point the playoff race will sort itself out.

The task in front of them won't be easy, though. They open the second half with the 60-win Dodgers shortly before embarking on a murderous 14-game stretch against only the Yankees and Rays that will carry them into August and should go a long way towards shaking out their playoff fate.

"Hopefully we get hot for those couple weeks," Bogaerts said. "I know it's a long time to be hot, but it's not impossible. 

"Starting off at home is a good way to get momentum. Throughout my years here, we've played good at home.

"We have to come out aggressive because we know these guys are one of the best in the game. Obviously, they're going to come here and try to beat us pretty bad for last year. I think it was a good way to start."

It certainly was. Maybe the All-Stars encouraging Cora all week were on to something.

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Highlights of Red Sox' 3-2 loss to the Phillies

Highlights of Red Sox' 3-2 loss to the Phillies

FINAL SCORE: Phillies 3, Red Sox 2

IN BRIEF: The Philadelphia Phillies made three-first inning runs stand up as Aaron Nola stymied the Red Sox on four hits in seven innings in Boston's 3-2 loss at Fenway Park that halted a five-game winning streak and further damaged the Sox' faint playoff hopes. BOX SCORE



1st inning:
Hoskins walks, moves to third on Harper's double to left, Segura doubles to left, scoring Hoskins and Harper (2-0, PHI).

Kingery singles to left, scoring Segura (3-0, PHI). 

3rd inning:
Moreland singles to left, Bradley Jr. hits a two-run homer to right on a 0-and-0 pitch from Nola. (3-2, PHI).


Vs. Phillies, Tuesday, 7:10 p.m., NESN
Vs. Phillies, Wednesday, 7:10 p.m., NESN
Vs. Royals (completion of suspended game), Thursday, 1:05 p.m., NESN
@Padres, Friday, 10:10 p.m., NESN
@Padres, Saturday, 8:40 p.m., NESN
@Padres, Sunday, 4:10 p.m., NESN

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Chris Sale injury leaves Red Sox with more questions than answers entering 2020

Chris Sale injury leaves Red Sox with more questions than answers entering 2020

BOSTON -- Chris Sale's 2018 ended with his hands thrust overhead in Dodger Stadium. His final act of 2019 was to run those same hands through his hair in the Red Sox clubhouse with six weeks of baseball remaining.

Whatever uncertainty clouded his future following last season, it's nothing compared to the winter that awaits. At least last year, Sale had just dropped Manny Machado to one knee to lift the Red Sox to a championship before embarking on an offseason of rest and recovery.

This year, it's not even September and Sale has almost certainly thrown his final pitch of 2019. He just returned from a visit to Pensacola, Fla., where he received the relatively good news from Dr. James Andrews that he's merely experiencing inflammation in his left elbow and won't need Tommy John surgery.

He'll shut it down for four to six weeks before being reevaluated. The upper end of that timeline takes him right through the conclusion of the regular season and it's hard to imagine the Red Sox pulling off a miracle run to the playoffs without him.
And so ends his 2019 with a lot more questions than answers.

"Everyone talks about last year being a dream season," Sale said. "Personally, this has been kind of a nightmare season."

The real nightmare for the Red Sox will be trying to figure out exactly what they can expect from their ace when next season opens. Sale expressed confidence that he'll be ready for spring training -- "I have no doubts in my mind" -- which sounds nice, but how can he know?

Sale received a platelet-rich plasma injection in his elbow to promote healing and suggested he won't throw until his checkup next month. With the Red Sox out of contention and Sale's five-year, $145 million extension officially kicking in next season, there's no need to rush him back to a mound.

It's possible his follow-up will show more damage than expected, in which case we'd have some clarity on his future. Still, assuming he's told to continue rehabbing, we won't know what 2020 holds until pitchers and catchers arrive in Fort Myers next February.

In the meantime, the Red Sox will have to address holes in their rotation, and it would certainly be nice to know what role Sale will play. Is he going to be an ace or a $150 million drag on the payroll? What's to say we don't end up repeating this dance next year?

"Obviously, I think we've got some things to look at as a whole and try to figure out if there was something that I was doing different, but if anything, I felt like I was back to normal the last few starts, which was encouraging," Sale said. "Then this happens. I go through today, once today is over, we get to tomorrow and do that thing. I'm just trying to slow this down as much as possible. I don't want to get too far ahead of myself, I don't want to rush anything. I want to make sure what's going on is right and to get this thing ready to go."

History is littered with great pitchers who hit a rough patch and never recover, like two-time Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum. Still, there are also plenty of examples of greats who overcome one bad season to regain their prior form, with Justin Verlander the latest example.

Which way Sale goes could determine the future of the organization.

"You look at any pitcher in the big leagues, there's going to be some times where they have a down year, they get hurt, especially as the workload picks up and you start racking up some innings," Sale said. "It's just the culmination of a lot of things coming to the front right now. I'll work through it, deal with it, keep my chin up, keep working, lean on my teammates and family for support and these guys in the training room and we'll get through this.

"It's not the end of the world. It could be worse. That's the mindset I'm going to take through this, it can always be worse. I'll do everything I can to get back on that field as soon as possible and pitch like I'm expected to pitch."

See you in 2020, when hopefully we get some answers.

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