At the end of July the Red Sox made one of the biggest trades in team history by trading away Nomar Garciaparra to bring in shortstop Orlando Cabrera and first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz. The July 24 game was an epic that will never be forgotten, but it was time to get to work with the new team.
First Things First
David Ortiz, who had thrown a bat in Anaheim, before the famous Yankees series, decided to drop his appeal with a string of lefties on the docket: Johan Santana, Mark Hendrickson, Rob Bell, John Halama, and Mike Maroth. Not the most intimidating multi-team rotation outside of Santana, but the timing was right.
Because the trade deadline took place during a series against the Minnesota Twins, and Mientkiewicz was a Twin at the time, his transition was simple. Santana and Pedro dueled on the mound all night, with the southpaw striking out 12 over eight innings against Pedro’s 11 in seven.
While Pedro allowed just two runs to Santana’s three, Mike Timlin put runners on base for Alan Embree to inherit and ultimately allow to score. Home runs from Orlando Cabrera (unexpected) and Manny Ramirez (somewhat expected) weren’t enough to carry the day, but sure looked good against the emerging Twins’ ace.
With 2015 celebrating 10 years of the Washington Nationals, it’s almost hard to remember that Cabrera came from the Montreal Expos with Canada’s other team playing a small role in the Red Sox’ season for the history books.
Saying farewell to the Twins was followed with a strong hello to the then Tampa Bay Devil Rays. While Woonsocket’s own Rocco Baldelli, aided by B.J. Upton and Carl Crawford, were beginning to turn around the offense, Mark Hendrickson was rocked for six runs and Bell for another five the next day. John “the Llama” Halama allowed four runs (two earned) to best Bronson Arroyo in the series finale. With Mark Bellhorn joining Pokey Reese on the DL, Bill Mueller manned second base instead of his usual third.
Facing the Tigers didn’t bring good news: Mike Maroth, who was coming off a 21-loss season in 2003, outlasted Derek Lowe for the win in game one. But Ortiz returned the next day and the Red Sox won both games thanks to a strong start by Pedro and an 11-run day for the offense to bail out Tim Wakefield, who allowed eight Tigers to score.
With a four-game set against the Rays, the month began to turn around. Curt Schilling was bested by Halama in game one, but the Red Sox took games two, three, and four. Kevin Millar would see time as a right fielder while Trot Nixon was banged up, but the Red Sox outscored the Rays 28–8 over the final three games, making his questionable defense a non-factor.
The White Sox and Blue Jays came to town next, and while the Sox lost two out of three to the Pale Hose, they swept the Jays and hit the road for the mirror match against Chicago and Toronto. This time the White Sox were swept, but behind longtime Red Sox nemesis Ted Lilly, the Blue Jays took the first game of their series. That game, played on August 23, would be the last one the Red Sox lost until September.
After dropping the first game, Doug Mirabelli drove in three of the Sox five runs in game two and the offense rolls on in game three with eleven runs crossing the plate.
With four games at Fenway against the Detroit Tigers and Arroyo, Lowe, Pedro, and Wake taking the mound, the series could have gone either way based on each pitcher’s performance thus far. But not in August. The Tigers lost all four, scoring more than one run just once.
Ending the month against the Anaheim Angels, who were fighting with the Sox for the Wild Card, Sox took the first game 10–7, besting none other than future Boston pitcher John Lackey. Lackey allowed six runs (four earned) and his teammate Ramon Ortiz game up four more. Mike Myers did allow a grand slam in the win, but things couldn’t have gone better, all things considered.
Well, not quite. The Cleveland Indians crushed the New York Yankees 22–0.
The Red Sox ended the month 21–7, 3.5 games out of first place after starting the month 9.5 back.
The Ups and Downs
The month of August did not treat the 2014 Red Sox nearly as well as their 2004 brethren. In 2014 the Red Sox have just one month at .500: April. After a 10–15 July, the team improved slightly to 12–16, matching their June record.
After selling off veterans for, well, veterans, the Red Sox dedicated August to seeing what they had on the farm and the big league roster. Who should be a part of the 2015 club, and who was expendable? It was time to find out.
Kicking off the new plan was Anthony Ranaudo. The Sox drafted the righthander in 2010 with the 39th pick. In his debut, against the Yankees no less, the rookie allowed four hits and two runs over six innings to give the Sox the win.
Allen Webster, remaining inconsistant in the big leagues, lasted just 2.2 innings in his start against New York. Six walks against one strikeout, four runs allowed, and 71 pitches needed in less than three innings isn’t good enough. If Webster wants to remain a rotation candidate, he’ll need to show more. A back-and-forth game started by Clay Buchholz and David Phelps ended with the Yankees winning 8–7.
In a World Series matchup, the Sox lost two out of three to the St. Louis Cardinals while playing by National League rules. Rubby De La Rosa pitched well enough, but not great, while allowing a single run in six innings but Junichi Tazawa was unable to preserve the lead in the eighth inning.
Joe Kelly, who came over in the Lackey trade, would win his start against his former team, but Adam Wainwright would top Brandon Workman in the finale.
The Sox would take two out of three against the Angels while continuing the road trip and swept the reeling Cincinnati Reds in a two-game series before heading home.
Splitting four games with the Astros wasn’t ideal and would put the Sox at 8–7 on the month. Remember, they had been above .500 in only one month in 2014. But the wheels, like they had so many times during the season, fell off.
The Angels and Mariners both swept the Sox—over a four-game and three-game series respectively. The lowlights piled up. Arguably the lowest, August 22.
In the ninth inning the Sox were up 3–0 on the Seattle Mariners and the automatic man, Koji Uehara, entered the game. Kyle Seager pops out to begin the inning, followed by a single to left by Logan Morrison. Catcher Mike Zunino strikes out but Morrison steals second base during Endy Chavez’s at bat. Chavez draws the walk. A single from Chris Denorfia loads the bases. Two out, Austin Jackson up. The speedy centerfielder doubled in two runs. Dustin Ackley followed up with a single, plating two more runs. The Red Sox were down 4–3. A single by Cano increased the lead to two before Edward Mujica replaced Uehara and promptly struck out Kendrys Morales to end the inning. The Sox didn’t recover.
Two wins against Toronto would snap the losing streak, but the Jays took the final game.
In the final series of the month, against the Tampa Bay Rays, Ranaudo allowed three runs in six innings, backed up by a grand slam off the bat of Mookie Betts, to help the Sox win game one. Chris Archer collapsed for eight runs in four innings against the Sox that Friday. Webster would repay the Rays the next day giving up six of his own while Rays’ starter Jake Odorizzi blanked the Sox for seven innings allowing just one hit.
Clay Buchholz and Alex Cobb faced off in the final game of the month; Buchholz, struggling all year, Cobb, emerging as the Rays best pitcher. August 31 was Buchholz’ to own: a complete game shutout of Tampa on just 98 pitches topped a good outing by Cobb, who allowed two runs in 6.1 innings.
Entering September 19.5 games out of first was not what the Red Sox had in mind in April. With just one month left, what can be salvaged?