Records Entering Series: TB (1-5, 4th in AL East), BOS (5-1, 1st in AL East)
Boston swept the series vs. Tampa in emphatic fashion, ending the 3-game stand with a dramatic, 8th inning comeback to remain perfect in the last 8 games. While Boston continues to roll, this series began to show the flaws within this team.
The defense is not as good as their league leading fielding percentage dictates. There were at least 6 defensive plays (by my count) that were misplayed and could have led to bigger trouble had we not been so lucky.
Also, the bullpen remains a bit of a question mark. Most guys are coming in and pitching well, but it’s still a little inconsistent.
Finally, we’re still waiting for Benintendi and Martinez to break out. I don’t think there’s any reason to be worried that these guys won’t pull it together soon, but we’re creeping up to that point of the season where we can’t say, “it’s still early,” anymore.
Regardless of those points of worry, we in Red Sox Nation should be pleased with the start we’ve seen from our boys. The first true test of the year is coming up this week, as Boston welcomes the hated New York Yankees into town for a 3-game series.
Game 1: TB-2, BOS-3
(Photo credit: ESPN)
It was a cold and windy afternoon on Opening Day at Fenway Park, and the Red Sox kept the fans in their seats for bonus baseball for the 2nd time in as many games in their 3-2 win.
Starting pitchers David Price and Yonny Chirinos were magnificent. Price went 7 scoreless innings for the second time in as many starts, allowing just 3 hits and fanning 5. He threw 56 of his 91 pitches for strikes and had his entire arsenal in midseason form, baffling the the Rays offense. The Rays deployed Chirinos in one of their “bullpen days,” games, in which they use solely relief pitchers throughout the entire game.
The scoring didn’t start until the 8th inning, when Boston reliever Carson Smith walked the lead off batter and then gave up a home run to Duffy, making it 2-0 Tampa. He retired the side in order after that, and Hector Velazquez threw a perfect 9th to bring up the Sox, who refused to go quietly.
Betts led off the 9th with a single, followed by a Benintendi walk and a Ramirez single that brought home Betts. Martinez grounded into a DP, leaving Bogaerts at the plate with one out left. He delivered in the clutch with a double (already his 6th this season), driving in Benintendi and tying it up at 2. It remained 2-2 until the bottom of the 12th, with Kimbrel and Poyner combining for 2 scoreless innings in extras for Boston.
Bradley led off the bottom of the 12th with a double and was moved to 3rd by a perfect Vazquez sacrifice bunt. Betts and Benintendi both walked to load the bases, and Hanley Ramirez continued his clutch streak with a shot to the warning track in front of the bullpens in right to send everyone home happy.
Notable performance include Price’s aforementioned great outing, plus 2 hits each by Betts, Ramirez and Martinez, and Benintendi, who reached base safely 3 times.
Game 2: TB-3, BOS-10
(Photo credit: ESPN)
Tampa put Red Sox starter Rick Porcello in the hot seat right away in game 2 by putting 3 of their first 4 batters of the game on base in the 1st. Span singled to right to lead off and Gomez moved him to 3rd with a single of his own, followed by a Brad Miller double that scored both, making it 2-0 Tampa.
Boston responded right away by driving in 4 in the bottom half. Betts led off with a double, the walk machine Benintendi took a free pass, and Ramirez singled to shallow left to load them up. Martinez came painfully close to making his first Red Sox home run a grand slam, but hit it about a foot short of the wall in right, driving in Betts with a sac fly instead. Bogaerts and Devers followed with a double and a single to make it 4-2.
Although that would end up being all the Sox needed to win, they piled on in the 2nd with another 4 runs, coming off of a Bogaerts grand slam which scored Betts, Benintendi, Martinez and himself.
It went scoreless until the 7th when Boston scored 2 more off of Martinez and Devers solo shots. Tampa recorded a consolation run in the 8th when Span drive in Wendle with a single to center, and it ended 10-3 in Boston’s favor after Walden struck out Duffy to end the game.
Rick Porcello ran into his 1st inning troubles once again (a trend from last year), but was brilliant after that, at one point retiring 17 straight batters. He finished with 7.1 IP, 6 hits, 3 ER, and 7 K.
