The Week Ahead: Time of reckoning for Red Sox

Leave a comment

There’s no other way to put it: It was a miserable week for the Boston Red Sox.

They lost six straight, including four to the Yankees, falling 6 ½ games back in the AL East, and into a tie with the Texas Rangers for the wild card lead.

Their offense took a vacation. Their bullpen, showing signs of wear and tear, could use some help. And their big offseason hope for the rotation, John Smoltz, ended his time in Boston looking like a shadow of his once-great self.

This week, it doesn’t get any easier.

The Red Sox travel home for a four-game series against the Detroit Tigers, leaders of the AL Central. Boston is 3-0 against Detroit this season, winning those games by a combined score of 21-9. Of course, the Red Sox were 8-0 against the Yankees before the four-day disaster in the Bronx.

After Detroit, Boston travels to Texas to take on the Rangers. Texas enters the week 62-48 and tied with Boston for the wild-card lead. The Rangers lead both leagues with 169 home runs (40 more than Boston) and have found enough pitching to stay in the playoff race.

Derek Holland, the promising rookie the Rangers wouldn’t part with at the trade deadline, is coming off a three-hit shutout of the Angels. He’ll face the Red Sox on Saturday.

Through the recent slump, the Red Sox have kept their composure. Terry Francona, not one to yell and scream, says there’s no reason to panic.

“The energy level is there. We’ve just been putting up zeroes for a lot of innings now. I think sometimes you balance that. If I thought the effort was terrible I’d say something, but I don’t think that’s the case.”

That may be true, but for Red Sox fans, if this week doesn’t go well, everything could change.

FIVE SERIES TO WATCH
Tigers at Red Sox, Aug. 10-13: Boston will break in Junichi Tazawa on Tuesday, giving him his first big league start in what has becoming a most important series for the Red Sox.

Dodgers at Giants, Aug. 10-12: They’re hated rivals, and for the first time in awhile, this series has playoff implications. The Giants have crept within 5½ games of the NL West-leading Dodgers, and are tied with Colorado for the NL wild card.

Rays at Angels, Aug. 10-12: Tampa remains in the wild card hunt, but the AL West-leading Angels, who are hitting .289 as a team, present a serious challenge.

Phillies at Cubs, Aug. 11-13: After rising to the NL Central lead, the Cubs have taken a hit of late. Two games behind the Cardinals, Chicago must take advantage of the struggling Phillies, who have dropped seven of 10.

Red Sox at Rangers, Aug. 14-16: Neither team has given up in their respective division races, but this series could go a long way toward deciding who takes the AL wild card.

ON THE TUBE
Monday, 7:10 p.m. ET: Tigers at Red Sox (ESPN)
Wednesday, 8:05 p.m.: Phillies at Cubs (ESPN)
*Saturday, 4:10 p.m.: Indians at Twins (FOX)
*Saturday, 4:10 p.m.:  Phillies at Braves (FOX)
*Saturday, 4:10 p.m.:  Giants at Mets (FOX)
Sunday, 2:05 p.m.: Red Sox at Rangers (TBS)
Sunday, 8:05 p.m.: Phillies at Braves (ESPN)
*Check local listings

If you Twitter, you can find me at @bharks.

Julio Urias to undergo season-ending shoulder surgery

Getty Images
Leave a comment

The news has gone from bad to worse for Dodgers’ left-hander Julio Urias, who is scheduled for anterior capsule surgery on his left shoulder next Tuesday and expected to be sidelined through the middle of the 2018 season. His MRI came back negative on Wednesday, giving the Dodgers some hope that the 20-year-old’s bout of shoulder inflammation wasn’t masking any structural damage, but the pain lingered several days later and prompted further concern from the club. The procedure will be performed by Dr. Neal ElAttrache.

Urias was optioned to Triple-A Oklahoma City in late May and placed on the disabled list with left shoulder discomfort several weeks into his assignment. At the major league level, he owned a 5.40 ERA, 5.4 BB/9 and 4.2 SO/9 through 23 1/3 innings, going 0-2 in five starts with Los Angeles. He made a brief rebound in Triple-A, posting three wins and striking out 17 of 67 batters in 17 1/3 innings before landing on the DL.

It’s a tough blow for the southpaw, who had yet to hit his stride in the majors before getting sidelined with shoulder issues. The Dodgers were especially mindful of this outcome for Urias, and had taken preventative measures to protect his arm by establishing a strict innings limit last season. According to club president Andrew Friedman, there’s a small silver lining here: while Urias’ injury will keep him out of work for at least 12 months, he doesn’t appear to have sustained any damage to his labrum or rotator cuff, and could be facing a much more streamlined recovery process as a result. Whether he’ll be able to rebound once he takes the mound again remains to be seen.

Tigers release Francisco Rodriguez

Getty Images
4 Comments

Tigers’ right-handed reliever Francisco Rodriguez was released on Friday, per a team announcement. The club recalled fellow right-hander Bruce Rondon from Triple-A Toledo in a corresponding move.

The former closer got the boot after losing his closing role in early May, giving left-hander Justin Wilson a chance to impress at the back end of the bullpen. It’s been a rough year for Rodriguez, who manufactured six blown saves and a 7.82 ERA, 3.9 BB/9 and 8.2 SO/9 over 25 1/3 innings for the Tigers. The final straw, it seemed, came with Robinson Cano‘s grand slam in the seventh inning of the Tigers’ 6-9 loss to the Mariners on Thursday.

While the demotion to a clean-up role and an apparent lack of communication caused Rodriguez considerable frustration, he’s two years removed from his last dominant performance as a major league closer and has shown few signs of returning to form. His recent slump doesn’t diminish the impressive totals he’s racked up over his 16-year career — 437 saves and six All-Star nominations among them — but if he can’t break out of it soon, he may not receive the kind of high leverage role he’s seeking with another big league team, either.