USA Today Sports

One day, two wins, a bunch more Red Sox optimism

Rob Bradford
August 11, 2018 - 11:48 pm

The Red Sox swept the Orioles Saturday. Big whoop.

There were reasons to watch both the Sox' 5-0 Game 1 win and their 6-4 victory in the nightcaps. Finding the impetus to tune into these games isn't difficult, as was the case Saturday. 

But what the pair of games at Camden Yards did was continue the conversations about what certain Red Sox are doing and where they are going. 

- David Price is the most important player in the American League. It's not hyperbole. Want proof? Take a look at what the Red Sox' starting pitcher has done since that horrific start at Yankee Stadium and how it has changed the AL's overall landscape.

Price did what he has been doing since that July 1 start, completely control his opposition. This time it was six shutout innings, with 10 strikeouts and not a single walk. The Red Sox have won each of his last six starts, during which time the lefty has totaled a 2.39 ERA. The difference has been his changeup, which he threw more any other pitch against the Orioles. It has become a legitimate weapon.

You can send this pitcher -- the one we saw Saturday afternoon -- out for a Game 2 against Houston, Oakland, the Yankees or Cleveland and feel good about coming away with a victory. That is why he is so important.

- J.D. Martinez might not win the American League MVP, but a strong case can be made that he is the one guy the Red Sox can ill-afford to lose. Even more than Mookie Betts.

Martinez hit two more home runs in Game 2 after going hitless in the first game, extending his major league-leading total to 37. But he's when he's doing it and how he's doing it. As was the case a few days before in Toronto, the slugger was asked to deliver when it counted the most and managed to oblige, breaking open a 3-3 tie with a two-run homer.

If you take Martinez out of this lineup, with what he does, it would have more of an impact than anyone. Some might disagree, siding with Betts, but this past week makes a pretty strong case for the designated hitter/outfielder.

- Red Sox manager Alex Cora said on the Red Sox Radio Network's pregame show that he truly believes Jackie Bradley Jr. has figured out a hitting approach that will lead to sustained success. If that was true it would go a long way to cementing this team's confidence in their offense.

Bradley Jr. launched two home runs in the first game, improving his OPS since June 24 to .908. The Red Sox now have the fourth-best OPS at the No. 9 spot in baseball, scoring the most runs (62).

- Craig Kimbrel was one strike away from changing the narrative regarding his recent slump. But unfortunately for the closer Trey Mancini got the better of an inside fastball for a ninth-inning solo homer in Game 2. But overall the reliever's location and stuff appeared improved, as was evident by his three strikeouts.

- Drew Pomeranz pitched two more innings out of the bullpen, allowing just one hit. While the velocity still hasn't experienced a dramatic uptick in the lefty's two relief outings in the series (averaging 90 mph on his fastball), the pitcher's presence does present an intriguing option if he can continue down what has been a short relief road.

- Has anybody noticed Eduardo Nunez is hitting. After a solo homer in Game 1 the infielder is now batting .345 with a .918 OPS since July 27. 

- Most notably, the Red Sox now have a 9 1/2-game lead over the Yankees, matching their largest American League East lead of the season.