Thursday, July 21, 2016

Hanley Blasts Red Sox Back Into First Place

On a night that was supposed to belong to Drew Pomeranz, Red Sox first baseman Hanley Ramirez stole the show.

Ramirez clubbed three home runs and drove in six runs as the Sox swept their two-game series with the N.L. West leading Giants and moved into first place in the A.L. East courtesy of the Orioles 5-0 loss to the Yankees.

Last night was by far Hanley biggest performance in his 2016 comeback season.  Last year he struggled with injuries and was a train wreck in left field in his first season in Boston after signing a 4-year, $88-million contract.  This season, after moving to first base, Hanley has played quality defense but up until recently has not been driving the ball the way he usually does.  The lack of power was attributed to the shoulder injury he suffered last year but recently he's looked like the Hanley that was once one of the N.L.'s most feared hitters and was a top prospect in the Red Sox organization over a decade ago.

For the season, Hanley is hitting .285, has an OPS of .813, and has 19 doubles, 11 home runs, and 54 RBI.  While those stats are slightly below a normal season, over the last month he has been on a tear. In his last 28 days, Hanley is hitting .373 with an OPS of 1.232 and has 7 doubles, 5 home runs, and 13 RBI.  This increased production has taken an already potent lineup and made it even scarier for opponents to face.  It also provides David Ortiz, who hits cleanup in front of Hanley, protection from being constantly pitched around.

While the good news was Hanley's big night and the great news was the team taking control of first place, the bad news was that Pomeranz struggled in his first Red Sox start.  One bad start does not automatically make this trade a dud but after being spotted an 8-0 lead after three innings, Pomeranz could not get out of the fourth inning after he let up five runs on six hits - two of which were home runs - and a walk without recording an out.

It should go without saying that the Red Sox are to hold on to first place and win the division, they will need much better results from Pomeranz.

However, if Hanley Ramirez and the Red Sox offense keep slugging away, there is hope for this team in spite of its mediocre pitching.

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