Boston Red Sox

Boston Red Sox

Boston Red Sox

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - MARCH 31: Enmanuel Valdez #47 of the Boston Red Sox shakes hands with Tyler O'Neill #17 after hitting a three-run home run during the fourth inning at T-Mobile Park on March 31, 2024 in Seattle, Washington. The Boston Red Sox won 5-1. (Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images)

In review, the Red Sox opening weekend against the Mariners was hardly a disaster. Could it have been better? Sure. It could have also been worse.

A lot worse.

In the end, halving a four-game series on the road against a borderline playoff team is totally acceptable, but that doesn’t make it desirable. After Sunday’s victory to earn a split of the four games in Seattle, Red Sox manager Alex Cora said the Sox “didn’t get what we came here for,” which is easy to say after the fact. Something still suggests that Cora would have taken a 2-2 split against a Seattle team that led the American League in pitching a year ago, particularly with a starting five for Boston that is unaccomplished, unproven, unpredictable or all of the above.

“Like I’ve been saying all along, I do believe we’re going to pitch,” Cora told reporters after Sunday’s 5-1 win. Added the manager when asked to offer his overview of the series: “We’ll take it.”

So should you.

Before we get to some of the specific highlights and lowlights, there are a few things to consider as the Sox prepare for a three-game series at the doormat Oakland A’s early this week before three more over the coming weekend against a Los Angeles Angeles outfit devoid of both Shohei Ohtani and any real hope. Splitting those six games games would be a bad sign, particularly if the Angels (12th) and A’s (15th) have the same punching bag pitching staffs they did a year ago. (Again, the Angels have since lost Ohtani, who isn’t pitching this year for the Los Angeles Dodgers, either, since undergoing elbow surgery.) And before you scoff at that idea, remember that the Sox scored only 14 runs in the Seattle series and posted a .642 team OPS that ranked 20th in MLB entering Sunday night.

Of course, the Sox did play two games without Rafael Devers, who had shoulder soreness, though that, too, should give you pause.

What happens to the Sox if something happens to Devers?

The particulars:

  • The pitching plan was … interesting

    SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - MARCH 31: Garrett Whitlock #22 of the Boston Red Sox stands on the mound during the second inning against the Seattle Mariners at T-Mobile Park on March 31, 2024 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images)

    SEATTLE, WASHINGTON – MARCH 31: Garrett Whitlock #22 of the Boston Red Sox stands on the mound during the second inning against the Seattle Mariners at T-Mobile Park on March 31, 2024 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images)

    On paper, the performance by Red Sox starters in this series was outstanding: 22 innings, 14 hits, five runs (four earned), one walk and 27 strikeouts. Those last two numbers, in particular, should make you want to run through the Public Garden naked and roll around in even the dormant grass like a new puppy.

    However … as was pointed out during yesterday’s NESN broadcast, the Sox threw a truckload of off-speed offerings, which¬† included enough sweepers, cutters, curveballs, sliders and changeups to have you seeing strobe lights. According to baseballsavant.com, of the 343 pitches thrown by Sox starters in the series, only 113 (or 32.9 percent) were fastballs of the two- or four-seam variety. That feels like a preposterously low number, and only time will tell whether that approach was specific to Seattle or whether the Sox intend to junk their way to contention all year long. If the latter is true, the obvious fear is that Sox pitchers will torque their arms so much that their arms will twist up like old extension cords by July. We shall see.

  • Trevor Story and Triston Casas couldn’t hit Ceddanne Rafaela’s weight

    SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - MARCH 29: Trevor Story #10 of the Boston Red Sox checks his swing during the first inning against the Seattle Mariners against the Seattle Mariners at T-Mobile Park on March 29, 2024 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images)

    SEATTLE, WASHINGTON – MARCH 29: Trevor Story #10 of the Boston Red Sox checks his swing during the first inning against the Seattle Mariners against the Seattle Mariners at T-Mobile Park on March 29, 2024 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images)

    Ya, Mazz, why ah you bein so negative?¬†Frankly, because it’s way too early to take the cheese. And nobody should reward mediocrity.

    As we said, Devers missed two games in this series with shoulder soreness – and the Sox lost both. The team actually got good production from the bottom of the lineup, including Rafaela and Enmanuel Valdez, the latter of whom hit a three-run home run on Sunday that was the decisive blow in the game. Tyler O’Neill also homered on Sunday to give him bookend homers in the series, which shouldn’t be overlooked.

