At their best, the Red Sox have looked overpowering on offense. At their worst, they've struggled from the mound.The beauty of it all for Red Sox Nation is that this team looks primed to contend for the entire season, something that could not be said the last two years. At
At their best, the Red Sox have looked overpowering on offense. At their worst, they've struggled from the mound.
The beauty of it all for Red Sox Nation is that this team looks primed to contend for the entire season, something that could not be said the last two years. At the All-Star break, Boston (49-38) trails Baltimore by two games in the American League East.
"There's been a number of really good things that have taken place in the first half," said manager John Farrell. "Am I satisfied? No. I don't think you're ever completely satisfied. We've got some work to do, particularly in the four and five spots in the rotation.
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"But when you look at the way this offense has performed, it's been pretty dynamic. It's been consistent, it's been high-powered, it's shown the ability to use our speed, to take extra bases. Offensively, this is a very good club."
WHAT WENT RIGHT
The Red Sox have demonstrated a relentless approach throughout the lineup, combining patience with power. The young core has gone to a higher level, led by first-time All-Stars Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr.Travis Shaw won the third-base job in Spring Training and has looked up to the task, particularly at the plate. David Ortiz has been as good as ever at the age of 40. Second baseman Dustin Pedroia has regained his health and been a reliable two-way performer.
WHAT WENT WRONG
The lack of depth in the rotation has prevented Boston from leading the division at the All-Star break. Clay Buchholz is having his worst season. Lefty Eduardo Rodriguez opened the season on the disabled list with a right knee injury, and he struggled to such a degree upon his return that he was optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket. The Red Sox need to get Rodriguez back on track, and he'll get that chance by starting the first game after the break at Yankee Stadium.
Injuries have also been a problem, and closer Craig Kimbrel will be gone three to six weeks with a left knee injury.
WHAT WE LEARNED
Rick Porcello has his sinker and his confidence back following a difficult first year in Boston. Bogaerts is as good a pure hitter as there is in the game. Betts is perhaps the most dynamic leadoff hitter around, able to impact a game with his power and legs. David Price took a while to get acclimated, but he looks primed to get back to pitching like an ace in the second half. Matt Barnes and Heath Hembree have blossomed in the bullpen, giving Farrell more options in the late innings.
FIRST HALF TOP POSITION PLAYER
Ortiz's final season has been something to watch so far. The slugger has plenty left in the tank. He leads the Majors in doubles (34), slugging percentage (.682), OPS (1.107) and extra-base hits (57). This, to go along with 22 homers and 72 RBIs. The Red Sox would love nothing more than for Ortiz to go out with a fourth World Series ring.
FIRST HALF TOP PITCHER
Knuckleballer Steven Wright was projected to make the team as a long reliever when Spring Training started. But after Rodriguez suffered his injury early in camp, Wright pounced on the opportunity and has spent most of the first half leading the AL in ERA.
FIRST HALF SURPRISE
Sandy Leon was the definition of organizational depth at the catching position when the season started. But when Ryan Hanigan and Blake Swihart got injured on the same day, Leon was called up from Triple-A, and he responded with the best hitting stretch of his career. The switch-hitter is hitting .455 (25-for-55) with nine doubles while playing solid defense.
Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.