Some of the bouquets thrown at the Yankees should have been saved for their rivals.
The Yankees were celebrated for their trade-deadline acquisitions of Sonny Gray (Athletics), Tommy Kahnle, David Robertson and Todd Frazier (White Sox), while the Red Sox seemingly had a quiet deadline acquiring Addison Reed (Mets) and Eduardo Nunez (Giants).
Since then, the Red Sox have surged four and a half games ahead of the Yankees in the AL East, and finally are starting to look like a complete team after months of fans and media wondering when they were going to take off.
“No question [it was a flawed team] looking back on it,” NESN play-by-play man Dave O’Brien said ahead of the teams’ three-game set, which begins Friday night in The Bronx. “I don’t think there was massive panic. But now in the light of those moves and the energy and the momentum that they had produced, there’s no question they needed to happen. You have a highly respected veteran in Eduardo, who has come in and his personality has rubbed off on a lot of people. He has an infectious side to him.”
While Reed has solidified the bullpen and Nunez the middle infield with Dustin Pedroia ailing, the most significant Red Sox addition has been 20-year-old third-base call-up Rafael Devers.
“I am trying to figure out something I don’t like about him,” O’Brien said of Devers, who was hitting .319 with three homers and seven RBIs in his first 12 big league games.
“The kid has power, opposite-field power, he makes the adjustments a 30-year-old should make, not only at-bat to at-bat, but pitch to pitch. … He’s clearly ahead of many other prospects in terms of maturity and approach at the plate. It looks like this kid is going to be playing third base in Fenway Park for the next 15 years and no one is going to blink. That’s been a black-hole position for a long time, most notable the failure of Pablo Sandoval. He has calmed any issue at the position.”
The Yankees and Red Sox will play 10 games over the next 23 days in a stretch that likely will determine who will win the division and who will fall into the tightly contested American League wild-card battle.
“You got the Yankees coming up and a bunch of Yankees series in a tight-knit amount of time and that’s going to heighten the anxiety,” said O’Brien, who is in his second season calling games full-time for NESN. “I think that’s going to happen in both cities. There’s a rekindling in this rivalry that comes with winning and success.”
While the Red Sox were fading to start the second half, the team was embroiled in an odd controversy with NESN analyst Dennis Eckersley. Now-injured starter David Price had cursed out Eckersley on a plane for being too critical of the team.
“It happened. But in Boston it’s an old story by now, kind of off the page,” said O’Brien, whose regular analyst, Jerry Remy, is battling cancer for the fifth time.
“Dennis said the other night he’s moved on from it, even though it was brutal to go through. Working with Eck — and he doesn’t travel much, so he doesn’t do them all — it seems to me he’s the same guy he always is. … The club has been doing nothing but winning, so no doubt that makes an analyst’s job a lot easier. Everyone in the booth wants to see the Red Sox win He seems like he’s over with it.”
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