Nation STATion: Sox revolve around Gonzalez

191542.jpg

Nation STATion: Sox revolve around Gonzalez

By Bill Chuck
Special to CSNNE.com

It all revolves Adrian Gonzalez.

I dont mean, the sun, the moon, and the earth (but they may as well). I mean the success of the Red Sox.

Dont get me wrong, this is not a one-man team, but this is a team whose achievements can be traced to the accomplishments of one man, and that man is Adrian Gonzalez. (Save that last sentence, because if there is any controversy at seasons end as to who the AL MVP is, this should provide the support that is necessary for A-Gon.)

I have great respect for Jose Bautista of the Blue Jays, who leads the American League in Wins Above Replacement at 4.6, but his presence in the Toronto lineup is minimal compared to that of Gonzalez, who is second in the league with a 3.6.

I respect the fact that Adrian barely leads Jose in the batting race, .341 to .338 and Bautista leads the league in OPS (On-base Slugging) at 1.190, over David Ortiz who is second at 1.019 (Gonzalez at .977 is fourth in the league, also trailing Miguel Cabrera of the Tigers who has a 1.004 OPS). But, the Toronto Blue Jays are under .500 at 32-34 while the Sox, and Gonzalez, have played 65 games and their 39-26 (.600) record heading into Tuesday night's game is only exceeded by the 40-26 Phillies (.606).

The Sox are a team reliant on hitting, because truth be told, their pitching is mediocre. The full staff has the eighth-best ERA in the league at 4.08. The starters and relievers ERA strangely are the same at 4.08 and both are only good for the ninth in the league, so its clearly the Sox bats that have led them to the top.

The Red Sox are first in the A.L. in runs, hits, doubles, total bases, batting average, on-base percentage, slugging, and OPS, and their leader has been A-Gon. You do not need to be a stats maven to appreciate the numbers of Gonzalez. A quick look shows that he leads the A.L. with 91 hits, 22 doubles, 37 extra-base hits (tied with the ChiSox Carlos Quentin), 156 total bases, and most importantly, 60 RBI.

We were pleased when on May 7 he was hitting .303, but in the five weeks since that date he has hit .374 with 10 of his 13 homers (oh, did I neglect his power?) and 38 RBI. His presence in the lineup, particularly with runners on base, has a dramatic effect on every game.

Looking for a delicious stat? (For the newly initiated to Nation STATion, those are numbers that are so yummy that I gain weight thinking about them.) Try this: Gonzalez is hitting .310 with no one on base; with men on, hes hitting .369; with men in scoring position, hes hitting .376; and with men in scoring position and two outs, hes hitting .405.

So what is the Gonzalez influence?

The consistency of Gonzalez means that the pressure is off another member of the lineup who might be slumping or experiencing highs and lows. Take Dustin Pedroia, who has scuffled all season. His .262 average is far below the .305 lifetime average he had entering the season. But Pedey is protecting the plate for Jacoby Ellsbury, who has stolen a league-leading 24 bases and has scored 49 runs, driven in 18 times by Gonzalez.

You cant help but appreciate the confidence exhibited by Ellsbury as hes regained his role as a premier lead-off batter after a washed-out 2010. Ellsbury, the current AL Player of the Week, had an OBP of .294 on April 26 as he was hitting .221. Hes played 44 games since then and hit .356, with an OBP of .407 with 19 stolen bases and, most importantly, 37 runs scored. His season-long OBP is .376.

On the other end of the lineup, the Sox, thanks to Gonzalez and Big Papi, have been able to be patient with Jarrod Saltalamacchia who, since May 5, has raised his average from .194 to .252 by hitting .289 with five homers and 32 RBI.

The same is true for Carl Crawford, who returned to his baseball roots in Tampa on Tuesday. Had he gone on May 5, the fans would show no regret over his departure as he was hitting .197. Since that date, hes hit .290, with an .805 OPS and raised his average to a not embarrassing .246.

Thanks to Kevin Youkilis and, particularly Ortiz, pitchers cant and dont issue a lot of walks to Gonzalez. He only has received 22 so far this season which is same as the As Josh Willingham who is hitting .235. But when on May 9, Papi was hitting .280 with four homers, everyone in Red Sox Nation was content. Since that date, Ortiz has hit .355 with 13 homers and 27 RBI and Gonzalez has hit .369 with nine homers and 36 RBI. Oh, and the Sox were 17-18 on May 9 and since have gone 22-8.

Look up at the standings, or in the sky, and you will see it all revolves around the magnificent Gonzalez.

Ramirez, Leon homer, Red Sox beat Angels 9-4 on Papi's night

red_sox_hanley_ramirez_062317.jpg

Ramirez, Leon homer, Red Sox beat Angels 9-4 on Papi's night

BOSTON - David Ortiz became one of the most celebrated players in Red Sox history during his storied 14-year run in Boston.

On the night he returned to Fenway to have his No. 34 take its place among the franchise's other legends, his former teammates did their part to make sure it was a memorable one.

Hanley Ramirez and Sandy Leon hit two-run homers and the Boston Red Sox beat the Los Angeles Angels 9-4 on Friday to cap a night in which Ortiz's number became the latest retired at Fenway Park.

