Well, technically we made our return two days ago when Mr. Childs kindly posted the Red Sox opening day roster, and I guess we never really left. But, it’s been far too long since we we’ve consistently posted content, and we’ll try to change that.
Anyway, after yesterday the Sox only have 161 games left on the schedule and the playoff race is already heating up. The boys from Beantown fell 2-1 to the Orioles on Opening Day, but it was still a pleasure to watch baseball once again. Below are some brief thoughts after watching the first game back in action:
Boston had a rough go of things yesterday in terms of producing runs. In fact, the only time they were able to score was off a Grady Sizemore round-tripper. However, the absence of runs was not due to a lack of hitting; the Red Sox managed 9 hits, including 2 doubles and Sizemore’s HR, and 3 BBs. Because they had men on base all day Boston came close to scoring on many ocassions, and they also nearly added runs off long flyouts from David Ortiz and Xander Bogaerts. Both flyouts might very well have been dingers on a day when the wind wasn’t blowing in from Left Field. Nevertheless, the Red Sox obviously need to do a better job pushing runs across the plate if they are going to compete for the AL East Division crown once again. In the end, there were too many missed opportunities to feel good about the day at the dish.
Looking back on the game, the most enjoyable part was seeing Grady Sizemore go 2-4 including his home run. Sizemore made his first appearance since September 23, 2011, and he showed that he could provide a spark to the already dangerous lineup if he remains healthy for the year. That is a big if, but it would be a welcome surprise if he could replace a healthy chunk of Jacoby Ellsbury’s production. The health issues will be a concern for John Farrell and the Boston front office, so it would be very surprising if Grady is their every-day center fielder for the entire season. It is likely that he will share time with Jackie Bradley Jr. and Shane Victorino as the season wears on. But here’s hoping that he can play in enough games to have a significant impact on the Sox’ season.
Pitching (Jon Lester)
Jon Lester pitched about as well as anybody could have hoped for yesterday, and it’s simply a matter of bad luck that he had to walk away from the game with a loss. Lester left the game after 7 innings pitched and 104 pitches (73 strikes), wracking up 8 Ks along the way and only giving up 6 hits and 1 walk. This is the type of day that Lester needed to have coming out of the gate, and if he continues to pitch this well for the entire season (something he is capable of doing, as evidenced by the majority of his career) it will prove to be a great help to the Red Sox as they look to compete with Tampa Bay and New York.
The Red Sox next play tomorrow at 7:05 PM ET, and they will have John Lackey going against recently-acquired Baltimore right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez. Lackey will be looking to start right where he left off in 2013, and he is one of many players on the Sox roster that will need to reproduce what he did in 2013 if Boston is going to contend again. Although last year might have been a surprising year for Lackey considering how poorly he pitched in 2010 and 2011, he proved that he could pitch well above replacement level for an entire season in 2013. Lackey also played an important role as a member of the postseason rotation, posting a 2.77 ERA in 5 games (4 starts). Hopefully he can start just like Lester did yesterday, and maybe tomorrow the Sox bats will also come alive like they did for all of 2013.