The final twenty games of the regular season are upon us and it will be pressure-packed the rest of the way. Here are some standout thoughts from the week that was:
- What a spectacular season for Mookie Betts. The 2016 campaign is not over yet and he’s already just the second Sox player ever with 70+ extra-base hits, 100+ RBI, and 20+ stolen bases. The only other player to do that was Jacoby Ellsbury in 2011 (83 XBH, 105 RBI, 39 SB).
- Speaking of spectacular seasons, who exactly isn’t having a great one on this year’s Red Sox roster? The obvious standout are David Ortiz (a leader in more categories than can be easily mentioned), Dustin Pedroia (started the weekend with a .326 batting average, exactly matching his full-season career high set in 2008), Rick Porcello (baseball’s only 20 game winner), Steven Wright (the workhouse without whom the Sox simply wouldn’t be in contention this season), Sandy Leon (batting .350 in 61 games at the start of this weekend), Xander Bogaerts (a first time All Star who is on track for 200 hits), and Betts. But don’t forget players like Brock Holt (with a career-high 7 home runs), Jackie Bradley (who, despite cooling in recent weeks, has been very good at the plate and, of course, stellar in the field), and Clay Buchholz (who has somehow managed to transition back and forth, from the rotation to the pen, with aplomb).
- Last Tuesday’s outing by Buchholz was especially impressive. The last time we saw Clay start then go 6.2 IP or longer and allow one or fewer earned runs this late in the season was September 20, 2012 against the Rays.
- Saturday’s 3-2 loss to the Blue Jays made the Sox 16-21 in one-run games this season. More maddeningly, it was the 5th time Boston has failed to score more than two runs after plating 10 or more runs in their previous game. All five times, the Sox have lost in those games:
- Facing Rockies: May 25th, scored 10, a win. May 26th, scored 2, a loss.
- Facing Rangers: July 4th, scored 12, a win. July 5th, scored 2, a loss.
- Facing Twins: July 21, scored 13, a win. July 22, scored 1, a loss.
- Facing Athletics: September 3, scored 11, a win. September 4, scored none, a loss.
- Facing Blue Jays: September 9, scored 13, a win. September 10, scored 2, a loss.
- The Hanley Ramírez Haters have been shut down by his performance. Hanley’s 22 home runs are his most since his full-season total in 2012 (24), his 93 RBI are second only to his career-high of 106 in the full-season of 2009, which was an All-Star year for him. He’s been decent enough at first base, his attitude seems good, and he’s gone the year without a trip to the Disabled List, dashing for now concerns that he can’t stay healthy through a full-season.
- Yoan Moncada, no doubt a contributor for the future, is none the less off to an inauspicious start. Manager John Farrell put in him into the game Friday in the 8th inning against the Blue Jays and he promptly struck out. That’s now seven consecutive strikeouts spanning three games. The all-time record for strikeouts in consecutive at-bats is held by Mike Thurman, who did it 15 times in a row while playing for the Montreal Expos in 1998. The American League record is strikeouts in 14 straight at-bats by the Twins Dean Chance (1968) and the Athletics Vida Blue (1972).
For completeness, let’s give a posthumous shout out to the Indians Joe Sewell, a Hall of Famer who, in 1929, managed to avoid a strikeout in 115 consecutive games with at least one plate appearance, a record that stands to this day.
- Magic Numbers are all the rage this time of year. The Sox’ Magic Number to win the division as of this writing is 21. How do you arrive at a Magic Number? It’s not hard, just take the number of games left to be played (21 after Saturday’s), add one (22), then subtract the number of games the team is ahead in the loss column of the standings from its closest opponent (1).
- The Orioles’ Pedro Alvarez hit his 20th home run this past week making Baltimore the 19th team in major league history with six players to have 20+ HRs this season (also Jonathan Schoop, Adam Jones, Manny Machado, Chris Davis, and Mark Trumbo). The last team to do this was the 2010 Blue Jays. The Red Sox managed it in 2003 with Manny Ramírez (37), Ortiz (31), Nomar Garciaparra and Trot Nixon (28 each), Jason Varitek and Kevin Millar (25 each). Of this year’s squad, four Red Sox have 20+ HR (Ortiz, Betts, Bradley and Ramírez) with Bogaerts (18) and Travis Shaw (16) not far away from joining them.
- Home runs aside, this year’s Red Sox could be the first in franchise history with three players (Betts, Bogaerts, and Pedroia) with 200 or more hits. In the club’s long history, the Red Sox have only three time before had two such players: Jacoby Ellsbury and Adrian Gonzalez in 2011, Wade Boggs and Jim Rice in 1986, and Boggs and Bill Buckner in 1985. If the Sox manage to have three such players in 2016 they’ll join the 1991 Rangers, 1982 Brewers, and 1963 Cardinals as the only teams in the past 75 seasons to achieve the feat.
An earlier version of this article incorrectly noted that the 1992 Rangers had three players with 200+ hits. It was the 1991 team. Appreciation to @MyRedSoxReport for the correction.