On May 20th, the Red Sox lost their 3rd straight game to the last place Oakland Athletics, falling to .500.
Since then, the Sox have been rolling.
Since May 20th the Sox are 24-14, the 2nd best record in the AL. And with the help of the Yankees struggles, the Sox have claimed sole possession of first place for more than a day for the first time this season, currently with a 2 game lead in the division.
The first month-plus was filled with frustration and mediocrity, but what has changed that has lead to the Sox surge into first place?
Jackie Bradley Jr.
JBJ had a horrible start to the season. After a knee injury forcing him to go to the DL and wear a brace, Bradley’s start had him hovering around .200. But since June started, JBJ’s been hitting .340/.419/.544*. That’s elite. He’s been known to be hot and cold throughout his career, but this is one heck of a hot streak for Jackie, and should it continue, The Red Sox will have the most dominant outfield in the league.
After a hot start, Benintendi fell into a horrible slump. Between May 10th and June 2nd, Benintendi hit .116/.220/.130 and looked lost at the plate, often benched against lefties for veteran Chris Young. But since then, he’s hit .299/.376/.529. Much like JBJ, a hot Benny is a huge asset at the top/middle of the lineup. The Pre-Season top prospect in baseball has the world of potential, and his first MLB slump may have been a necessary step for him
Craig Kimbrel and the Bullpen
Kimbrel has been an absolute force this year. He has only allowed 2 (!!!!!) hits against righties all season in 68 at bats. That is freakin insane. Words can’t really describe Kimbrel’s dominance this season, and he’s a huge reason for the Sox turnaround. A lead heading into the 9th has essentially been game over, and that is a great comfort to have. The rest of the bullpen has stepped up too. With Carson Smith and Tyler Thornburg yet to throw a pitch yet for the Red Sox this season (and Thornburg won’t), lesser names like Joe Kelly, Heath Hembree, and Matt Barnes have stepped up in big times. Though Barnes and Hembree are subject to the occasional costly mistake, there aren’t any better options right now, and they’ve stepped up when needed.
Well sort of. Shooting Pablo Sandoval into the sun for a month has certainly helped. But the defense of Deven Marrero, and more recently Tzu-Wei Lin, has been a huge upgrade. Though neither provides much offense, their defense at 3rd has been a huge upgrade over anybody else this season. And though Marrero has only hit .195 (on the rise recently) this season, he’s provided some clutch hits including a 2 RBI base knock in the 11th inning last Friday night against the Blue Jays.
June was a great month for the Red Sox, and with the Yankees sliding, this could be the Sox chance to pounce. The trade deadline is a month away, and more help could be on the way in the bullpen or at third base. This team has world series potential, and they may just be breaking out now.
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