Heading into this week it felt like a trap series for the Sox. With the rotation down to a skeleton crew and the A’s having lost 6 of their previous 10 games all while watching their playoff hopes waft away like smoke over Lake Tahoe seemed like a bad omen for the Pale Hose. Lo and behold, we were right. With the loss on Thursday, the Sox now have an 8-15 record on the road since the All Star break, which is…not great. Granted the Sox pitching staff has been pretty decimated, but with the offense almost at full strength, having a series against Oakland where they only score 2 runs in 2 games is not ideal.
The Sox are all but guaranteed to make the playoffs at this point, so the goal going forward these last few weeks needs to be twofold: health and home field. The first seems to be taking care of itself as Giolito and Lynn look poised to return over the weekend. The 2nd part might be the issue, as the Sox are 2 games behind the Astros and 8 behind Tampa in the AL for home field. Time is running out for them to make a run, and momentum isn’t their ally right now.
To the bullets:
NUMBERS DON’T LIE
-Jimmy Lambert, come on down! You’re the next contestant on The Pitch Is Right! Making his second spot start of the season, Lambert looked pretty solid filling in for the currently injured Lucas Giolito (or was it Carlos Rodon? Or Lance Lynn? I’ve lost track at this point), going 5 strong with 3 hits and two walks. With the starting rotation likely to be in flux over the rest of September, Lambert could be a key piece for the Sox’s hopes for home field advantage in October.
-The Oakland Coliseum should be fired into the sun. Every other stadium in MLB has protective netting and the like around dugouts, yet for some reason the Coliseum dugouts are more open than Kansas. Predictably, this lead to Andrew Vaughn firing a foul ball off poor Eloy’s knee while he sat unawares in the dugout. While he returned to the game, it was short lived as he was replaced by Brian Goodwin in the 6th. JFC.
-Other than Ryan Burr, the bullpen was pretty nails in this game. Garrett Crochet seems to have re-found his velocity and movement on his slider, and Ryan Tepera has quietly become the most reliable reliever out there. The Dazzling Duo of Kimbrel and Hendriks did the thing in the 8th and 9th after Burr stumbled, so mission accomplished.
-The Sox scored all 6 of their runs without the benefit of the long ball, which is nice to see. Yasmani Grandal continues on his tear after returning with his Robo-Knee, and Luis Robert and Yoan Moncada contributed 5 hits between the two of them.
-The only Sox players not to join in the hit parade was Jose Abreu and Andrew Vaughn, who went 0-8 combined with a walk and a run. Vaughn in particular has looked exposed the past few weeks, and might benefit from an extended break.
-Gavin Sheets, yes.
-While some might try to frame this start as an improvement for Dallas Keuchel over his past few, the bottom line is that it’s another game not making it through 6 innings and giving up 5 runs. He hasn’t had a quality start in over a month and only 2 (!) since the 4th of July. I’m sure Ethan Katz is doing what he can, but each week that goes by things look more and more grim for him.
-The offense certainly didn’t do him any favors, stranding 20 people on base throughout the night. Andrew Vaughn was the worst culprit, stranding 4 and striking out half the time. Give the kid a break.
-Jose Abreu continues to pound the ball into the dirt, with his line drive rate the lowest it’s been in his career, and his ground ball rate up all the way to 46.4%. Jose is at his best when he’s taking what’s given to him and lining it to right center field. Right now it seems like he’s trying to pull everything, which is resulting in more weak contact (reflected in his barrel rate dip over the last 2 weeks).
-Another 2 hit night for Yasmani Grandal, who has his average up over .230 now, with an OBPS over .950…not much else you can say except that he may be the best free agent signing in Sox history.
-Mike Wright Jr is still here, and MLB.COM still has no idea who he is. At least this time he didn’t give up any runs, so…progress?
-This game sucked, was very boring and the Sox were very clearly Not Interested. It’s game 139 in September, it happens. Moving on.
-Reynaldo Lopez had his worst start thus far in the back end of this season and still only gave up 1 earned run. Granted the 2 unearned ones were his fault due to him firing a pickoff throw into center field but still. Can’t really complain about what ReyLo has brought to the table so far, and once everyone in the rotation is back it may be time for Keuchel to take a seat.
-Everything else in this game was a colossal waste of time.
Next up is a weekend series against the Red Sox, who have been backsliding since their hot first half of the season. If the rotation timing holds up, Chris Sale will be making an appearance on Sunday against most likely Lance Lynn unless he has some type of setback. Looking past the Red Sox, only Cincinnati is left on the schedule with any type of playoff hopes, so the opportunity to pass the Asstros will be there. Get it done.
Let’s Go Sox