If you recall, last week’s edition of our Red Sox week in review article was entitled “It Was All Bad Until It Wasn’t.”
That headline was in reference to the team’s horrendous start to open the week before things turned around for the better. A pair of sweeps going different ways was the final outcome of the slate. Give the post a read if you haven’t—I heard the fella who wrote it is a pretty handsome and groovy guy, but I digress.
After an up-and-down week, the Red Sox had...well, another up-and-down week. I knew the last few days felt a bit familiar, even with some of the details getting changed up. I could’ve sworn my alarm clock kept waking me up with Sonny and Cher’s “I Got You Babe.”
Boston enters Marathon Monday at an even .500 record with a chance to sweep the Los Angeles Angels and improve to 9-8. In the few hours before the late-morning first pitch, let’s take a look back at the week that was.
It’s Monday Morning Brushback time, y’all.
Lock It Down
The evolution of Garrett Whitlock’s role in Boston continued to unfold this past week, as we saw the pros and cons of riding him out as a traditional starting pitcher.
The Tampa Bay Rays were able to get to the righty on Tuesday, charging him with five earned runs over as many innings en route to their second win of their four-game sweep down at the Trop. Whit coughed up some loud, loud, looouudddddd contact in that appearance, and there’s really no way to sugarcoat the fact that Tampa hit a trio of dingers off of him.
So what does he do after that? He goes out on Sunday and twirls a gem of a game against the Halos at Fenway, of course.
Just one earned run on three hits and two free passes to go alongside five strikeouts over seven frames? Yeah, that’ll do juuuuuust dandy, Garrett. Yellow looks good on ya, pal. Just look at the sliders in this clip—might need to throw a NSFW tag on that.
Garrett Whitlock generated 14 swings-and-misses against the Angels.— Tyler Milliken ⚾️ (@tylermilliken_) April 16, 2023
Also threw the fastest pitch of the game at 96.8 MPH.
If Whitlock continues to pitch like this, it’s an absolute game-changer for the Red Sox in 2023 and moving forward.pic.twitter.com/wkw5N5vs0G
I believe the team is going to commit to Whitlock as a starter going forward, and I’m rocking with that idea.
When he goes out and puts up a dud, it’s tough to think of how he’ll have to be sidelined for a few days when we’ve seen him in a fireman role in the past—working effectively for two or three innings here and there during the course of a week or so. But with a (generally speaking) steady bullpen at the team’s disposal, I think it would behoove Alex Cora to utilize one of his best arms over the course of as many innings as possible in a start. Whitlock can go deep into games—he ended his afternoon against LA after 99 pitches—and we all know how quality his offerings are on the bump.
Let him ride it out as a starter, baby.
Another drastic difference between the Rays and Angels series: the performances from right-handed hitters in the Boston lineup following the injury to outfielder and hottest hitter on the planet Adam Duvall.
Righties drove in just 5 runs and collected 12 hits during the four-game series in Tampa this past week (and most of that came in the final pair of losses). That ain’t gonna cut it.
What did cut it, though, was the complete line of work from that crop of batters against the Angels. Kiké Hernández snapped out of his sleepwalking state to get the Sox right back into Friday night’s affair before some Little League defense essentially handed Boston the game. A homer and four rib eyes from World Baseball Classic Pool A MVP Yu Chang (and don’t you ever forget to address him as such) and an extra insurance run via a walk drawn by Rob Refsnyder pushed the club over the finish line for a W on Saturday. Justin Turner’s first homer in a Boston uniform was all that was needed to lock down another victory.
Righties, righties, righties (and Rafael Devers) got it done this weekend.
With Duvall on the shelf for the immediate future, the offense is gonna need some extra juice from the right handers remaining. The lineup in general could benefit from some more power, but more consistent hitting needs to be provided by guys like Kiké or Turner if this campaign is going to go the way we all want it to go. It was an encouraging weekend from that crop of batters, though!
Hope You Enjoyed The Sho
It’s worth noting that the best baseball player on the planet made his annual stop into Boston this weekend. It was a quiet weekend for Shohei Ohtani by his usual, superhero standards, but that didn’t stop the buzz at Fenway Park.
I was in attendance for Friday night’s win. Sox fans, of course, will always get up for their players—the Deverses, the Verdugos, etc. As a fan of baseball as a whole, I also enjoy seeing other stars come into town.
But Ohtani blows past that mere “star” status. You could feel tens of thousands of people creep up in their seats and lean forward whenever he stepped up to the plate that night, and I’m sure everyone will be locked in when he takes to the bump on Monday.
I couldn’t stop myself from saying how cool it was when he did just about anything. “Wow, that foul tip was awesome, wasn’t it?” “He just picked his nose, no one can pick their nose like him.” “Did you just see him scratch his neck?!?! AMAZING!!!!”
It’s anecdotal, sure, but I really did sense a different vibe when all eyes were on the baseball equivalent of Halley’s Comet. It’s not something you see very often...
...unless, of course, it is.
I’m sure you see where I’m going with this and I’m sure you’re already clicking away on your keyboard, telling me in the comments section how unrealistic the prospect of Ohtani signing with the Red Sox next offseason is. I’m sorry! I can’t help myself!
Can’t a guy dream?! The guy was right there in front of my very own eyes, folks. You can’t seriously think it’s ridiculous to envision him wearing the red B on his hat for years to come when he’s at America’s Most Beloved Ballpark of all places!
We can talk the practicalities of that idea until we’re blue in the face—or blue in the fingertips, in this instance. But if there’s any player you give a blank check to, it’s this transcendent talent. He’s a draw to the game that none of us have seen in the flesh before.
Maybe the chance of Shohei Ohtani signing with the Red Sox is at 1%. Maybe that’s even generous of me to put it that high. Yet the team should do anything and everything possible to recruit him. Rename the joint as Shohei Ohtani Field and Fenway Park. Give him the key to the city. Crown him as the King of the entire New England region.
But until his free agency watch begins, I’m gonna dream!
Song Of The Week: “Not Strong Enough” by boygenius
One of the new singles from the indie rock trio’s latest record, The Record. Easily enough of an album name to remember, huh?