Things are looking up for the Red Sox right now, which should serve as a reminder to how much things can change in a timespan as short as a week. Around the trade deadline people were really turning up the heat on Dave Dombrowski. A lot of fans said he didn't do enough to improve his team's 2017 title chances. However, all three of his "big deadline moves" (Nunez, Devers, Reed) look great so far. The Sox have now won 8 of their last 10, including six in a row, and own a three game lead over the Yankees heading into Monday's off day. Some thoughts on the biggest storylines currently surrounding the team:
--Eduardo Nunez now has as many homers this year for the Red Sox (4) as he does for the Giants, despite playing in just nine games for Boston as opposed to playing three months in San Francisco. During these nine games with the Sox Nunez has 16 hits, four homers, three stolen bases, and has at least one hit in seven of his nine starts. He's playing all over the field and in every game he's played has batted either second, third, or fourth. This team was getting such little production from third base this year that the improvement from "Red Sox 3B" to Nunez is one of the biggest upgrades of the trade deadline in all of baseball. The 30-year-old infielder will undoubtedly come back down to Earth soon, but his role in this recent six game win streak is going to keep him a fan favorite for the remainder of the season.
--Speaking of successful Dombrowski trades, I'm extremely excited about what I've seen from Addison Reed through four appearances. In 3 2/3 innings he has allowed one run, struck out four, allowed two hits, and not walked a batter. The only run he allowed was off the first batter he faced in a Red Sox uniform when Carlos Santana crushed a solo shot at Fenway. Reed was noticeably pissed (which Boston fans like to see) and has been dominant since. Due to Reed's pitching style and strategy he's going to give up some homers now and then. The 28-year-old former closer throws around the plate trying to induce weak contact, which means he doesn't walk many guys but is susceptible to the long ball. Reed is certainly an upgrade over all the eighth innings arms we've had over the past two years.
--I was torn on whether or not I agreed with the decision to call up Rafael Devers as early as the Sox did. Obviously it's looking like it was the right decision though. Here is an awesome Fangraphs blog on how Devers is showing an insane amount of opposite field power, which is so important for lefty power hitters at Fenway (think of all the wall ball doubles and shallow fly ball homers Ortiz would get from playing in Boston). Overall the 20-year-old (!!!) is hitting .349/.429/.605 and that's just insane. However, I just worry that his hot start is going to create unrealistic expectations moving forward. Devers is just 3 for his last 15 and pitchers are going to begin adjusting to his swing. It'll then be up to Devers to adjust back. I'm confident he will but be patient with him. It may take time.
--Sports talk radio in Boston is convinced that this group of (still pretty young) hitters can't hit good pitching come playoff time. I'll have to admit we looked a little overmatched versus Corey Kluber, Andrew Miller, Cody Allen, etc. last October. But I'm not writing us off based off a tiny ass three game sample. If we can hold on and win the division I think we're as dangerous as any other AL team. Cleveland is scary but flawed. Houston isn't looking as strong as they were a couple of months ago. That likely leaves the Yankees and whoever wins the second wild card spot. All beatable teams. The Sox bats have hopefully grown from last year, we have an actual set up man now, Craig Kimbrel can be used for four and five out saves, and Chris Sale could pitch 1/3 of our playoff starts if need be. I'm excited about what we can do. Winning the division is essential, however.
--Looking ahead the local nine have a tough, decently important, five or six game stretch coming up this week. We play two in Tampa Bay starting Tuesday, then have another off day, followed by three at Yankee Stadium, and then come back home for one against Cleveland. All three of these teams could be potential playoff adversaries, and the way the Sox play against the AL East teams this week could go a long way in determining who ultimately wins the division. Luckily for us Sale is lined up to start Tuesday night, giving us a real good chance at pushing this win streak to seven.