One AL East team is heating up during their playoff push but running out of time, while another AL powerhouse team is out-competing everyone.
Boston Red Sox (72-62, 4th Place AL Wild Card, 5 GB)
When Chris Sale went down a couple of weeks ago with elbow inflammation in his pitching arm for perhaps the rest of the regular season, it seemed like that was the white flag. However, the team has gone 8-3 since his injury and are potentially back in the Wild Card contest. Currently five games back in the race, the Sox will welcome back David Price to the rotation this Sunday.
David Price has arguably been Boston’s ace this season. His ERA is sitting at 4.36, which is largely due to the fact that he gave up 20 runs in his last 17 innings before landing on the IL. When we look at his stats from the first half of the season, they were great. (I won’t go into about how he had much better stats than Masahiro Tanaka, who was an All-Star, because that would be childish of myself.) Price had a 3.24 ERA with a 1.14 WHIP. He also averaged more than a strikeout per inning with 95 K’s in 83.1 innings pitches. With his return this weekend, the Red Sox will look forward to his pitching every five days.
The current pitching rotation has been bad. The four-man team consists of Rick Porcello, Eduardo Rodriguez, Nathan Eovaldi, and Brian Johnson. The Red Sox need to decide if their future plans include Rick Porcello. While he is a former Cy Young winner, he cannot get in a groove at all this year. His first half ERA was 5.33, which is obviously not good at all. His current second half ERA is even worse at 5.62. He has eight starts this season in which he has allowed 5+ runs.
Eduardo Rodriguez has been great for the Sox in the second half of the season. But while he currently has a 2.86 ERA, his K/9 is down and his BB/9 is higher. He’s getting more outs, so in the end that is all that really matters. With Price and Sale on the IL, Rodriguez came up big.
The Red Sox continued their road trip out west against the Rockies on Tuesday night for a short two-game series. Rick Porcello got the nod on the bump for the Sox and pitched well. He went five innings allowing 2 runs while striking out 5. Boston’s bats were hot as they kicked things off in the first inning with an RBI single from J.D. Martinez. Jackie Bradley Jr. then plastered a 478-foot solo home run to right field in the second inning. Christian Vazquez poked a two-run homer in the 4th, good for his 19th round-tripper in this career year he’s having. The Sox would extend their lead again in the 5th as Xander Bogaerts hit a solo homer.
The Rockies finally responded with a two-run 5th inning, as Charlie Blackmon and Nolan Arenado both drove in runs. The Red Sox offense capped things off with a four-run 7th inning highlighted by Brock Holt’s two-run single. Late homers from Sam Hilliard and Nolan Arenado were not enough as the Red Sox won 10-6.
Wednesday’s duel was another offensive showcase from the Red Sox. Picking things up in the 3rd, when J.D. Martinez hit his 32nd home run of the season to put Boston on top 2-0. The Rockies got on the board with a cheeky RBI bunt single from Garrett Hampson in the 4th. Xander Bogaerts hit a two-run homer in the 5th to give the Sox a 4-1 lead, and not long after that Christian Vazquez drove an RBI single off the top of the right field wall to make it 5-1 Boston. In the bottom of the frame, Yonathan Daza and Tony Wolters both drove in a run to cut the deficit to 2.
Xander Bogaerts crushed his second homer of the game in the 7th frame, which gave him 30 homers and 100 RBI’s on the season, the first Red Sox shortstop to achieve the feat since Nomar Garciaparra did so in 1998. Later on in the 9th, Rafael Devers hit his 28th homer of the season to cap off Boston’s 7-4 victory.
The Red Sox eagerly await David Price’s return. As their offense ranks best in the league when it comes to run production, but their pitching ranks 18th in the league in ERA with this placing a cap to how many games the team can win. Fangraphs currently gives them a 9.8% chance of making the playoffs as they head out to Anaheim to face the Angels for a three-game series on Friday.
Houston Astros (87-47, 1st Place AL West, 10 Game Lead)
The ‘Stros have all but secured a playoff spot. They’re 9-1 in their last ten games, and Houston is riding a six-game winning streak as well. As I’ve mentioned many times before, this team’s pitching is what will lead them to a World Series win. The three-headed monster containing Zack Greinke, Gerrit Cole, and Justin Verlander will be too much for opposing lineups to handle in a best-of-seven playoff series.
With three of the league’s best pitchers on one team, rookie Yordan Alvarez is stealing the headlines. The 22-year-old is hitting .329 on the season with 21 homers and an OPS of 1.120. His production has been incredibly important in the lineup alongside Alex Bregman, George Springer, and Jose Altuve.
Tuesday was a bad time to be a Tampa Bay Ray. 11 different players on the Astros had at least one hit against them. The scoring started in the third inning as Josh Reddick laced an RBI double to right-center field. Robinson Chirinos launched a two-run jack the next inning after Yuli Gurriel drove in two on an RBI double. Yordan Alvarez then hit a three-run homer in the 5th inning to make the score 9-0. In the sixth, the ‘Stros plated five more, highlighted by Jake Marisnick’s two-run single.
In the 7th, the Rays finally scored a run on a Joey Wendle solo homer. The Astros capped their evening with the 15th run coming off the bat of Yordan Alvarez for a solo homer, his second of the night. The Astros would decimate the Rays, 15-1.
It was Gerrit Cole’s turn in the rotation for Wednesday’s game. While he gave up four runs over his 6.2 innings pitched, he struck out 14 batters. The Rays were the first to plate a run, which came in the 2nd inning. Joey Wendle hit a sac fly to score Ji-Man Choi. Choi’s next at bat came in the 4th and he was able to make it a 3-0 game thanks to a two-run homer. The Astros erased the deficit in the bottom half of the inning, largely due to Yuli Gurriel’s two-run homer.
Tampa regained the lead in the 7th with a Jesus Aguilar RBI single. Unfortunately for them, Aledmys Diaz tied things up with an RBI double, and not long after that George Springer hit an RBI bloop single to right field to break the tie. The Astros didn’t look back and Willy Adames’ two-run dinger in the 9th wasn’t enough for the Rays, as the Astros picked up their 6th consecutive win with a final score of 8-6.
The ‘Stros will look for the sweep in Thursday afternoon’s affair. Zack Greinke will start for Houston. He is 4-0 since being traded to the first-place Astros. His stat line also includes a 2.45 ERA in those four contests. The team will travel north of the border to face the Blue Jays over the weekend.
Waiver Wire Targets
Miguel Sano, Minnesota Twins (43% owned/ESPN)
Sano and the Twins like to hit a lot of home runs. Sano has been hitting more home runs as of late. Home runs are good in fantasy baseball. That should be a good enough reason for you to pick him up, right?
Well, if you need more than that, Sano has 13 homers in this half of the season alone with all of September left to play. His second half OPS is .930, and he’s striking out 5.7% less than he was in the first half of the season. He is also taking more walks, 2.3% more to be exact, which means his OBP is higher as well. He’s definitely a safe bet to hit some homers for your team, should you decide to pick him up off waivers.
Brock Burke, Texas Rangers (31.6% owned/ESPN)
Burke ranks as the Rangers’ 7th best prospect, according to MLB Pipeline. In his first two career starts, he’s pitched 12 innings, allowing one run while striking out 9. Both outings were quality starts, and his WHIP is sitting at 0.92. What a way to begin a career. His next start is against the Mariners on Saturday at home, so he should be able to keep the momentum. His availability is slowly depriving, and if you’re in place to make a playoff run, put Burke on your watch list to see how things shake out against the Mariners this weekend.
Retired Little League baseball utility player.