Sunday, July 31, 2016

July Was Ending With a Thud. Until...

The Red Sox had a terrible June, and they needed to get their act together in the month of July if they were serious about making a playoff run.

June concluded with a lethargic 4-0 loss at Tampa Bay, and the Sox were 42-36, 5 1/2 games behind the front-running Orioles in the AL East. The Sox went a miserable 10-16 in that month, but as soon as the calendar flipped over to July, it looked like things were coming together.

They got back home to Fenway and won 7 of 9 against the LA Angels, Texas and Tampa Bay, and then they hit the All-Star break. The Sox remained hot, winning 2 of 3 in New York, and won the first three games back home on another nine-game stand. They walloped the lowly Minnesota Twins, 13-2, and found themselves one-half game in first place, on July 21st.

Then all of a sudden, things took another turn. The Sox left a thousand guys on base in a 2-1 loss to Minnesota the next night, and then blew a lead and lost again, 11-9. The next day the Sox barely held on to an 8-7 decision, once again to one of MLB's worst teams.

And then the Detroit Tigers came in and swept the Sox, losing one game on a walk with the bases loaded. The Tigers are fighting for a playoff spot so they are a better quality club. But once again, the Sox were having trouble winning close games. In this series, they lost by two runs (4-2) and one run (9-8 and 4-3). I was hoping for a 6-3 homestand, but losing five of the last six made it 4-5. It also dropped the Sox into third, 2 1/2 games back.

The Sox then hit the road, and would conclude July in Anaheim. I figured they'd need to at least split the series. The Angels are long out of the playoffs, but were having a very good July. David Price opened the trip with eight stellar innings, but the offense could score just one run. Brad Ziegler came on for the save, and had been very good since coming over from Arizona earlier in the month. But the Angels rallied to load the bases with one out. Ziegler got a groundball to first, but Hanley Ramirez through one to the backstop to bring in two runs and give the Angels a 2-1 win.

The Sox rebounded the next night to win 6-2, and lost the following night, 5-2. So Sunday's game was an important one, as dropping three in Anaheim to start an 11-game road trip just wouldn't be acceptable. The Sox did absolutely nothing against the Angels for eight innings, and looked pretty lethargic in the process. But they rallied in the ninth, as Mookie Betts singled in a run, and with two outs and two on, Dustin Pedroia hit a ball off Huston Street over the center field wall and Xander Bogaerts hit a solo shot to give the Red Sox their biggest win of 2016, 5-3. (As a matter of full disclosure, I was writing a very different ending to this blog post, as the top of the ninth had just begun when I started writing.)

It was the biggest win of the season to conclude the month of July.

As July finishes up for the Sox, they are 57-46,  1 1/2 games behind in third place in the AL East. Overall, July was a successful month for the boys, having gone 15-10. They still have seven games on the West Coast, four in Seattle and three in LA with the Dodgers. I would consider a 6-5 road trip a very successful one if they can manage it.

And now we wait for the trade deadline to come, as it will be at 4 PM ET tomorrow. Will the Sox make a big splash, or just add a few more solid pieces like Brad Ziegler or Aaron Hill?

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