Red Sox

Swihart shines again as Red Sox earn another spring win vs Orioles

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USA TODAY Sports Photo

Swihart shines again as Red Sox earn another spring win vs Orioles

Make it three in a row to start spring training for the Red Sox as they defeated the Orioles on Sunday, 7-1.

Blake Swihart was the story for the Sox at the plate. The former top prospect didn't make an out as he recorded a double, home run, and a walk to continue what's been a stellar spring for him thus far. 29-year-old outfielder Jeremy Barfield contributed with a home run as well.

As for on the mound, Brian Johnson got the starting nod and looked strong. Johnson tossed two scoreless and hitless innings and struck out two batters before being replaced in the third inning by Joe Kelly, who pitched a perfect inning of his own.

The Red Sox hope to keep the streak going when they face the Pirates on Monday.

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Comparing Chris Sale to '04, '07, and '13 Red Sox aces

Comparing Chris Sale to '04, '07, and '13 Red Sox aces

For the next few days, we'll be reminiscing on 2004, 2007, and 2013 Red Sox champions at each position and seeing how they stack up against their 2018 counterparts. Today, we discuss the aces of the starting rotations. . .

Curt Schilling, 2004

Regular season: 21-6, 3.26 ERA, 203 SO

Playoffs: 3-1, 3.57 ERA

Year in summary: The highlight of Curt Schilling's 2004 season came in Game 6 of the ALCS, AKA the "Bloody Sock Game." While that game undoubtedly will live on forever in Red Sox history, Schilling's dominance throughout his first season in Boston shouldn't be overlooked. 

Josh Beckett, 2007

Regular season: 20-7, 3.27 ERA, 194 SO

Playoffs: 4-0, 1.20 ERA

Year in summary:  Josh Beckett enjoyed a stellar 2007 regular season, but his postseason performance was one for the ages. Beckett finished second in Cy Young award voting behind then-Indians ace CC Sabathia.

Jon Lester, 2013

Regular season: 15-8, 3.75 ERA, 177 SO

Playoffs: 4-1, 1.56 ERA

Year in summary: 2013 wasn't the best statistical season of Lester's Red Sox career, but it sure was the sweetest. That's because the left-hander turned back into his shutdown self in the postseason and was a key part of Boston bringing home its third World Series title in nine years.

Chris Sale, 2018

Regular season: 12-4, 2.00 ERA, 229 SO

Year in summary: Chris Sale (per usual) has enjoyed a dominant regular season, particularly in the first half. Shoulder inflammation limited the Red Sox southpaw in the second half, but the perennial Cy Young candidate finally looks ready to help the winningest team in Sox history win when it matters most.

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Playoff debates: Why Red Sox should choose Eovaldi over E-Rod in rotation

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AP Photo

Playoff debates: Why Red Sox should choose Eovaldi over E-Rod in rotation

With the playoffs approaching, Evan Drellich will look at various decisions the Red Sox are going to have to make on their postseason roster. We start today with: The rotation.

BOSTON — Nate Eovaldi may keep his spot in the rotation for the same reason the Red Sox move forward without a lefty specialist in the 'pen: the number of scary lefty bats the Sox can face in the first round are minimal.

The Yankees and A’s are righty heavy, and Eovaldi in particular would probably be preparing for a scenario to pitch on the road. The Sox have seen up close how the Yankees can just wait back and drive lefty pitches out to right field.

Since joining the Red Sox, Eovaldi leads the team in the fewest percentage of fly balls to become home runs, at 5.5 percent, regardless of lefty-righty match-ups. E-Rod is nearly double that, at 10.6 percent.

“One of the teams we know, we know really well,” Alex Cora said on Monday generally. “The other one, we don’t know honestly. So we’ll talk about it. But I think small sample size really doesn’t matter.”

Eovaldi’s final pitch Monday night against the Orioles was a backdoor cutter to Cedric Mullins, who went down looking. Mullins, a switch-hitter, was batting lefthanded. It was an excellent night overall for the right-handed and cutter-heavy Eovaldi in a 6-2 win, even though he was facing a terrible team. He had 10 strikeouts in five innings.

Eduardo Rodriguez following Eovaldi in relief on Monday was also a clear signal the Red Sox are looking at keeping Eovaldi in the Division Series rotation and taking E-Rod out.

“I really had everything working today,” Eovaldi said. “I was able to locate the fastball up. Had a really good feel for my curveball, my split today. So with those two pitches, being able to get them off my fastball and the cutter, I felt like it’s a good success tonight.”

Both historically and in 2018, Eovaldi has been better vs. right-handed batters, who carry a .631 OPS against him this season. Lefties (and switch-hitters) are his potential weakness, with a .751 OPS. The numbers in Eovaldi’s time in Boston and in his career are virtually identical, a roughly .100 point OPS gap.

Will that really matter in the Division Series?

The Yankees have Aaron Hicks and Neil Walker as switch-hitters. Hicks has an .837 OPS vs. righties, Walker a .693 OPS. 

The Yanks’ best threat purely from the left side, Didi Gregorious and his .864 OPS against righties, may be out for the season. Brett Gardner, meanwhile, has got a .704 OPS against righties.

“We don't know who we're going to play, but we understand the match-ups and where we can go,” Cora said when asked if Eovaldi is making a case to stay in the rotation. “He’s been great. He's a guy that, first of all, he's a workhorse. We can use him out of the bullpen, and then we can use him in the rotation. I love the fact that his last two outings, they made some adjustments, and he's actually pitching to what we wanted, up in the zone and down, so he's making it very interesting now.”

Matt Olson and Nick Martini of the A’s both have done well as lefties vs. righties this year, the former with an .828 OPS and the latter .824. Switch-hitter Jed Lowrie’s right there with them at .846.

So the A's might make the choice a little tougher than the Yankees. But the biggest bats on both teams — Khris Davis and Matt Chapman, Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton — are righty, and righties aren't the reason to remove Eovaldi.

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