Opening Day at the ‘Trop’ didn’t go quite as well as the Red Sox and new manager Alex Cora envisioned.
It started well enough. Chris Sale took to the mound and had a very Sale-like performance. The Sox ace struck out nine over six innings of one-hit ball. They even jumped out to an early 3-0 lead, aided by a two-run inside-the-park home run from Eduardo Nunez. However, the Rays rallied off of reliever Joe Kelly and the once promising start was dashed. At the same time north of the border, Giancarlo Stanton slugged two home runs in his Yankee debut en route to a win by their AL East rival. All was lost.
Five days later and that start is all but forgotten.
The team wrapped up their six-game Florida road trip with a 4-2 win over the Marlins on Tuesday—their fifth in-a-row. Now, they have a day off as they prepare for the home-opener at Fenway Park on Thursday.
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“We stole that one, honestly,” manager Alex Cora said via the Boston Herald in reference to their 4-2 win over the Marlins on Tuesday to wrap up the road trip. “We need to get better in a few aspects of the game as we all know, but for them to keep grinding and putting good at-bats, it seems like the at-bats were getting better late in the game. The energy level was there. I know it’s early, but better 5-1 than 4-2.”
The starting rotation has been a big factor in the quick turnaround. Through six games, starters one-through-five have pitched 35 innings and allowed just four runs. With Sale pitching the season opener, David Price is set to get the ball for the home-opener on Thursday as he looks for his second win of the season. In addition, closer Craig Kimbrel has picked up right where he left off. Kimbrel has struck out three batters in two innings and has allowed no runs in two save opportunities thus far.
The offense, however, has been a bit suspect at times. Especially when you consider that Jackie Bradley Jr., Andrew Benintendi, and J.D. Martinez have combined to go 5-of-42 and have driven in a combined two runs. In addition, the baserunning, well, it has been a bit more than suspect. In fact, it could be a factor in this teams undoing later in the season if it doesn’t get fixed.
With that said, Hanley Ramirez has gotten off to a surprisingly strong start, batting .294 with five hits, a double, and a home run. Third baseman, Rafael Devers has matched Ramirez in batting average and leads the Red Sox with five runs batted in. The duo of Mookie Betts and Xander Boegarts have combined to go 16-of-41 with seven doubles among them. Betts is hitting .316 with Boegarts leading the team with a .455 average. Boegarts, in particular, is off to a fantastic start. To go along with his .455 average, Boegarts has scored five times, slugged a home run and has a league-leading five doubles.
“I mean, I’m trying to improve,” Bogaerts said via the Boston Herald earlier in the week. “It’s just working, you know? I’m working with my hitting coaches. I just try to come in and do the same thing every day, be consistent. It’s what I’m trying to do this year a little bit better, be consistent with my work and just whatever happens out there happens.”
Boegarts started hot last season as well but fizzled down the stretch after a hand injury limited him. In order for Sox to compete in the division and climb closer to the World Series, Boegarts must be a crucial factor. Along with the rest of the cast, of course, but Boegarts could be the key.
The Sox will now turn their attention to their home opener as the Rays come to town. There will be a different feeling at Fenway as the Sox bring with them an early lead in the division and, of course, it will be the home debut of new manager Alex Cora.
Price will head to the mound in his second start of the season and his second against his former team. It will be Price’s first start at Fenway since July 16th of last season—a 5-2 win in which he pitched eight scoreless innings against the Yankees. He would make his next start before missing the next month and a half. Upon returning, Price worked out of the bullpen for the Sox. There, he found success allowing no runs on 8.2 innings of work during the last month of the regular season. With his start last Friday, the Sox hope that success carries over in his return to the rotation.
The season is long. In fact, there are still 156 games remaining—19 looming against the Yankees. However, if the early returns on the 2018 Red Sox are any indication, the opening day mishap is not the norm for this team. Far from it. Most expect Martinez and Benintendi to heat up eventually. When that happens, combined with the strong starts from Boegarts, Betts, and Ramirez, the Sox could have an offense that rivals the Yankees.
And if they don’t, the rotation will close the gap.