It was the 250th career home run for Ramirez, a good friend of Ortiz who was also born in the Dominican Republic. Leon finished with three hits and four RBIs.

Ramirez said he played with Ortiz on his mind.

"He's my mentor, my big brother. He's everything," Ramirez said. "Today when I saw him on the field crying, it made me cry."

He said his home run was in Big Papi's honor.

"Definitely, definitely, definitely," he said. "I was going to do his thing (pointing his hands in the air) but I forgot."

The homers helped provide a nice cushion for Rick Porcello (4-9), who gave up four runs and struck out eight in 6 1/3 innings to earn the victory. It was the 13th straight start Porcello has gone at least six innings.

"It was vintage Porcello," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "A couple of pitches that cut his night short, but he was crisp throughout."

This could serve as a needed confidence boost for Porcello, who had been 0-4 with a 7.92 ERA in his previous five starts, allowing 47 hits and 27 earned runs.

He had command of his pitches early, holding the Angels scoreless until the fourth, when a catching error by Leon at home allowed Albert Pujols to cross the plate.

Porcello said he isn't sure if he has completely turned a corner yet after his slow start, but he has felt better in his recent starts.

"Today was a step in the right direction," he said.

Alex Meyer (3-4) allowed five runs and five hits in 3 1/3 innings.

Los Angeles scored three runs in the seventh, but cooled off after Porcello left.

Boston got out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning, scoring on an RBI double by Xander Bogaerts and then getting two more runs off wild pitches by Meyer.

Ramirez gave Porcello a 5-1 lead in the fourth with his two-run shot to right field.

Ortiz: 'A super honor' to have number retired by Red Sox

Ortiz: 'A super honor' to have number retired by Red Sox

BOSTON —  The Red Sox have become well known for their ceremonies, for their pull-out-all-the-stops approach to pomp. The retirement of David Ortiz’s No. 34 on Friday evening was in one way, then, typical.

A red banner covered up Ortiz’s No. 34 in right field, on the facade of the grandstand, until it was dropped down as Ortiz, his family, Red Sox ownership and others who have been immortalized in Fenway lore looked on. Carl Yazstremski and Jim Rice, Wade Boggs and Pedro Martinez. 

The half-hour long tribute further guaranteed permanence to a baseball icon whose permanence in the city and the sport was never in doubt. But the moments that made Friday actually feel special, rather than expected, were stripped down and quick. 

Dustin Pedroia’s not one to belabor many points, never been the most effusive guy around. (He’d probably do well on a newspaper deadline.) The second baseman spoke right before Ortiz took to the podium behind the mound.

“We want to thank you for not the clutch hits, the 500 home runs, we want to thank you for how you made us feel and it’s love,” Pedroia said, with No. 34 painted into both on-deck circles and cut into the grass in center field. “And you’re not our teammate, you’re not our friend, you’re our family. … Thank you, we love you.”

Those words were enough for Ortiz to have tears in his eyes.

“Little guy made me cry,” Ortiz said, wiping his hands across his face. “I feel so grateful. I thank God every day for giving me the opportunity to have the career that I have. But I thank God even more for giving me the family and what I came from, who teach me how to try to do everything the right way. Nothing — not money — nothing is better than socializing with the people that are around you, get familiar with, show them love, every single day. It’s honor to get to see my number …. I remember hitting batting practice on this field, I always was trying to hit those numbers.”

Now that’s a poignant image for a left-handed slugger at Fenway Park.

He did it once, he said — hit the numbers. He wasn’t sure when. Somewhere in 2011-13, he estimated — but he said he hit Bobby Doerr’s No. 1.

“It was a good day to hit during batting practice,” Ortiz remembered afterward in a press conference. “But to be honest with you, I never thought I’d have a chance to hit the ball out there. It’s pretty far. My comment based on those numbers was, like, I started just getting behind the history of this organization. Those guys, those numbers have a lot of good baseball in them. It takes special people to do special things and at the end of the day have their number retired up there, so that happening to me today, it’s a super honor to be up there, hanging with those guys.”

The day was all about his number, ultimately, and his number took inspiration from the late Kirby Puckett. Ortiz’s major league career began with the Twins in 1997. Puckett passed away in 2006, but the Red Sox brought his children to Fenway Park. They did not speak at the podium or throw a ceremonial first pitch, but their presence likely meant more than, say, Jason Varitek’s or Tim Wakefield’s.

“Oh man, that was very emotional,” Ortiz said. “I’m not going to lie to you, like, when I saw them coming toward me, I thought about Kirby. A lot. That was my man, you know. It was super nice to see his kids. Because I remember, when they were little guys, little kids. Once I got to join the Minnesota Twins, Kirby was already working in the front office. So they were, they used to come in and out. I used to get to see them. But their dad was a very special person for me and that’s why you saw me carry the No. 34 when I got here. It was very special to get to see them, to get kind of connected with Kirby somehow someway.”

Ortiz’s place in the row of 11 retired numbers comes in between Boggs’ No. 26 and Jackie Robinson’s No. 42.