Red Sox World Series Hopes Getting Lift from Pair of Former Bulldogs
The Boston Red Sox are about to kick off the second half of the season, and they currently hold the best record in the American League (58-39) and a 2½-game lead atop the AL East thanks to a lot of help from a pair of former Yale University baseball players.
On Aug. 18, a pair of former Bulldogs, Craig Breslow '02 and Ryan Lavarnway '09, became the first all-Yale battery mates since 1883 in a 4-1 Red Sox win over the New York Yankees, and now they are providing critical contributions to Boston's success in 2013, a season that is setting up to be special one for Red Sox nation.
Breslow has been critical to Boston's success in the first half of the season, providing consistency and a keen ability to get big outs for a bullpen corps that is ranked 24th among the 30 teams in the major leagues in bullpen earned run average (4.10), which also happens to be last among the five teams in the AL East.
Meanwhile, Lavarnway is getting another chance to make his mark with the Red Sox after the team's back-up catcher, David Ross, suffered his second concussion of the season and was placed on the team's 60-day disabled list.
Breslow did not get off to start to his season that he was hoping for after signing a two-year contact with the Red Sox in January. He started the season on the disabled list with left shoulder tendinitis. However, since he was activated from the 15-day disabled list on May 6, Breslow has been one of the most dependable pitchers in the Boston bullpen, and he has solidified his role as the team's set-up reliever.
At the All-Star break, Breslow holds a record of 3-2 this season in 31 relief appearances. He has recorded a 2.81 earned run average in 32.0 innings pitched, with 19 strikeouts and just eight walks.
Even though he is left-handed, the 32-year-old has been equally effective against right-handed batters. He has held left-handed batters to a .255 batting average with 10 strikeouts, while right-handers are hitting just .264 with nine strikeouts against the former Bulldog.
"He's had some success against left-handers," Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell said in a May 7 story on the Red Sox website. "But he's also been a guy that takes almost a starter's approach to shorter outings, and that's what's allowed him to be successful against right-handers as well."
Lavarnway is in the middle of his third stint with the Red Sox this season after his most recent promotion from Triple-A Pawtucket on June 18. He is currently serving as Boston's back-up catcher to starter Jarrod Saltalamacchia after the injury to Ross.
In the 12 games in which he has played at the major league level this season, Lavarnway is hitting .243 (9-for-37) with four doubles and four RBIs. In his 39 games as Pawtucket's starting catcher, Lavarnway hit .259 (36-for-139) with nine doubles, three home runs and 21 RBIs.
However, the former Bulldog's biggest contribution to the Red Sox has come behind the plate. In a June 23 story on the Red Sox website, Farrell praised Lavarnway's play this season.
"He's shown good energy behind the plate," Farrell said. "His receiving and throwing, I think, are markedly improved over last September. He's always been known as an offensive type of catcher. … He's shown the ability to handle some quality stuff and did in Spring Training, even though the offensive numbers might not have been there. I thought he did a good job receiving and throwing in Spring Training."
The Red Sox will return to the diamond on Friday, when they host the Yankees for a three-game series at Fenway Park. If Boston expects to hold off a late charge by the Yankees or any of the other AL East contenders in the final 10 weeks of the season, it's almost certain that Breslow and Lavarnway will be at the middle of the playoff run.