The Cincinnati Reds beat the Boston Red Sox in the dramatic 1975 World Series, four games to three. It marked the first of back-to-back championships for Sparky Anderson’s Big Red Machine. This week, a little more than 47 years later, the two franchises will match up for a somewhat less momentous three-game series at Fenway Park.
The Red Sox sport a 28-25 record. While that would tie for first place in the NL Central, it qualifies for fourth in the tough AL East. The Red Sox played .500 ball in April and have been streaky since. They followed an 8-game winning streak in May with two four-game losing skids plus another 4-win stretch. The Cardinals swept them for three games in St. Louis. Boston peaked at six games over .500 on Mother’s Day weekend and have been giving back ground since.
The Red Sox franchise has been successful over the past twenty seasons. They won four World Series: 2004, 2007, 2013 and 2018. They reached the ALCS four other times and the ALDS another four times. They finished 78-84 last year, fifth in their division.
John Henry has been the principle owner of the club since 2001. The purchase price of the team was $700 million. Forbes now values the franchise at $4.5 billion. Henry’s net worth is estimated at $4 billion. Henry also owns the Liverpool Football Club and the Boston Globe. The Red Sox payroll has typically been at the top of the pile, averaging over $200 million the past eight seasons. Their estimated payroll for 2023 is $197 million.
The three-game series kicks off tonight at historic Fenway Park.
- Tuesday (7:10 pm)
- Wednesday (7:10 pm)
- Thursday (7:10 pm)
Over the half-century since Joe Morgan’s two-out single drove in Ken Griffey for the game winning run in 1975 … you may recall the moment …
… the two teams have played only 17 games against each other. The Red Sox own a 14-3 record in those games, although the two teams split four games last season. The winning Reds starters in those two games were Chase Anderson and Luis Cessa. In the 17 games since 1975, the Reds scored more than four runs only once, in the most recent game between the two teams, winning 5-1.
Like most big payroll teams, the Red Sox experienced significant roster turnover last offseason. The lost SS Xander Bogaerts, their second-best hitter, to free agency. On the pitching side, starters Rich Hill, Nathan Eovaldi and Michael Wacha departed. Those three pitchers had combined for 69 starts for the Red Sox in 2022.
The club bolstered their offense by signing OF Masatako Yoshida from Japan, former Red Adam Duvall and Justin Turner. They acquired SS Aldaberto Mondesi from the Royals in a trade.
- Masataka Yoshida (OF) 5 years, $90 million
- Justin Turner (DH) 2 years, $22 million
- Adam Duvall (OF) 1 year, $7 million
- Aldaberto Mondesi (SS) 1 year, $3 million
- Raimel Tapia (OF) 1 year, $2 million
They also rebuilt their bullpen from the back-end out, signing veteran closer Kenley Jansen and top set-up reliever Chris Martin. They also added Joely Rodriguez and Richard Bleier. To add depth to their starting rotation, they reached a 1-year, $10 million with veteran Corey Kluber.
- Kenley Jansen (RP) 2 years, $32 million
- Chris Martin (RP) 2 years, $17.5 million
- Joely Rodriguez (RP) 1 year, $2 million
- Richard Bleier (RP) 2 years, $6 million
- Corey Kluber (SP) 1 year, $10 million
The Red Sox offense has been in the top half of the league. They rank 10th in wRC+ (Reds 23rd), fifth in batting average (Reds 14th), 18th in walk-rate (Reds 10th) and 11th in power (Reds 27th). Like most teams, they’ve been inconsistent.
Here are the 13 Red Sox position players with their 2023 stats through Saturday.
On the IL are IF Trevor Story (elbow), SS Aldaberto Mondesi (knee) and Adam Duvall (wrist).
Here’s the lineup manager Alex Cora has used against right-handed pitchers:
The Red Sox starting pitching staff has much in common with the Reds. Both rank in the bottom five in ERA. Both rate much higher with the fielding-independent measure of SIERA — Boston 9th, Reds 14th. That’s because both teams sit in the bottom five in defensive runs saved. The Red Sox have the 8th most strikeouts (Reds 12th) and 12th fewest walks (Reds 17th). Hard contact has been a problem for both rotations, with the Red Sox ranking 27th in average exit velocity surrendered while the Reds are 26th.
Brayan Bello is a skinny right-hander making his 8th start in 2023. He throws a 95-mph fastball and sinker for more than half his pitches. He also throws a slider and changeup. Notably, Bello has an xERA of 4.98.
James Paxton is pitching in his 10th major league season. This will be his fourth start in 2023. The former ace of the Seattle Mariners staff hasn’t pitched in more than five games since 2019. He’s still a fastball-first guy with a 96-mph heater. He’s struggled so far but the fielding-independent metrics like his 2023 performance better.
Chris Sale is in his 13th big league season. He’s been a dominant starter for most of the past decade, although injuries limited his starts to 11 the past two seasons. Sale will make his 11th 2023 start on Thursday in the series headline matchup with Hunter Greene. His fastball velocity has hung in there at 94.4 mph and he’s throwing it more than almost ever.
Here are the series’ probable starters. The Reds are scheduled to face to lefty starters in Paxton and Sale.
- Tuesday Ben Lively vs. Brayan Bello
- Wednesday Luke Weaver vs. James Paxton
- Thursday Hunter Greene vs. Chris Sale
The Red Sox and Reds bullpens have been comparable as well. The Red Sox rank 11th in ERA and 24th in SIERA while the Reds are 10th and 23rd respectively.
Kenley Jansen just recorded his 400th career save — only the 7th pitcher to reach that milestone. He’s been effective as the team’s closer but his strikeout rate has fallen and his walk rate is up. Chris Martin has been a reliable set-up reliever. Josh Winckowski has been a starter his entire career until 2023. Joely Rodriguez, the sole lefty and Justin Garza are newcomers. Nick Pivetta and Corey Kluber are veteran starters who have been demoted to the pen.
Yes, Kutter Crawford throws a cutter, for 1/3 of his pitches.
The Reds travel from one old ballpark to another. Fenway Park was built in 1912, two years before Wrigley. David Bell’s club will have to ignore the mystique and handle the idiosyncrasies of Fenway, including the 37-foot Green Monster in left field. Jake Fraley and Stuart Fairchild have played six games against the Red Sox, but none at Fenway. With Tampa Bay, Wil Myers played 13 games in Fenway, but none in LF. He’s on the IL anyhow. The Red Sox are 15-11 at home and the Reds are 10-15 on the road.
Home field advantage aside, this should be a close series. The Red Sox have the better record by a handful of games, but the Reds are coming off a 5-2 week, while Boston was 2-4. Another factor to watch: Is the AL East that much better than the NL Central? The Red Sox are 2-7 against the NL Central this year. The Reds are 1-5 against the AL East.
That said, the Reds have won before in Boston.