After finishing the first half of the season with a record of 43-43, the Boston Red Sox are not exactly where they had hoped to be at the half way point before the season began. At times, the team has played well, and appeared to be a legitimate contender, featuring a powerful offense and a shutdown bullpen. But at other times, the team has looked much more mortal, thanks to a starting rotation that struggles to get deep into games and lineups filled with players that have had little or no Major League experience prior to 2012.
After their most recent series against the New York Yankees, in which the Red Sox lost 3 of the 4 games played, morale among fans appears low. However, despite this lackluster showing by the boys from Beantown in their final series of the first half, Red Sox fans have plenty to look forward to in the second half of the season.
The team that the Yankees defeated over the recent 4 game series lacked several key players, such as center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury, left fielder Carl Crawford, third baseman Will Middlebrooks, closer Andrew Bailey, and the heart and soul of the team, second baseman Dustin Pedroia. Though the first game of the series on Friday, July 6th was a loss, the Red Sox should be proud of their performance. After being down 5-0 thanks to a tremendous first inning by the Yankees, Boston’s bats responded and tied the game in the bottom half of the first against Hiroki Kuroda, who was coming off of an impressive month of June. In total, the Red Sox scored 8 runs that night without several key contributors. Unfortunately for Boston, 8 runs weren’t enough as Josh Beckett was rocked and the bullpen couldn’t hold the lead it had been given in the later innings.
During Saturday’s double header, the Red Sox were shut down by Freddy Garcia in the day game, but rebounded to defeat Phil Hughes in the night game thanks to a great performance from the recently called up Pedro Ciriaco. This game was incredibly important for Boston, as Ciriaco’s performance inspired the Fenway Faithful to chant his name, with the hopes of obtaining a series split the following day. However, it was not to be as Jon Lester was knocked around by the powerful bats of New York, and the Yankees took the series 3 games to one. Yet even in this game, the Red Sox bullpen stepped up, and cooled New York’s bats after Lester departed. For Lester, it was a miserable end to a first half that saw both he and fellow starter Josh Beckett slip under the .500. Though they both pitched poorly in the first half of the season, both Beckett and Lester have nowhere to go but up in the second half.
In the second half of the season, Boston will also be getting back several key players. In Ellsbury, Crawford, and Pedroia, the Red Sox have 3 players who are capable of changing the game in multiple ways. Each player provides above average to excellent defense, and each swings a more then capable bat, to compliment very good speed. With the return of these 3 players, the Red Sox will become a much sounder team defensively, and will be able to generate offense on the base paths with the threat of stolen bases. Additionally, Andrew Bailey, the pitcher who was supposed to be the teams closer, will return, leaving Alfredo Aceves free to occupy another spot in the bullpen, or perhaps the rotation. Third baseman Will Middlebrooks will also be a welcome addition when he returns at full strength, as the rookie has the potential to be a middle of the order hitter for the Red Sox. When these players return, it will serve to take pressure off of first baseman Adrain Gonzalez, who has struggled in 2012 but got hot toward the end of the first half, setting himself up for a strong second half. Red Sox fans need not panic, there is very much to look forward to, and there are several reasons that the Boston Red Sox will be a much better team in the second half of 2012.