Impressive June behind them, Boston Red Sox gear up for huge test

Jun 29, 2022; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Boston Red Sox left fielder Alex Verdugo (99) celebrates after defeating the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 29, 2022; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Boston Red Sox left fielder Alex Verdugo (99) celebrates after defeating the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports /

It’s a good thing the Boston Red Sox entered Canada with a seven-game winning streak.

Time spent in Toronto was not as friendly to Boston as they hoped it would be. The Red Sox continued their struggles against the Blue Jays in 2022, losing two of three and dropping their record against Toronto to 3-7 this season.

Boston lost one game due to lack of hitting and a second thanks (mostly) to a blown save.

Thankfully, the Red Sox were able to salvage the third game by picking up an extra inning victory, even as the bullpen had more hiccups. Despite the mild struggles and series loss, the Red Sox enter July in a good spot.

Boston Red Sox: Keeping the pressure on

A blazing hot June record of 20-6 propelled Boston into the thick of things. This proved once again that dire starts to a season don’t always lead to worst case scenarios throughout.

Dark shadows of an evil empire still loom large over the Red Sox, with the Yankees holding a 12.5 game lead.

An above-average June, however has Boston (43-33) sitting in a tie for second-place in the A.L. East. The Blue Jays, despite having the same record as the Red Sox, do sit higher in the standings because of their aforementioned dominance over Boston so far this season.

Chances to gain ground and also pull away will soon be on the agenda for the Red Sox. Fourteen games against the Tampa Bay Rays and Yankees await, with seven homes games followed by seven road games leading up to the All-Star break.

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Approaching the midway point of the season, the Red Sox first close out their current road trip with three games in Chicago against the Cubs.

The Cubs have had their troubles this season but play as of late has been better for them. Rich Hill and Josh Winckowski are slated to take the hill for Boston this weekend, with Sunday’s starter currently up-in-the-air.

Winckowski made three starts in June, allowing only four runs in 17 innings while picking up three wins. He has filled in splendidly as Nathan Eovaldi and Garrett Whitlock continue to work their way back from injuries.

Starting pitching continues to be a pleasant surprise for this team and could get even stronger as the return of Chris Sale appears imminent. At the very least, the rotation is keeping the Red Sox, second in the A.L. in runs scored, in games. The offense has had its struggles at times but are seeing solid production from its stars. And from two players finding the right times to make key contributions.

Boston Red Sox riding high with Franchy and Rob

Very little might have been expected from Franchy Cordero in 2022, especially after his struggles and demotion in 2021.

But Cordero showed a willingness to fix flaws and do the work in Triple-A. That led to a promotion back to the big time in 2022 and he has been a solid contributor since.

The numbers aren’t eye-popping, with 3 home runs and 20 RBI, but he is hitting .252 with a .744 OPS. And Cordero has been locked in as of late, collecting nine hits in his last 18 at-bats, capped off by a 4-5 night in Wednesday’s victory.

At this point, it’s safe to say he should be the one primarily playing first base. Bobby Dalbec is struggling, especially with runners on base, and Cordero is simply playing better baseball right now.

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Another surprise contributor is Rob Refsnyder. The sample size is small but Refsnyder has shown a propensity for timely hits and defensive style.

Refsnyder is 14-41 (.341) with an OPS of 1.005. He’s swatted two home runs with 10 RBI, hitting a home run in Tuesday’s loss. Refsnyder picked up hits in eight of the 11 games he played in June, with three multi-hit games.

Cordero and Refsnyder aren’t exactly picking up the power left behind by Hunter Renfroe and Kyle Schwarber but both have played decent. And both have earned the right to continue to see regular playing time in the foreseeable future.

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The fate of the season still relies on a productive offense. It’s been one that has been relatively healthy this season and one that came together rather nicely in June. Getting healthy on the pitching side of things is equally important and, if bullpen issues get sorted out, than this team could be in the same conversation with the Yankees and Houston Astros as World Series contenders.

The next 17 games will be a true test for the Red Sox. If they keep playing at the same clip they did in June — say, going 12-5 — the team will be in a really good spot heading into the All-Star break.