The American League All-Stars defeated the National League All-Stars by a final score of 4-3 on Tuesday night, taking home their seventh consecutive All-Star Game victory in the 90th installment of the Midsummer Classic in Cleveland.
The defending World Series Champion Boston Red Sox were represented by three All-Stars in reigning AL MVP Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, and J.D. Martinez, as well as manager Alex Cora and the rest of Boston’s coaching staff.
Starting at designated hitter and batting out of the five-hole in place of the Texas Rangers’ Hunter Pence, Martinez, now a three-time All-Star, went 0-for-2 with a strikeout before being pinch-hit for by Seattle’s Daniel Vogelbach in the sixth inning.
Bogaerts, meanwhile, came on as a pinch-hitter himself, replacing Tampa Bay’s Austin Meadows in the bottom of the seventh.
There, with no outs and runners on the corners, the now-two-time All-Star failed to pick up an RBI, but did push across an important insurance run at the time, scoring Oakland’s Matt Chapman from third while grounding into a 6-4-3 double play. That put the AL up 3-1 moments before Texas’ Joey Gallo added on to that lead with a solo homer off San Francisco Giants left-hander Will Smith.
Finally, Betts, now a four-time All-Star, did not record an at-bar in this one, but he did come on as a defensive replacement for Bogaerts in the top of the eighth, moved over to play right field in place of Meadows, and was on the field for the final out of the night when New York Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman secured the 4-3 victory for the American League with a five-pitch punchout of Milwaukee’s Yasmani Grandal.
Cleveland Indians right-hander Shane Bieber was named the game’s Most Valuable Player thanks to a 1-2-3 fifth inning in which he struck out the side on 19 pitches, marking the first time since 1999 a player from the host city’s team received the honors (Pedro Martinez, Red Sox).
All in all, it was a solid All-Star Week, the first for Red Sox manager Alex Cora, as a player or coach.
“It was amazing. As a baseball fan you just sit there and listen to them talk in the dugout and sharing thoughts and just talking the game. That's what it's all about. Overall, it's one of the best baseball experiences I've ever had in my life.” — Cora, appreciating opportunity.
It’s not the first time Cora has come out on top against Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, either.
The Red Sox have two days off on Wednesday and Thursday before opening up a three-game weekend series against those aforementioned Dodgers on Friday night at Fenway Park. It will be their first game in Boston since June 26th.
As Betts put it when speaking with reporters postgame Tuesday night, “Can’t wait to get home.”
I wrote on Sunday about how this Red Sox bullpen needs help from the outside. With the way things are trending, the three relievers Boston has frequently turned to so far this season will be burned out later in the year.
Matt Barnes and Ryan Brasier have seen their share of struggles in June, Brandon Workman is averaging nearly seven walks per nine innings this season, and Heath Hembree has been missed during his time on the injured list.
It’s been well stated that president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski should look to upgrade his bullpen before the July 31st trading deadline, so here are five names I think he and the Red Sox should target.
LHP Will Smith, San Francisco Giants
As the featured image would indicate, Giants closer Will Smith first comes to mind for upgrading the Red Sox’ bullpen situation.
Set to turn 30 next month and become a free agent this winter, the left-hander has had a fantastic year in his second full season with San Francisco, posting a 2.01 ERA and 2.10 FIP over 32 appearances and 31 1/3 innings while averaging more than 13 strikeouts per nine innings and holding opposing hitters to a .157 batting average against.
Given that Sox manager Alex Cora has decided to go without a traditional closer so far in 2019, Smith could provide the reigning World Series champs with what they have been missing in that traditional ninth inning man.
LHP Tony Watson, San Francisco Giants
Another left-handed Giants reliever, Watson’s current contract runs through the end of the 2019 campaign and includes a player option for next year.
Now in his second season with San Francisco, the 34-year-old hurler hasn’t picked up a save in a game since he was with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2017, but he can still provide help and experience to a club that is in need of it.
Through 33 appearances and 30 2/3 frames of work in 2019, Watson owns an ERA of 2.64 and a slightly higher FIP of 3.87. He is averaging nearly seven strikeouts per nine and opponents are hitting .250 off of him.
Obviously, these numbers are not as elite as Smith’s, but I think it would be worth the Red Sox’ time and effort to look into acquiring Watson, especially if the former has a hefty asking price.
LHP Sean Doolittle, Washington Nationals
The third and final southpaw on this list, Doolittle has a team option attached to his deal that runs through the end of this season.
The 32-year-old has been a bright spot in what’s been another disappointing year for the Washington Nationals to this point, posting a 3.13 ERA and 2.87 FIP over 33 relief outings and 31 2/3 innings pitches.
A one time Oakland Athletic, Doolittle has converted 16 out of a possible 19 saves while averaging nearly 11 punchouts per nine and holding opposing hitters to a .254 batting average against.
With plenty of late-game experience in hand, Doolittle is another option that could alleviate some stress for the back end of the Boston ‘pen.
RHP Shane Greene, Detroit Tigers
Now on to the American League arms, and we’ll start with Tigers closer Shane Greene.
Acquired from the New York Yankees in December of 2014 when Dombrowski was still at the helm in Detroit, Greene has evolved from a failed starter to one of the better relievers in the AL in his time with the Tigers.
The 30-year-old righty, who still has one year of arbitration left, owns a minuscule ERA of 0.93 to go along with a FIP of 3.56 through 29 games this season. He has converted 21 of a possible 22 saves while limiting the opposition to a .154 clip.
In his time running baseball operations with Boston, Dombrowski has built a reputation of going out and acquiring or signing players he has had a history with. David Price, J.D. Martinez, and Ian Kinsler all come to mind. So, why not do it again by bringing in Greene to be the new Red Sox’ closer? The asking price may be high given the years of control and what not, but this is an avenue that at least needs to be explored.
RHP Ken Giles, Toronto Blue Jays
Finally, someone the Red Sox just saw this past weekend in Blue Jays closer Ken Giles.
Like Greene, the 28-year-old right-hander still has another year of arbitration remaining before hitting free agency following the 2020 season.
Since being acquired by Toronto from the Houston Astros last July, Giles has been solid, especially this season with an ERA of 1.33 and FIP of 1.07 through 27 appearances and 27 innings of work.
In those 27 outings, Giles has averaged 15.7 punchouts per nine innings while holding opposing hitters to just a .202 batting average against. He has also converted 12 of a possible 13 save opportunities.
Giles missed a little more than a week of action earlier this month due to inflammation in his right elbow, so that may be something to monitor.
The trade deadline is just over a month away and the Red Sox currently sit eight games back of the New Yankees for first place in the American League East.