What Happened to the Red Sox?

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Despite their late season charge, everyone kind of figured that the Twins would fall to the Yankees in the ALDS.  While some morons totally blew the call on the Cardinals-Dodgers series, it’s not like the Dodgers winning was a total shocker either. But did anyone really think that the Red Sox would simply roll over and play dead like they did against Anaheim?

Actually, maybe some folks did.  Here’s Theo Epstein after yesterday’s loss: “I don’t think anything that happened in this series was completely out
of the blue.  We saw things that
were reflected early in the season.”

What kinds of things?  For one thing, the shakiness of Papelbon.  No, you can’t pin this all on him — and let’s be 100% clear here: the Sox “fans” booing Paps after the top of the ninth was a totally bush league move from folks who should know better — but the fact is that Papelbon v.2009 was not the same pitcher we grew used to seeing in 2006, 2007 and 2008.  His velocity is down and when you have a merely superior fastball as opposed to an otherworldly one like he’s had in the past, you’re going to get smacked around a bit.  And you get the sense that he knows his kung-fu isn’t what it used to be. He went 3-0 on Chone Figgins before getting anything over in the ninth. The same Chone Figgins who had been 0-12 prior to that at bat.  Papelbon should have been throwing his version of batting practice fastballs to him, challenging him to do something with the ball. Except now Papelbon’s version of a batting practice fastball is no longer an above-average major league fastball, and his tentativeness simply underscored this.

But like I said, hanging this on Papelbon is to miss the real story here, and that’s the story of an aging and incomplete offense that feasted on the Orioles and in home games all year but which was really exposed against the Angels pitching.  Ortiz was 1-12 with zero extra base hits. Lowell had an RBI yesterday, but was 0-7 in the two games in Anaheim. Jason Bay was 1-8. There was a lot of that.  It’s just not a team with a bat that strikes fear into the heart of a pitching staff anymore.  The Boston Globe’s Bob Ryan went so far as to pine for Manny Ramirez yesterday.  

I don’t know if it’s that bad, but the 5-1 lead in yesterday’s game was, in hindsight, a mere blip on the radar screen. The one run and eight hits they gathered in two losses in Anaheim was far more indicative of the state of the Sox against good pitching.

It’s going to be a slightly longer offseason than expected in Boston this year, but from the looks of things Theo Epstein is going to need all of the extra time he can get in order to cure what ails the Red Sox.

Giancarlo Stanton dented the outfield wall in Marlins Park

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If we haven’t said it before, it bears repeating: When it comes to pure muscle mass and power, no major league player rivals the sheer force of Giancarlo Stanton. His record-setting 504-foot home run in 2016 has yet to be bested in the Statcast era (though it narrowly beat out Jake Arrieta‘s 503-foot blast in 2015, because baseball is weird), he broke the Dodgers’ outfield fence on an attempted catch at the wall last Sunday, and he carries 25 home runs that have each exceeded 460 feet.

It should come as little surprise, then, that when Stanton muscled his 12th home run of the season against the Angels on Friday night, it not only hit the batter’s eye, but left a visible dent in the wall:

Stanton’s mammoth shot put the Marlins on the board in the first inning, setting the stage for a four-run effort that gave the club an early lead. The home run measured a cool 462 feet, the slugger’s longest of the season. He still has a little ways to go to catch up to the 2017 season leader, Jake Lamb, whose 481-foot home run against the Rockies currently leads the pack.

The next item on Stanton’s bucket list? If we’re lucky, maybe something a little like this:

Bud Norris exits outing with right knee soreness

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Angels’ right-handed reliever Bud Norris made his 23rd appearance of the season on Friday, and after just three pitches, he was done for the night. He worked a 2-1 count to Marlins’ Dee Gordon in the eighth inning, then promptly exited the field after experiencing some tightness in his right knee. Neither Norris nor manager Mike Scioscia believe the injury is cause for major concern, and the 32-year-old right-hander admitted that it may have had something to do with his lack of stretching before he took the mound. For now, he’s day-to-day with right knee soreness, with the hope that the issue doesn’t escalate over the next few days.

While the Angels are lucky to have avoided serious injury, they’ll need Norris to pitch at 100% if they want to stay competitive within the AL West. They currently sit a full nine games behind the league-leading Astros, and haven’t been helping their cause after taking five losses in their last eight games. Friday’s 8-5 finale marked their third consecutive loss of the week.

 

When healthy, Norris has been one of the better arms in the Angels’ bullpen. Through 23 2/3 innings, he’s pitched to a 2.66 ERA, 3.4 BB/9 and an outstanding 11.8 SO/9 in 23 outings. The righty hasn’t allowed a single run in four straight appearances, recording three saves and helping the club clinch four wins in that span. This is his second setback of the year after sustaining a partial fingernail tear on his pitching hand during spring training.