Playing Nine Innings while wondering how Marcus Walden stole Ryan Brasier’s powers . . .
1. I’ll admit it: I was quite convinced we weren’t going to see that version of Chris Sale again. You know, the one so dominant with that whip of a left arm that he finished in the top six in Cy Young voting for seven straight years, made seven straight All-Star teams, and at his best — and he almost always was at his best — was the American League’s version of Clayton Kershaw. Well, after a brutal, confusing, and worrisome start, this is Sale’s stat line over his last five starts: 33 innings, 18 hits, 6 walks, 7 earned runs, 59 strikeouts. It’s still somewhat of a mystery why it required a month of the regular season to get him right. But he is right, again, and that’s the most important plot twist of this Red Sox season so far.
2. While we’re doing the confessions thing here, might as well admit this, too. I was all-in on the notion that Jackie Bradley Jr. was going to take off offensively after working in the offseason with Red Sox designated hitter/hitting guru J.D. Martinez on a revamped swing. How has that gone? Let’s put it this way. Bradley’s OPS this season (.444) is lower than Mike Trout’s on-base percentage (.455). On the plus side, he’s way overdue to get hot, 2018 ALCS-style, right?
3. Remember when we lamented after the trading deadline last year that the Red Sox didn’t come away with much more than Nathan Eovaldi and Steve Pearce? Seemed to work out fairly well come October if I recall. I’ve been reminded of that while watching Charlie Coyle and Marcus Johansson — considered relatively underwhelming deadline additions for the Bruins — contribute night after night to the charge toward the Stanley Cup Final.
4. Michael Chavis’s scorching start to his big league career — he’s slashing .296/.406/.580 with seven homers in 96 plate-appearances — has been prolonged long enough now that he’s starting to escape certain company we don’t want him associated with in the first place. The Red Sox have had their share of prospects — I’m thinking ’77 Ted Cox, ’91 Phil Plantier, and ’87 Sam Horn – that started phenomenally, only to find their level near mediocrity. The more we see of Chavis, the more he looks like the real deal.
5. Considering he’s a novice at second base, he’s been surprisingly competent defensively, too, especially in pursuing popups. I suppose that’s faint praise too considering we used to say the same thing about Jose Offerman, but it’s not meant that way. Chavis is being asked to learn a tough position at the sport’s highest level, and he’s not a disaster. That’s an accomplishment in itself. On a scale of 1 (peak Roberto Alomar) to 5 (Chuck Knoblauch beaning fans in the stands), I’d say he’s a 4, headed toward a 3.
6. Chavis deserves all of the attention he is getting, but don’t overlook what the young infielder 14 months his junior is doing. Rafael Devers, still just 22 years old, is up to .323/.397/.456 on the season. He has slashed .387/.434/.600 and hit three home runs over his last 18 games and 83 plate appearances after a slow start that saw him fail to drive in a run through the first 13 games. I don’t know if he’s a third baseman long term, but he has an All-Star bat already.
7. I suspect and hope there is going to be a Harold Baines Bump when it comes to the Hall of Fame. In other words, the various committees that consider players no longer on the writers’ ballot are going to elect several of the dozens of overlooked players who deserve Coopertown enshrinement more than Baines, the very good longtime DH who had the right forces in his corner. The first two I want to see benefit: Dwight Evans and Lou Whitaker. Whitaker in particular should have been in a long time ago.
8. Quick programming reminder that the great Sean McDonough will be back on the Red Sox’ radio broadcasts alongside Joe Castiglione on WEEI 93.7 for the Friday and Saturday games versus the Astros. Lou Merloni will join them Friday, and Dave O’Brien Saturday. McDonough also has the series in the Bronx against the Yankees May 30-31. Also, Chris Berman’s turn in the booth is coming up. He will join Castiglione for the Indians series May 27-29.
9. Finally, a Nine Innings welcome to new colleague Julian McWilliams, who comes to the Globe from The Athletic, where he covered the Oakland A’s and probably could have given the Red Sox a head’s-up on the throwing prowess of Ramon Laureano. McWilliams, who played for the Harlem team in the 2002 Little League World Series among other baseball feats, has to be the only Boston baseball writer ever to have his own baseball-reference.com page.