The last time the Colorado Rockies played a game at Fenway Park, the momentum of a 21-of-22 streak was knocked out of the National League champions as they were outscored by the Boston Red Sox, 15-2, in the first two games of the 2007 World Series en route to a four-game sweep at the hands of the perennial AL East powers.
Predictably, much has changed for both squads since then. Both teams are coming off of their worst seasons in years; for the Rockies, we all know what happened in 2012. For the Red Sox, their 93 losses were the most since the team went 62-100 in 1965. Before that, no Red Sox team had lost more than 90 games since 1932.
Somewhat unpredictably, both teams have been much, much better in 2013. Colorado, of course, busted out of the gates with a really strong start and has stuck around in a weak NL West since. Boston, which was predicted by many to finish fourth or fifth in a strong AL East, sits 12 games above .500 -- and that's after losing four of five to the Tampa Bay Rays and Detroit Tigers.
For more on the Red Sox, we brought in Ben Buchanan from SB Nation's Red Sox community Over the Monster, which provides the most comprehensive coverage of the Sox on Earth, probably.
Bryan Kilpatrick: It's hard to call a team like the Red Sox surprising (in a positive manner, at least), but that's exactly what they are. If you were forced to pinpoint a single reason for the team's turnaround, what would it be?
Ben Buchanan: Pitching. It's hard to see at the moment, with Clay Buchholz hurt, Jon Lester faltering, and the bullpen in some turmoil. But when you consider what the Sox were working with last year through this point, it's night and day. Ryan Dempster and Felix Doubront, while uninspiring, have both pitched as well as Boston's best arm (Buchholz) did last year. John Lackey is killing it. John Lackey.
The bullpen, too, has enjoyed a turnaround. It doesn't feel like it since Joel Hanrahan was an unmitigated disaster and Andrew Bailey has since fallen apart, but even just having Koji Uehara and Junichi Tazawa available to do what they've done in front of solid options like Craig Breslow and Andrew Miller (more on him in a second) is a big deal compared to last year, when Tazawa and Breslow only contributed in the half of the season that really saw the Red Sox take a punt.
BK: Andrew Miller has really become a nice piece in the Boston bullpen. What couldn't he figure out as a starter that has made him so tough to hit as a reliever?
BB: Speaking of Andrew Miller...
So, the weird thing is that he's very similar to the pitcher he was as a starter. He's still wild on any given day, and feels a bit like a time bomb. There are certainly differences; his fastball has an extra bit of oomph, and he's been able to completely cut his sketchy changeup out, relying more on his nasty slider instead. But perhaps as important as anything else is the fact that, if it's not Miller's day, it doesn't need to be. Someone else can simply come in and clean up rather than Miller needing to get through the third just to spare the pen.
BK: What the hell has gotten into Mike Carp? He's, like, the best utility player ever.
#37 / First Base / Boston Red Sox
Jun 30, 1986
|2013 - Mike Carp||.321||.375||.670|
BB: Mike Carp is magical. There is no other explanation. He's still striking out a ton, and his BABIP is high as all get out, but there's no denying his power right now. He's hitting homers, and they're not just a bunch of cheap Fenway shots. Frankly, if he weren't dealing with injury right now, he might be starting ahead of Mike Napoli.
BK: Jose Iglesias was recently brought up and has been raking at a Yasiel Puig-like rate (though, of course, without as much fanfare). Is there anyone else on the farm the Red Sox can count on this season if they need the help?
BB: For once, the upper levels of the Farm System are absolutely stacked. The first name on most minds is Xander Bogaerts, who is pushing to be baseball's best prospect heading into 2014. Chances are the Sox would prefer to avoid yanking him up early, though, as he just hit Triple-A.
Jackie Bradley Jr. was up at the beginning of the year, and while he looked overmatched he was essentially making the jump directly from Double-A. Triple-A hasn't proved too challenging so far, though, and with both Shane Victorino and Daniel Nava struggling to stay healthy, he could well return in the days to come.
Then there's the pitching. Right now, Pawtucket's rotation is full of guys who can contribute, but none of them without flaws.
Allen Webster has had his struggles in the majors, though he's also shown some ridiculous stuff in doing so. Still, until he can find consistency, the Red Sox can't be comfortable having him in the rotation.
Rubby De La Rosa has some decent major league experience, but still needs to build up his strength after Tommy John Surgery. He's only just made his way into the sixth inning for the first time, and that only because he was dominant, needing fewer than 70 pitches to get there.
Alfredo Aceves has done what the Sox have needed him to do when called upon. Unfortunately he's also completely insane and perhaps a terrifying Lovecraftian Old God, so maybe it's best to keep him riding the shuttle for spot starts.
Brandon Workman just keeps throwing good innings, missing zero steps in transitioning from Portland to Pawtucket, but still has only 19 frames above Double-A.
Still, it gives Boston plenty of chances to hit if they're willing to keep throwing stuff at the wall to see if any stick.
BK: What worries you the most about the club as it's currently constructed, and what can be done to avoid having it be a problem down the stretch?
BB: Right now? A whole lot. The pitching that has been so good is extremely concerning since Clay Buchholz has been day-to-day for weeks now. Jon Lester hasn't been good in over a month and clearly needs time off to figure it out, but the Sox can't find anyone to take his place because Webster hasn't been able to get the job done, De La Rosa still isn't ready, Brandon Workman isn't quite on the radar yet, and Alfredo Aceves is already filling in for Lester.
That leaves the Sox relying on John Lackey, Ryan Dempster, and Felix Doubront, which is pretty scary for all that they've been solid or, in Lackey's case, better.
Then there's the lineup, which feels a little ... precarious. Ellsbury, Pedroia, and Ortiz all feel reliable enough. But Daniel Nava has been in a tailspin ever since hurting his thumb, and it wouldn't be the first time he had a season sunk by injury. Jose Iglesias, while much improved over last year, is certainly not this good. Jarrod Saltalamacchia has a tendency to fade late. Mike Napoli has spent the last month doing nothing after falling off slightly in May. Shane Victorino is always hurt, Stephen Drew is back to slumping, and Jonny Gomes is basically useless.
Is there anything to be done about either problem? Perhaps. The Red Sox have a ton of minor league depth to trade from. The problem is that their rotation is full, if not ideal, which could make it hard to find a roster spot for whoever they end up getting. And both in the rotation and the lineup, the Sox will be reluctant to invest heavily for a long-term player when they're hoping to see their prospects take over those roles as early as next year.
Frankly, the one place where they might find help -- the bullpen -- is the one place they need it least.
Game 1: Tuesday, June 25 at 5:10 p.m. MT (ROOT Sports)
Juan Nicasio (4-3, 4.78 ERA) vs. Ryan Dempster (4-8, 4.23 ERA)
Game 2: Wednesday, June 26 at 2:05 p.m. MT (ROOT Sports, MLB Network)
Roy Oswalt (0-1, 7.20) vs. John Lackey (4-5, 3.03)
|Jackie Bradley Jr.||19||52||9||8||3||0||1||6||6||17||1||0||.154||.254||.269|
|Jose De La Torre||3||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000||.000||.000|
|Jose De La Torre||0-0||3||0||0||0||0||0||5.1||4||3||3||1||4||5||5.06||1.50|