The Boston Red Sox (49-63) play the middle game of their three game series against the St. Louis Cardinals (60-51). A win in the first game of the series gave the Cardinals a modicum of revenge for last year's World Series loss to Boston, but they won't be satisfied unless their season ends with a championship parade – something we can assume the Red Sox won't have to look forward to this year.
Rubbing salt in the wounds of last night's loss is that it came at the hands of A.J. Pierzynski, who the Red Sox designated for assignment after an unpopular first three and a half months in Boston. Pierzynski collected a pair of hits in the game, including one that sparked an 8th inning rally, putting him on board to score the game winning run.
Now that St. Louis used a former Red Sox to win the opener of the series, Boston will try to counter by using a former Cardinal against them.
- Joe Kelly (2-2, 4.37 ERA) gets his first start in a Red Sox uniform, facing his former team. It will be an emotional homecoming for Kelly, who not only has to face a lineup of his former teammates, but the opposing pitcher on the mound happens to be his best friend, Shelby Miller. The two pitchers came up in the Cardinals organization together and were the best men in each other's weddings. Kelly was acquired last week, along with Allen Craig, for John Lackey. Given that Craig landed on the disabled list after only 1 game in a Red Sox uniform, that puts a little more pressure on Kelly to perform in order to convince Red Sox fans they got some value out of the trade. Granted the trade was made more with next season and beyond in mind, but Boston fans aren't exactly known for their patience.
- What a difference a day makes when dealing with small sample sizes. After a 1 for 7 start to his Red Sox career, Yoenis Cespedes had some of Red Sox Nation worried. Then he came through with 3 hits last night to raise his average to .364 since the trade. If he goes 0-for-4 tonight to drop down to .266, panic will likely ensue. Give the man some time to settle in!
- Mike Napoli returns to the lineup at first base, pushing David Ortiz to the bench. Without the benefit of a DH in this series, Ortiz was bound to get a day off, so the middle game makes the most sense to avoid having to bench Napoli twice in a row. Expect Ortiz to be available off the bench to pinch-hit if needed.
- Mookie Betts is in CF tonight, getting his first start since August 1. Jackie Bradley, Jr. (0 for his last 24) remains out of the lineup for the second straight day. Brock Holt, who started in CF last night, moves to 3B, putting Will Middlebrooks on the bench to start the game.
- Shelby Miller (8-8, 4.14 ERA) gets the start for the Cardinals against his old friend. Miller was a hyped prospect in the Cardinals system and showed great potential in his rookie season last year, but he was limited to only 1 inning of relief in the postseason and was a non-factor in the World Series. This year he has regressed, with his ERA jumping up by over a full run. His strikeout rate has plummeted from 8.78 last year to a mediocre 5.99, while he's already walked nearly as many batters in 121.2 innings as he did all of last season in 173.1 innings.
- One of the reasons the Cardinals were so willing to trade Craig (aside from conspiracy theories about him being damaged goods) was to clear room for Oscar Taveras in the outfield. Baseball America ranked him the No. 3 prospect in baseball (right behind Xander Bogaerts) to start the season and scouts raved about his skill-set. He has bounced between the majors and Triple-A in his debut season, playing in only 37 games so far. The inconsistency has led to a disappointing start as he adjusts to the majors, as he's hitting only .221 with 2 HR and 11 RBI. Now that a path has been cleared for him to get regular playing time, he should see his production take off soon.
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Tags: A.J. Pierzynski, Baseball, Boston, Boston Red Sox, David Ortiz, Joe Kelly, Mike Napoli, MLB, Mookie Betts, Yoenis Cespedes