The unofficial second half of the baseball season gets underway Friday night in New York for the Red Sox with a weekend series against the Yankees. It was an up-and-down first half of the season, but they currently are just two games out in the AL East and would be in the AL Wild Card game if the playoffs began today.
From an individual perspective, the team did have a few key members who under-performed in the first half. Here are three players who need to have better second halves for the team to make the postseason.
Hanley Ramirez – While he’s been much better than anticipated at first base, the bat hasn’t been there. Although he heated up in July, the Red Sox need him to hit like that for the rest of the year. The first baseman is batting .288 with eight home runs and 48 RBIs for the season. While those aren’t horrible, the Red Sox need him to perform closer to like he has in July – 10-for-20 – over six games. With him batting behind David Ortiz in the lineup, they need Ramirez to be a force so opponents won’t pitch around Ortiz all the time.
David Price – Like Ramirez, Price improved over the last month or so, but the Red Sox signed him to be an ace and they need him to pitch like one almost every time he takes the mound. Through his first 19 games as a member of the Red Sox, he is 9-6 with a 4.34 ERA, but is coming off an eight-inning shutout against the Rays to end his first half. Since May 7, over his last 12 starts, he has an ERA of 3.14, down almost 2.50 points from two months ago. The Red Sox need more of those outings like last Sunday in the second half of the year, especially with question marks surrounding the rest of the rotation.
Koji Uehara – It hasn’t been the best of years for the 41-year-old, but the Red Sox need him now more than ever with the injury to closer Craig Kimbrel. Uehara will slide into the closer’s role, even with the addition of Brad Ziegler. In 36 appearances, the right-hander has a 4.81 ERA and the big issue has been the number of home runs allowed. Over 33 2/3 innings, he’s allowed eight home runs. For the Red Sox to remain in the playoff race, they need Uehara to be better than he’s been and maybe going back to being a closer will help him do that.