Nation STATion: Sox revolve around Gonzalez

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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.

Quotes, notes and stars: Betts has first career five-hit night

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Quotes, notes and stars: Betts has first career five-hit night

BOSTON - Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox' 6-3 loss to the Kansas City Royals

QUOTES:

"We continually do a great job in creating opportunities and I'm confident that (the struggles with men in scoring position) will turn.'' - John Farrell

"When you start off with a five-run spot in the first, that's a tough deficit to overcome.'' - Steven Wright.

"That's how it goes sometimes. Sometimes, we score when we're not expecting to and then when we need to score, sometimes it doesn't happen.'' - Mookie Betts on the team going 4-for-15 with RISP.

 

NOTES:

* The loss was just the third in the last 13 series openers for the Red Sox.

* The game marked the first time in 20 home games in which the Sox never led.

* Boston was 4-for-15 with runners in scoring position.

* The first four hitters in the order were 13-for-19 (.684). The fifth-through-nine hitters, however, were just 2-for-21 (.095).

* Mookie Betts (five hits) leads the majors with 55 multi-hit games.

* Dustin Pedroia has reached base in each of his last eight plate appearances.

* David Ortiz's double was the 625th of his career, passing Hank Aaron to move into 10 place in MLB history.

* Ortiz leads the A.L. in doubles (41) and extra-base hits (72).

 

STARS:

1) Eric Hosmer

Hosmer cranked a three-run homer into the Monster Seats four batters into the game, and the Royals were off and running with a five-run inning.

2) Ian Kennedy

The Royals starter wasn't dominant, allowing nine hits in 5 1/3 innings, but he bailed himself out of a number of jams and limited the Sox to just two runs.

3) Mookie Betts

Betts had his first career five-hit night and knocked in two of the three Red Sox runs, though he also got himself picked off first base.

 

First impressions: Royals' five-run first inning dooms Red Sox in 6-3 loss

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First impressions: Royals' five-run first inning dooms Red Sox in 6-3 loss

First impressions from the Red Sox' 6-3 loss to the Kansas City Royals:

 

Steven Wright recovered nicely after the first inning, but the damage was done.

Wright's last five innings featured just three hits allowed -- one in the infield. But the first inning did the Red Sox in -- two walks followed by a three-run homer, then a single and a two-run homer.

Whether this was a matter of rust for Wright -- who last pitched three weeks ago Friday night -- or an early inability to command his knuckleball is uncertain.

The fact is, Wright dug an early hole for his teammates, and he had the misfortune to do so against a team with the best bullpen in baseball.

To his credit, Wright kept the game somewhat within reach thereafter, but the five-run head start proved too much of a jump.

 

It's time to worry a little about Jackie Bradley.

Bradley was just 7-for-40 in the just-completed road trip, and things didn't get any better on the first night of the homestand.

In the first, he came up with two on and two out and struck out swinging to strand both baserunners. In the third, he came to the plate with runners on the corners and, again, struck out swinging.

We're seeing the same kind of slump that Bradley fell into in previous seasons, where even contact is hard to find, with nine strikeouts in the last 16 at-bats.

Problem is, with Andrew Benitendi on the DL, there aren't a lot of options for John Farrell with the Red Sox outfield.

 

Trying to get Fernando Abad and Junichi Tazawa back on track in low- leverage mop-up didn't work.

Tazawa had a perfect seventh, but gave up a monster shot into the center field bleachers to Lorenzo Cain to start the eighth.

Abad entered, and while he did record a couple of strikeouts, also gave up a single, a walk and threw a wild pitches before he could complete the inning.

Getting some work for the two was the right idea, given that the Sox were down by three runs at the time. A good outing might help either regain some confidence and turn the corner.

But not even that could be accomplished Friday night.