The Boston Red Sox just took two of three games from the Chicago Cubs over the weekend, in a series that certainly felt a lot more important than your typical April set.
But this matchup was hailed as a potential World Series preview, and considering the Cubs are defending world champions (still weird to write), the three-game set was a very good measuring stick for Boston as the season’s first month came to a close.
So, what did we learn about the Red Sox and/or life in general from the series? Let’s investigate.
The Red Sox offense is awake, but it’s still struggling to get out of bed.
Boston’s offense (or lack thereof) was a point of contention throughout the first month, and while there were signs of life in the Cubs series, it still might be too early to say the Boston bats are “back.” Sure, the Red Sox scored five runs in the first inning Friday. They didn’t score again after that. And sure, they touched up Chicago starter John Lackey for four runs through five innings Saturday — but registered two hits (one an infield single) over the final four innings.
And after a quick start Sunday night with two runs on a mammoth Hanley Ramirez home run, the Red Sox’s offense went dormant through the middle innings. Boston, of course, pushed four runs across in the eighth inning, but that was helped in large part by the Cubs’ uncharacteristically sloppy defense and sub-par pitching.
The Red Sox deserve credit for loading the bases, but the point is this: For pretty much every good thing this offense did over the weekend, there’s still a “Yeah, but” to go along with it. Then again, Boston’s 15 runs still were more than the club scored in the seven previous games combined, so it’s definitely a step in the right direction.
We seem to be in the midst of Hanley Ramirez’s latest power surge.
There’s no arguing Ramirez is wide awake, though. Few hitters get hot like Ramirez gets hot. Last season, he had four separate stretches during which he hit three homers in seven games, four in 11 games, eight in 20 and 13 in 24. He now has three dingers over his last six contests, all of which have been rockets.
We might be seeing Eduardo Rodriguez “taking the next step,” or some other cliché about him getting better.
It’s still early, and we’ve seen short-term stints of brilliance from Rodriguez before, but he’s doing a lot of very encouraging things right now. Rodriguez’s 2.70 ERA is about a run and a half below his career average, which obviously is a good thing. However, his 4.39 FIP actually is worse than his career mark and might suggest he’s getting a little “lucky” on balls in play. But here’s the thing: He’s striking out batters at a much higher rate than ever before in his big league career. He’s averaging 12 strikeouts per inning, which is a huge jump from his career mark (8.2), and he’s getting a ton of swings and misses. Of all pitchers in baseball with at least 20 innings this season, only five have a higher swing and miss per total pitch rate than Rodriguez.
On the other hand, the clock should be ticking on Steven Wright.
Again, early and all that, but Wright is struggling to find the form that made him an All-Star last season. Knuckleballers always are prime candidates for regression, but Wright is fighting it big time right now. He ate up some innings Saturday by working into the seventh, but finished with another rough line, giving up five earned runs on seven hits — including a pair of home runs — to balloon his ERA to 8.25.
It’s [robably worth mentioning Hector Velazquez threw six perfect innings Sunday at Pawtucket, and the PawSox have at least three capable starters who at least could earn a spot start to prove their worth in Boston.
Cubs fans travel well.
OK, so we already knew that … but it might not have sat very well with some of those inside the Red Sox clubhouse.
Kris Bryant is a freak.
Something else we already knew, but still cool.
Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images