By Kevin Flanagan
BSD Senior Staff Writer
The rolling Red Sox continued their assault on the lesser lights in the American League last night in Kansas City, essentially choking the life out of a ridiculously bad Royals team by pounding out eight runs over the first two innings. The 10-5 drubbing improved the Sox record to 60-29 – the best mark in baseball – and put them an astronomical 31 games over .500, with the All-Star game a little more than a week away.
Mookie Betts leadoff blast saw him join the likes of Tony Conigliaro (160), Jim Rice (133) and Ted Williams (127) as the only Red Sox players to hit 100 or more home runs before the age of 26. Chris Sale’s six innings of domination – that saw him rack up 12 strikeouts while surrendering only one earned run – was good enough to earn him his 100th career victory, and once again proved that there are few lineups in Major League Baseball that pose a threat to the lanky lefty.
J.D. Martinez – by far MLB’s best free agent buy of last winter’s down market – smacked his league-leading 27th home run, adding to his by far best in baseball RBI total of 73. And rookie manager Alex Cora continues to look like the coolest kid in class, deftly letting his horses lead the way during this record-setting season.
So, after 89 games, what exactly do we know about the 2018 Red Sox? It would be easy to argue close to nothing.
As the dynastic New England Patriots have proven over the better part of the last two decades, regular seasons in most professional sports mean close to nothing. Much like the Pats can pretty much schedule a hat and t-shirt game for late November or early December for winning yet another AFC East title, the Sox are almost assuredly guaranteed a champaign shower sometime this September for qualifying for the playoffs.
It doesn’t take the baseball equivalent of a Mensa candidate to deduce that there are only three elite level teams in the American League this season. The Red Sox, the defending World Series Champion Houston Astros, and the New York Yankees. Unfortunately for one of the ancient AL East rivals, one of them will have to face a one game play in at the end of what will likely be a 100-plus win season.
The Sox splits this season are dizzying. They are 28-12 (.700 winning percentage) and 32-17 (.653) on the road. Overall, they have outscored opponents by 135 runs (467-332), and they have 42 of their remaining 75 games to be played in the friendly confines of Fenway Park down the stretch.
And yet, they are promised nothing.
Their starting staff – which was sorely misused down the stretch last season by former manager John Farrell – is still a huge question mark heading into the playoffs no matter how much Cora tries to limit their work during the second half of the season.
It’s no secret, every Red Sox fan knows how poorly Price has performed in the postseason. His 2-8 record – with both wins coming as a reliever – is practically ingrained in the forefront of every baseball following mind in New England. And in his first two appearances in the playoffs for his career last season – Sale was a shell of himself, going 0-2 with an 8.38 ERA in only 9.2 innings against the ‘Stros in the ALDS in a Game 1 start and a Game 5 outing in relief.
Rick Porcello hasn’t fared much better in MLB’s second season. In the five years that his teams – the Detroit Tigers and the Red Sox – have qualified for the playoffs, the Jekyll and Hyde righty has gone 0-3 with a 5.47 ERA, while making only four starts and being sent to the bullpen three of the five times his team has made it to the dance.
And while it may be amusing for Red Sox fans to see their team beat up on the overwhelming number of clubs that currently occupy Major League Baseball’s basement, the fact remains that who they actually are will not be fully revealed until MLB’s privileged few are separated from the serfs that dominate the game these days.
It is extremely unlikely that president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski will do more than try to fortify the back of his bullpen as the trade deadline approaches at the end of the month. The only problem with that is, his real problem with his club might be the guys that take the ball at the beginning of the game, and not at the end.
In the meantime, enjoy the parade of patsies Red Sox fans. Just remember, the fact that your hometown team will continue to feat on them for the rest of the regular season might just make them too fat and happy to do much of anything when the real season starts in October.
Correction – It originally appeared in this article that Chris Sale made two starts in the 2017 postseason. He actually started Game 1 and made a relief appearance in Game 5.