For a team that has seemingly gone through a full season’s worth of drama and injuries in its first 31 games of 2017, the Red Sox (17-14) have plenty of issues that have already bubbled up to the surface. Third base has been a black hole of mediocrity, their lack of offense at times along with team-wide power has been troubling while the back end of the pitching rotation and the bullpen (outside of lights out closer Craig Kimbrel) have both been major question marks. Right fielder Mookie Betts (.279 BA, .350 OBP, .441 SLG, 3 HRs & 14 RBIs) has gotten off to a slower start than you’d expect from a guy that finished second in the American League MVP race last season behind Angels superstar Mike Trout. Still, you have to be patient with Betts since the face of Boston’s franchise (that’s not named Chris Sale) is only 24-years-old and playing in only his third full MLB season.
With no David Ortiz, it was easy to imagine the negative after-effect that his absence would have on the Red Sox lineup that last year was so potent. Predictably, Betts isn’t the only quality player to scuffle just a bit out of the gates (looking at you Dustin Pedroia and Jackie Bradley Jr.). By taking the last two games in Minnesota (15-14) over the weekend, in blowout fashion no less, Boston can only hope that this is more of the high-scoring team that most projected them to be this season. The Red Sox crushed the Twins 17-6 (a season-high in runs scored) on Sunday afternoon which included a 10-run ninth inning in which they nearly batted around twice. Back in his rightful spot leading off, Betts was in the middle of everything as he went 3-for-6 with a solo HR, double and two runs scored.
There are two main reasons that make Betts such a dynamic hitter and frankly one of the top talents in all of baseball when you also include his Gold Glove caliber defense: his plate discipline and speed. In 111 at bats so far in 2017, he’s only struck out nine times. He had a streak from Sept. 12, 2016 to April 19, 2017 of 129 consecutive plate appearances without a strikeout. He’s also fast (4 stolen bases, 0 caught stealing thus far) which means that he will be able to leg out infield hits that many other guys simply cannot do.
Boston opens up a three-game interleague series in Milwaukee (16-16) on Tuesday night (7:40, NESN). The rest of May sets up very nicely for the Red Sox to clean up on a bunch of average to real bad opponents. After the Brewers, they host the Rays (16-18) for three games, go to St. Louis (17-14) for two games and Oakland (15-17) for four games before hosting the Rangers (13-20) and Mariners (15-17) for three game sets at Fenway Park. Finally, May closes with three games in Chicago against the White Sox (15-15). Of all those clubs, only the Cardinals are likely to be pushing for a playoff spot this fall.