Red Sox Series 1 Recap

It feels like deja vu all over again as the Red Sox were swept in 3 games on the road to start the season for the 2nd time in as many years.  To get the excuses out of the way first, I wonder who the Red Sox pissed off at the MLB offices to draw the defending American League Champions at home to open the season one year and then the defending AL Central champs with the reigning M.V.P. and Cy Young winner the next.  I long for the days of opening up against the Baltimore’s of the world.  It’s important to remember that while we are 0-3 we still aren’t as bad off as we were last season when we started 0-6.  We’ll see what happens in Toronto but here’s what I saw in the first series:

Lester was out-dueled by Verlander on opening day but was otherwise the lone bright spot in the rotation

First off, obviously the pitching was atrocious, save Lester and some good performances from Padilla and Morales in relief on Sunday.  The Tigers do have a good lineup and Miguel Cabrera looks like he’ll be a beast all season hitting in front of Prince Fielder.  I think that the 1-2 punch of Cabrera and Fielder definitely got into the heads of the Red Sox pitching staff as the series went on.  They combined for 5 home runs in the last two games and went 3-for-4 with 3 RBI in the two blown save innings on Sunday.  The Sox staff also had tremendous trouble keeping Tigers’ lead-off hitter Austin Jackson off the base-paths and he caused havoc on numerous occasions.  Josh Beckett said he wasn’t injured but his velocity was troubling.  It didn’t look that bad in spring training and suddenly he topped out at about 92 on Saturday.  Clay Buchholz was equally as bad in his outing on Sunday and you hope that he is just shaking the rust off at this point.  Both Beckett and Buchholz had trouble locating their fastballs and that is the last thing you want to do against a lineup like the Tigers.  Now Felix Doubront and Daniel Bard will have to come up big in Toronto.

Alfredo Aceves was in a word, awful against Detroit

Then there is the bullpen.  Right now it has no identity.  The silver lining here is that it seems like a very similar start to the 2003 season where the bullpen had no identity and were blowing games left and right early on.  The Sox acquired Diamondbacks pitcher Byung-Hyun Kim and eventually inserted him into the closers role and things kind of fell in line from there.  Hopefully Valentine is still feeling out the bullpen (for those saying that he should have done that in spring training, remember that minor leaguers are playing at the end of all of the games so you can’t really do it that way) and once things are settled he’ll have confidence in certain guys to put in key situations.  Obviously Melancon and Aceves are off to auspicious starts.  I’ve always been a Franklin Morales guy and he showed some grit today and I’d like to see him put into more pressure situations late in games.  Padilla was very effective today but he’s more of a “jack of all trades” guy to be used in a variety of situations.  Everyone is suddenly on the Daniel Bard for closer bandwagon but I’m skeptical.  I don’t like the idea of simply handing the closers job to a guy that almost single handedly blew the season last September.  Remember Beckett and Lester had 2 bad starts at the end and Papelbon blew the last game but Bard was consistently awful throughout the whole month of September.  And now he’s the savior?  I’m not buying it.  People talk about Aceves or Melancon not having that closers mentality.  Well, I’ve never seen it from Bard either to be honest.  I say that they stay the course with Bard as a starter and find some other solution at the back of the bullpen.

Big Papi has started the year on fire along with fellow masher Adrian Gonzalez

The offense is actually farther ahead of where the offense was after three games last year when you consider that the Sox scored more runs on Sunday (12) than they did for the entire series in Texas last year (11).  Of course they only scored 2 runs in the first two games but Verlander’s stuff was electric on opening day and the offense had a rough game on Saturday but a lot of times, especially with a lineup as stacked as the Sox’ is, it takes one big game to get an offense going.  Last year they couldn’t score more than 5 runs in any of their 1st 6 games on the road and scored over 5 only twice in the first 15 games.  Sunday they scored 12 runs and the meat of the order – Pedroia, Gonzalez, and Ortiz – are all hitting the ball well in the early going.  It also helps that role players such has Ryan Sweeney, Nick Punto, and Mike Aviles, all guys that the Sox didn’t have on opening day last season, have contributed thus far in the early going.  The Blue Jays have two young pitchers going in the first two games and close out the series with Ricky Romero who has a career 7.12 ERA vrs. the Red Sox.  The Sox can use the match-ups to catapult the offense early in the season, something they didn’t do last year.

As always it all comes down to the pitching.  Lester looks great but there has to be some early concern about Beckett and Buchholz.  Hopefully the Tigers vaunted lineup had something to do with it as well.  The bullpen is still working out the kinks obviously and Valentine seems content on sending people out there to sink or swim and he really has no other options at this point.  Some guys sunk (Melancon, Aceves) and some guys swam (Padilla, Morales).  Hopefully another power arm emerges in the back of the bullpen.  Not sure who it can be but someone is going to need to step up here soon.  Now it’s on to Toronto and thankfully we can put Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder in the rear view mirror for a while.

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About evonsports
30 year old sports enthusiast and aspiring writer from Boston.

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