It’s been a busy past two weeks in the world of sports, but don’t worry: We’re here to help.
The 2016 Olympics stole the spotlight from Aug. 5 to Aug. 21, as the feats of athletes like Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt
and Ryan Lochte dominated headlines. But the world outside Rio de Janeiro didn’t stop spinning, especially in Boston, where the Red Sox continued their hunt for the postseason during a crucial 17-day stretch.
So, what did you miss if you skipped a few Sox games to check out the Olympics? Quite a lot, actually. Boston enjoyed a 10-6 record from the opening ceremony to the closing ceremony, in the process observing the emergence of a potential young star, a power surge from a potential MVP candidate and more.
With the Olympics in the rearview and baseball back on center stage, let’s take a look at the biggest Red Sox storylines that emerged during over past two weeks.
1. Mookie Betts is a legitimate MVP candidate.
If we were handing out medals for the Red Sox’s recent play, Betts easily would earn gold. The 23-year-old outfielder hit a homer on the day of the opening ceremony and has been red-hot ever since, including an insane outburst in which he tallied five (!) homers and 13 (!!) RBIs over three games.
Betts boasts incredible power numbers on the season — 28 homers, 89 RBIs and a .561 slugging percentage entering Monday — and very well could make a run at American League MVP.
2. Andrew Benintendi looks like the real deal.
The Red Sox called Benintendi up for some outfield depth, but it appears he’s here to stay. The 22-year-old rookie has taken over as Boston’s de facto left fielder and isn’t skipping a beat, taking a .322 batting average into Monday. He’s also displaying some pop; Benintendi already has six doubles and a triple to his name and hit his first big league home run Sunday.
Corner outfielder Chris Young returned from the disabled list Monday, though, so it will be interesting to see how manager John Farrell and the Red Sox handle Benintendi’s playing time going forward.
3. Boston’s bullpen is on very shaky footing.
The Red Sox have played a lot of dramatic games over the last two weeks, and that’s not a good thing. Boston’s bullpen blew a lead in the seventh inning or later three times in the last two weeks, highlighted by a brutal 4-3 loss to the Tigers in which Detroit scored three runs in the eighth inning off Junichi Tazawa and Brad Ziegler.
Closer Craig Kimbrel has had some adventurous ninth innings since returning from a knee injury, and shaky outings from relievers like Fernando Abad and Matt Barnes brings up more questions than answers entering the stretch run.
4. Rick Porcello might be the team’s new ace.
Porcello continues to have an excellent 2016 campaign. He made three starts during the Rio Games and won them all, improving to an amazing 17-3 with a 3.22 ERA.
David Price is Boston’s ace on paper, and while he’s turned things around a bit by winning his last two starts, it’s Porcello who has solidified himself as the top pitcher on this staff.
5. The Red Sox have the AL East title in their sights.
The Olympics were kind to the Sox, as they won 10 games in a span that saw the Toronto Blue Jays go 8-7 and the Baltimore Orioles lose 10 of 16. A day after the closing ceremony, Boston sits just a 1/2 game behind Toronto in the AL East and is holding its own during a taxing 11-game road trip.
The Red Sox play 13 of their next 16 games against opponents with losing records, so they have a very real chance of overtaking the Jays for the top spot in the division.
Thumbnail photo via Raj Mehta/USA TODAY Sports Images
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