    Howevah … Nos. 3 and 4 hitters Story and Casas went 4-for-32 (a .125 average) with 11 strikeouts in the series, which should have you at least half-concerned. Casas, of course, is still a budding major leaguer who had a strong finish last year and has always projected as a middle-of-the-order bat. Story, meanwhile, has never been the kind of guy to bat third in any sort of legitimate lineup unless playing in the rarified air at Colorado, where he owns a .303 average and .603 slugging percentage. The rest of the time – including at Fenway Park – he has batted .237 with a slugging percentage of .428. The good news? The Sox play three games in the lunar atmosphere of Denver in late July. Unfortunately, their other 159 games will be on Planet Earth.

  • The fundamentals were better … most of the time

    SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - MARCH 31: J.P. Crawford #3 of the Seattle Mariners runs off the field after tagging Wilyer Abreu #52 of the Boston Red Sox during the second inning at T-Mobile Park on March 31, 2024 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images)

    SEATTLE, WASHINGTON – MARCH 31: J.P. Crawford #3 of the Seattle Mariners runs off the field after tagging Wilyer Abreu #52 of the Boston Red Sox during the second inning at T-Mobile Park on March 31, 2024 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images)

    Story factors into this equation, too, because his defense over the weekend was good. In fact, should Story and Rafaela remain healthy and in the lineup, the Sox project to be considerably better up the middle than they were a year ago, as these two plays on Saturday demonstrated:

    So what’s the problem? Well, the whole weekend wasn’t exactly like that.

    Now, if you’re asking whether the Red Sox have forever rid themselves of shoddy and brainless plays, they haven’t. For starters, in the season opener, reliever Joely Rodriguez forgot how many outs there were when he walked off the mound following a strikeout. (There was still an out to go.) Later in the weekend, outfielder Wilyer Abreu had a whale of a time, allowing a ball to go through him in the 10th inning of an eventual loss, then again when he was unaware that the runner held at third base to make sure a hit would fall on the final pitch of the game. (The run may well have scored anyway, but it wasn’t a great look.) And then, on Sunday, Abreu was picked off second base with two outs and two on, killing a rally.

    Here’s the trifecta:

    Obviously, no series is going to be perfect. But the Red Sox have a small margin for error this season, which means they have to avoid injury and ineptitude. Striking out with the bases loaded is one thing. Forgetting how many outs there are , careless flubs and boneheaded base running plays are something altogether different.

  • Generally, the Sox played hard and fast

    SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - MARCH 30: Ceddanne Rafaela #43 of the Boston Red Sox reacts to scoring during the tenth inning against the Seattle Mariners at T-Mobile Park on March 30, 2024 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images)

    SEATTLE, WASHINGTON – MARCH 30: Ceddanne Rafaela #43 of the Boston Red Sox reacts to scoring during the tenth inning against the Seattle Mariners at T-Mobile Park on March 30, 2024 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images)

    This might sound like a small and basic thing … but it isn’t. Over the last two years, the Sox often looked slow, unathletic and, to use former manager Joe Morgan’s term, “dead-ass.” Cora was part of the problem, allowing the team to pout and point the finger at ownership and upper management, though that hardly means he was the problem. (Managers generally don’t win or lose championships.) That said, the difference in this this year’s model was notable. The Sox ran hard and aggressively, and no one demonstrated that more Rafaela, who plays with the lovable energy of a windup toy.

    Watch these two plays and pay particular attention to the left fielder. On the first, Rafaela sees the fielder lollygagging and takes third place as a result. (In the big leagues, it’s almost poor etiquette to show up an outfielder like this, which is all the more reason to love Rafaela’s aggressiveness.) On the second – hit to almost the same spot – the Mariners are much more aggressive on the retrieval, which means it took Rafaela all of three days to put Seattle on its toes.

Sign me up for the 98.5 The Sports Hub email newsletter!

Get the latest Boston sports news and analysis, plus exclusive on-demand content and special giveaways from Boston's Home for Sports, 98.5 The Sports Hub.

*
*
By clicking "Subscribe" I agree to the website's terms of Service and Privacy Policy. I understand I can unsubscribe at any time.