I think it's fair to say the 2017 Red Sox aren't a super team. That term got thrown around a bit after the Chris Sale trade, and I get it. Sale, David Price, reigning AL Cy Young winner Rick Porcello. Plus Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, etc. This team certainly had a chance to become a super team, but actually performing like one is a different story. Throw in the Price injury, Porcello's regression, and the David Ortiz absence somehow being more of a loss than we expected, and all of a sudden the Sox are merely good.
However, the local nine have certainly been playing better as of late and it was good to see them split a four game set in Baltimore after dropping the first two. Let's take a look at the major stories currently surrounding the Sox:
--David Price looked goooooood on Saturday night against the Orioles. He allowed just one run on three hits over seven innings while walking one and striking out seven. The only run he allowed was a Manny Machado solo shot, which we can live with. This impressive outing for Price came on the heels of a solid, if unspectacular, 2017 debut back on Memorial day. Through his first two starts Price has now surrendered four runs in 12 innings. My only fear is if Saturday night's start now raises expectations. Red Sox fans seem to be pleasantly surprised at his performance so far, but it's important to keep in mind he has still barely pitched this year. Growing pains should be expected.
--Entering Sunday I was all ready to write how I was slightly worried about Andrew Benintendi's extended slump. It wasn't so much the fact that he was slumping (the kid is only 22 and this is technically his rookie year). I was more worried about how this would affect his development. Benny was called on to sacrifice bunt on Saturday night after all. I mean, the situation called for it, but in reality you don't want Baseball America's #1 prospect entering the year laying down bunts. You want him hitting the ball hard. That's what he did on Sunday, going 3-for-4 with two YABOs and a walk. The performance raised his batting average on the year to .269 (nice). Just keep in mind there will continue to be hot streaks and cold streaks considering how young Benny is, but the future remains bright.
--Hanley Ramriez's OPS is down nearly 100 points from last season. He's one of the only real power threats in the Red Sox lineup so this is mildly concerning. So far this year Hanley is slashing .253/.354/.416 with just seven homers and 23 RBIs. Now there's a glass half full and a glass half empty way to look at this. If you're a positive minded person you could spin it as Hanley being a bit banged up this year (shoulder) and missing some games back in the middle of May since there was no DH in Milwaukee or St. Louis. You could also argue that it's a good sign how well the Sox are playing without their cleanup hitter really heating up. However, if he doesn't pick things up the offense could be in trouble, particularly from a power perspective. All this being said we know Hanley is a streaky hitter, the type of bat that can just carry the offense for a couple weeks if he gets hot. Also, people forget it wasn't until the middle of the summer last year when he really found his power stroke. I'm choosing to be a half glass full guy in regard to Hanley right now.
--This is going to require some research, but off the top of my head I can't think of a Red Sox closer having a better season than the one Craig Kimbrel is having in 2017. I've talked about him a lot this year (both on this site and on Twitter) and it's because I'm just amazed at how much better he's been than last year. Perhaps it's due to being more comfortable in Boston in his second year here, or he could be fully healthy after last year's knee injury. Either way Kimbrel has been nails in 2017. Through 25 1/3 innings he has 48 (!!!) strikeouts, a 1.07 ERA, and has closed out 16 of 17 save opportunities. He has walked just four batters. His BB/9 and hits per nine are the lowest of his career. His K/9 is the second highest of his career. And he's been sooo efficient. In every year from 2014-16 Kimbrel averaged over 17 pitches per inning. This year? He's at 15.1 per inning. It's been incredible, and he's pitching at a level that could become extremely beneficial in a short postseason series.
--Starting on Tuesday the Sox will be in New York for a decently important three game set against the Yankees. I can't remember the last time I was this excited for a Sox/Yanks series. And it's got nothing to do with the "rivalry". I think we should abolish that word until these two teams at least play in a playoff series for the first time since 2004. I'm excited because there's going to be so much young talent on the field, and it's looking more and more like the Yankees are a legit playoff contender. We know the young studs on the Sox but it'll be cool to get a look at Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, and company. Furthermore, not only do the Yankees appear to be legit for 2017, but they're likely going to be competitive for the foreseeable future as well. I expect this early June series with them to be a nice little appetizer for some nail biting games come August and September.