The return of Jon Lester
The Red Sox' reality hasn't gone anywhere.
They are 4 1/2 games out of a Wild Card spot with the big, bad Yankees coming to town for a three-game series, sitting three games under .500. The go-to guys aren't exactly carrying the load, the starters aren't consistently going deep enough and the bullpen seems more patchwork than ever.
But, for at least one night, there was still hope.
If nothing else, the Red Sox could finally stake claim to a series win over an American League East team, beating the Orioles, 4-3, at Fenway Park in the one-game set. They are now 1-11-1 in series against teams in their own division.
One game or not, let's face it: These days, the Red Sox will take anything they can get.
The win did open the door for some positive conversations for a team that has been mired in negativity for the last week. So, with the window of optimism potentially closing in a hurry, it was worth taking a glimpse at some of the bright spots ...
THE NEW GUYS ARE WORKING OUT
Eric Hosmer. Tommy Pham. Reese McGuire. It's tough to complain about the trade deadline trio. The three newcomers have scored 12 of the 34 runs since leaving Houston. (Pham has scored in seven of his nine games since joining the Red Sox.)
Against the Orioles, both Hosmer and Pham had doubles and an RBI.
"He’s really good. He cares," said Red Sox manager Alex Cora when talking about Hosmer before the game. "He told me a few days ago that he didn’t want to step on nobody’s toes in the clubhouse. I said, ‘Bro, there are no toes here.’ It’s part of it. This is who we are, and you come in, and you’re part of the family and you have a voice. He has a long career, won a World Series, and he’s been very successful, so people respect him in that clubhouse. Just like Tommy, too. Tommy as far as preparation and hitting approach and understanding how to go about his business, there’s an attitude there, but it’s a good one. Running hard the whole time. Grinding at-bats even with the game 14-3, that’s really good for the group. And Reese has been really good. I know there’s been a lot of work with him. Out of the three, he’s been locked in the whole time as far as catching up with everybody. Jason has done an amazing job. It’s a joy to have those three here. They’re really good."
SCHREIBER HAS BEEN A SAVIOR
Where would the Red Sox be without John Schreiber? That should be one the most uncomfortable thoughts of the 2022 season.
The reliever came in and saved the day once again, this time going two scoreless innings, giving up just one infield single.
With the trade deadline resulting in one less high-leverage reliever (Jake Diekman), one injured closer (Tanner Houck) and a very thin group of late-inning bullpen arms to turn to, Schreiber continues to be one of the most important pieces of this roster. He has now pitched in 43 games, carrying an 0.80 WHIP, .174 batting average against and 1.80 ERA.
THE OLD MATT BARNES REEMERGED
The former closer - who spent more than a month totally breaking down his process - has seemingly come out the other side a changed pitcher.
The righty allowed the Red Sox to bridge the gap between starter Josh Winckowski (5.2 IP, 3 runs) and Schreiber with a scoreless inning, leaning on a stellar curveball on nine of his 13 pitches. His other four offerings were four-seam fastballs with just enough velocity (95 mph average) to keep the hitters honest.
"Early in the year was definitely a struggle," Barnes said. "Didn’t really feel like I had great command or great stuff. Was able to, over the last handful of outings since coming off, the stuff, with the exception of losing it for a couple batters the other night, stuff has been much better. Been able to command it and be competitive out there. It was a frustrating couple of months on the DL and a couple of months to start the season, and frankly even the end of last year. It’s been a grind for a little while for me. Tonight was a really good step. Felt really good out there. Looking to continue and be more consistent. This is one game. This game doesn’t mean anything if I go out and revert back to not being competitive and contributing. We’ll take it tonight but the work doesn’t stop. Need to continue to go."
"Need to continue to go." That's for Barnes. That's for the Red Sox.
Perhaps it's just a one-game reminder of some good times. Or, if the Red Sox are somehow able to take advantage of the Yankees' recent downturn and springboard a successful series into Pittsburgh, it might be something more.
For now, they will have to soak in the modest success of one game.
"They’re ahead of us, right? We gained ground today," Cora said. "We know what’s going on. We know. I can tell you the schedule the rest of the season. Not our schedule. A lot of peoples’ schedule. I know who is playing this weekend. They go to Tampa, they’re going to get in at five in the morning, play the Rays for three. I know the math doesn’t help us but when teams are playing against each other, we have to win. We haven’t done that for a month and we’re still there. The guys know it.
"Obviously, a big weekend against New York. Last time they were here we played well against them. We went over there and played one good game and then that happened. We feel like, pitching-wise, we’re getting close with the starters. We have Nate, Kutter, Michael. The bullpen, we pitched him for two innings, he did an outstanding job but he’ll be down for one or two days. Somebody else has to step up. Matt Barnes did amazing, he was amazing today. Made some good pitches, used his fastball. That’s what we need, to use his fastball to freeze somebody, that was huge."
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