What'd I miss? A quick refresher as Sox return from long West Coast trip

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·5 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Jun. 14—It's not always easy following the Red Sox when they fly out for a long trip to the West Coast. The games start late and often don't wrap up until well after 1 a.m. Considering that fans have also had the Celtics' NBA Finals run to focus on you'd be forgiven if you lost track of the Red Sox over the past week.

But those who stayed up were rewarded with some of the best Red Sox baseball of the season, and now the club returns home in a dramatically improved position.

When the Red Sox last left Fenway Park, they stood at 24-27 and were coming off a disappointing week in which they went 3-4 against two of the worst teams in baseball. Now they return home at 32-29, own the last American League playoff spot and are within striking distance of the Toronto Blue Jays and Tampa Bay Rays, two top divisional and Wild Card rivals.

How did we get here? Here's a rundown of the Red Sox highly successful West Coast road trip and where the club may go from here.

Exceeding all expectations

The Red Sox went 8-2 on their 10-game trip, vastly exceeding even the most optimistic projections. The club swept the Oakland Athletics, took three out of four against the reeling Los Angeles Angels and then wrapped up the trip by taking two of three from the Seattle Mariners.

Including the win over Cincinnati to wrap up the last homestand, the Red Sox at one point strung together a season-best seven-game winning streak.

Boston won in all different ways. The sweep at Oakland was decisive, with the Red Sox outscoring the Athletics 20-4 over the three games. Against Los Angeles things were much tighter, with the Red Sox winning a pair of games 1-0 while taking the other 6-5 in 10 innings.

Seattle proved the toughest test, with the Red Sox edging out a 4-3 win in the first, blowing a save for a walk-off loss in the second before Rafael Devers broke a scoreless tie late with a two-run home run in Boston's 2-0 victory to cap off the road trip.

Injury bug bites

The West Coast trip didn't go entirely smoothly, as several key players went down with injuries that will keep them sidelined for at least the immediate future.

Last Wednesday Kiké Hernández was placed on the 10-day injured list with a right hip flexor strain. On Friday he was followed by starting pitcher Garrett Whitlock, who went on the 15-day injured list with right hip inflammation, and on Sunday the Red Sox added fellow starter Nathan Eovaldi to the 15-day injured list with lower back inflammation. Whitlock and Eovaldi both won't be eligible to return until June 24, when the Red Sox open a three-game road series against the Cleveland Guardians.

The Red Sox have mixed and matched their lineup to get by without Hernández, with Triple-A outfielder Rob Refsnyder emerging as the primary replacement, but losing two starting pitchers will make things difficult. Rookie Kutter Crawford got the start on Sunday in place of Whitlock and pitched well, delivering five scoreless innings in the 2-0 victory, but going forward it's not clear how the Red Sox will cover Eovaldi and Whitlock's starts.

This week Nick Pivetta will start Tuesday and both Wednesday and Thursday's starters remain unannounced. Rich Hill and Michael Wacha could both pitch on regular rest thanks to Monday's off day, but the club could also call up another Triple-A starter to start Wednesday and give the two veterans an extra day of rest.

If the Red Sox went that route, the most likely candidate to start Wednesday would be Josh Winckowski, one of the prospects acquired in the Andrew Benintendi trade who has already made a spot start for the Red Sox. Brayan Bello, one of the organization's fastest rising stars, could also make a start and technically so could fellow prospect Connor Seabold, though he is less likely given that he only just recently returned from a pectoral injury.

Crawford remains a candidate to stick around and start Friday or Saturday against St. Louis.

Devers, Houck elevating their game

No team ever goes 8-2 over a 10-game road trip by accident, so it's no surprise the Red Sox have gotten plenty of great performances from across the roster.

Within the lineup Devers has been raking, batting .294 with three home runs, nine RBI and a 1.002 OPS over the road trip, and J.D. Martinez hasn't been far behind, batting .286 with two home runs, three RBI and a .975 OPS. Xander Bogaerts (.314) and Alex Verdugo (.306) have both been swinging the bat great as well, and Bobby Dalbec has enjoyed a resurgence with two home runs and six RBI to go along with a .267 average and .857 OPS during the trip.

On the pitching side all of Boston's healthy starters are coming off a strong trip. Nick Pivetta went 1-1 with a 3.00 ERA and 18 strikeouts over 12 innings, Wacha went 1-0 with a complete game shutout and a 2.03 ERA over 13.1 innings and Hill went 2-0 with a 2.61 ERA over 10.1 innings pitched.

More important has been the emergence of Tanner Houck, who's looking like a real closer and could possibly help fix the club's biggest weakness by far. During the trip Houck appeared in four games, each time in the eighth inning or later, and went 1-0 with two saves over 5.0 scoreless innings.

Beyond Houck, John Schreiber also appeared in five games, recorded four holds and threw 4.2 scoreless innings, and Austin Davis pitched 3.1 scoreless innings in his four appearances, extending his scoreless appearance streak to 13 dating back to early May.

Houck, Schreiber and Davis may not have been the winning combination most expected when the season began back in April, but lately they've gotten the job done and now the Red Sox are back in a good place with another winnable series against the Athletics coming up.

Email: mcerullo@northofboston.com. Twitter: @MacCerullo.