Other notable performances include Bogaerts (2 hits, 6 RBI), Devers (2 hits, 2 RBI), Nunez (2 hits), and Walden (1.2 scoreless IP).
Game 3: TB-7, BOS-8
(Photo credit: ESPN)
Game 3 was a wild one at Fenway Park. The scoring started in the bottom of the 1st when Hanley Ramirez drove in Mookie Betts after Betts doubles to lead off, then advanced to 3rd on a groundout.
Tampa answered swiftly in the 2nd with one of their own, coming off of a Cron solo shot to center. They continued their onslaught by adding a run each of the next 4 innings and two runs in the 7th. Boston recorded a run in the 5th on a Ramirez infield single that scored Nunez, and it was 7-2 to Tampa heading into the bottom of the 8th.
That’s when the Red Sox bats came alive. Ramirez singled to lead off, Moreland doubled to drive him in, Devers singled, and Nunez doubled to clear the bases, making it 7-5. Vazquez stepped up and drove in Devers with a single and then advanced to 2nd on a wild pitch. Betts drove him home with a single, tying it up, and then Benintendi drove a ball off the Monster in left center, scoring Betts and giving Boston the permanent lead.
Craig Kimbrel came on to close it out in the 9th, and the Sox went home with a sweep of this 3-game series.
Eduardo Ramirez was a bit of a mixed bag in his first start since returning from the DL. He only lasted 3.2 innings, allowing 3 runs on 5 hits, but did strike out 7 and had nice velocity and location (his movement was a little lackluster). Velazquez and Brian Johnson both hurt their causes for long-term spots by allowing 2 runs each in relief.
Notable performances include Betts, Ramirez and Vazquez (2 hits each), and Devers (1 hit, 2 RBI).
-The Red Sox are 17-3 in their last 20 extra inning games. They must have some sort of clutch gene in their DNA.
-Hanley Ramirez collected another game-winning hit (his 2nd this year) in game 1 and 2 more RBI’s in game 3. That shoulder that caused him so many problems last year looks healthy, and he’s swinging the bat better than he had at any point in 2017. If he keeps raking like he is, could the Red Sox be forced to give him over those 497 at-bats that kick in his vesting option for next year?
-David Price was brilliant again, throwing his second straight 7 inning shutout. He looks like he’s on his way to completing this bold prediction I made back in March.
-Porcello ran into some 1st inning troubles in his start, an issue that plagued him last year. Although he recovered well and pitched a really nice game after that, it’s a little worrying to see that problem rear it’s head again.
-Martinez finally got his first home run as a Red Sox. It’s hopefully the hit that brings him out of his early season slump and gives him the confidence he needs to begin raking.
-Mookie Betts and Hanley Ramirez are both on 7-game hit streaks. Betts has been the ideal leadoff hitter, acting as the catalyst of so many offensive attacks, and Ramirez has proven to be the most clutch hitter of the year so far.
-Benintendi had a chance to get the Sox back in the game in the 5th inning of the final game. With Boston down 4-1, the bases loaded, one out and a full count, he took strike 3 on the outside corner looking. It was indicative of a player lacking confidence. It seemed on that final pitch that he was looking for a walk rather than trying to do some damage with the bat. He really needs a breakout game to give him a jolt of confidence and trust in himself.
-J.D. Martinez is visibly shaky out in the outfield. It’s all well as good that he still feels that he’s young and can play out there, but when he’s fumbling plays that would otherwise be made by one of the 3 normal outfielders it becomes a problem. In the 3rd game alone there were two instances in which he messed up, one on a play on a ball off the Monster that he let get away from him, and another on a throw attempting to double up a runner at 2nd base.
-Devers’ defense seems to be coming along pretty well. He made a few nice plays at 3rd this series, but he also had a couple of mental blunders that need to be addressed.
-Bogaerts left game 3 in the 7th with what looked like a leg or ankle injury of some sort after sliding into the Tampa dugout. All of Red Sox Nation is praying Boston’s hottest hitter is okay and won’t miss more than a few days.
-With E-Rod back and Pomeranz expected to return soon, it will be interesting to see how Cora will manage the pitching depth the Sox suddenly seem to have.
-Lastly, Boston is off to their best 9-game start to a season in franchise history. The franchise is 117-years old. Think about that.