The Red Sox won’t take off this upcoming series against the Philadelphia Phillies even though the standings indicate they can start gearing up for a vacation in October.
“Oh yeah,” manager Alex Cora said when asked if his starters would play. “We’re playing. We’ll be ready.”
The Sox might not be playing for something, but the Phillies are in a tough battle for a National League wild-card spot. Entering Friday, the Phillies and Mets were both two games out of the second wild card, which featured a battle between the Cubs and Brewers. The Nationals held a 3½-game lead over Chicago and Milwaukee for the first wild card.
If the Sox can’t make the postseason, they can certainly hurt the chances of others, too, starting with the Phillies and including the Rays next week.
Eduardo Rodriguez will get the start at Citizens Bank Park on Saturday, followed by Rick Porcello on Sunday.
It’s become somewhat redundant to point out, but Rodriguez is having a breakout season and has been the Sox’ best starter all year. He is 17-6 and has a 3.73 ERA in 178⅔ innings.
He has three more starts this season, so there’s a chance he can reach 20 wins. He would be the first Sox starter to get there since Porcello racked up 22 in 2016, when he won the AL Cy Young award.
“It should be a great atmosphere over there,” Cora said. “They’re fighting for the wild card. So let’s go over there and play some good baseball.”
Short and sweet
Xander Bogaerts should be in the AL MVP conversation and very well might be the best shortstop in all of baseball this season.
After recording his 1,000th career hit last week against the Yankees, Bogaerts hit his 50th double of the year Thursday in Toronto. He is just the second shortstop in history to achieve the feat, after Alex Rodriguez did it in 1996 as a member of the Mariners.
Bogaerts used to just shoot the ball the other way, like his favorite player growing up, Derek Jeter. But once Cora became manager, he explained to Bogaerts that he had more power in his bat, that he could hit for average and power. This season, Bogaerts bought in.
“For him to buy into the concept of him driving the ball, it’s been great,” said Cora. “Also, he’s hitting over .300.”
And Cora thinks Bogaerts will get better.
“Wow,” Bogaerts said when he was made aware of Cora’s thoughts. “The other day, he was like ‘I’ll turn you into 40 homers,’ and I was like ‘Hey, this is good.’ Obviously more homers are better, you can help your team out a lot more.
“I know this season hasn’t been nice for us in general. But whenever I have time to myself or family, that will definitely be stuff that we’ll be talking about.”
According to multiple reports, the Diamondbacks extended the contract of general manager Mike Hazen, who had two years remaining on the original contract he signed when he left the position of Red Sox GM (in which he worked under president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski) to helm Arizona’s baseball operations department after the 2016 season.
Hazen was viewed throughout the industry as an obvious target for the Red Sox in their search for Dombrowski’s replacement given his familiarity with the Sox and his track record in Arizona, where he’s overseen three straight years of contention while turning an inflexible payroll into a flexible one.
But according to a major league source, the Red Sox — who are still in the early stages of forming their candidate list — never requested permission to talk to Hazen about his potential interest in returning to Boston. The extension effectively preempted any potential request.
Picking it up
It was a couple of weeks ago that Betts’s uncle, former big-leaguer Terry Shumpert, insisted that his nephew wasn’t having a down season. People were just making an unfair comparison to his MVP year in 2018, said Shumpert. After a 3-for-5 game Thursday, Betts is hitting .293 with a .918 OPS. But that’s just the surface. Betts’s 131 runs lead the league and are the most by a Red Sox player since Dom DiMaggio in 1950. To peel back another layer, Betts swiped his 15th bag of the season Thursday and has 28 homers. There are 15 games left this year. If Betts gets to 30 homers and 20 stolen bases, he’ll be just the second player in Red Sox history to reach 130 runs, 30 homers, and 20 stolen bases in the same season. The first to do it? 2018 AL MVP Mookie Betts. Uncle Terry might have been on to something.