The Red Sox are returning home victorious, with a combined 5-1 record between two Florida series with the Tampa Bay Rays and the Miami Marlins. Next up, the home opener at Fenway on Thursday, where the Red Sox will take a turn hosting Tampa Bay.
But it’s not all sunshine and roses after a week in the Sunshine State. After a devastating Opening Day loss, the Red Sox have won five straight and have a hold on first place. It’s early, not even a week into the regular season, but we can see the telltale signs of problems ahead that should be remedied ASAP.
Here are some takeaways from the Florida series:
1. The starting pitchers are strong
In the first five games, Red Sox starters Chris Sale, David Price, Rick Porcello, Hector Velazquez, and Brian Johnson each only allowed 1 or 0 runs. Per Red Sox Notes, in the last 110 years, the only other teams whose starters gave up 1 or 0 runs in 5 consecutive games to begin a season are the 1988 Giants and 1943 Cardinals.
We could see Eduardo Rodriguez pitch this weekend, and ideally, Drew Pomeranz will make a triumphant return from the DL, giving Cora more than enough options for his starting rotation. But so far, so good.
2. Offense needs improvement
While we did see our fair share of home runs from the likes of Eduardo Nuñez, Hanley Ramirez, Mookie Betts, and Xander Bogaerts, the offense needs to get better. Against teams like the Rays and the recently-gutted-by-Jeter Miami Marlins, the Red Sox still struggled to produce at the plate, scoring a total of 21 runs in six games. They’ll need to get their heads on straight if they want to be considered true contenders for the division, let alone the postseason. For reference, the Yankees scored 11 runs tonight.
3. JD Martinez is adjusting… slowly
For a guy who hit 45 home runs between two teams last season, JD Martinez hasn’t exactly made a splash in his first few Red Sox games. He had his first RBI single in last night’s game and a second RBI tonight, but no home runs yet. Bostonians are an impatient bunch, and after last year’s home run deficit, we want to see some balls going over the wall. Hopefully, he figures himself out sooner rather than later, because he truly seems like a good fit for the team.
4. The bullpen needs work
After an Opening Day I’d sooner forget, Joe Kelly has settled in and resumed pitching 99 MPH. He pitched a scoreless two innings with a strikeout in tonight’s win, as well as a single inning with two strikeouts on Sunday.
Marcus Walden made his long-awaited MLB debut in the 6th inning of Sunday’s game, and helped protect a 2-1 lead in the 4th game of the Tampa Bay series. Despite allowing a double off his second pitch, he quickly finished the inning and only needed 10 pitches to retire the side in the 7th, helping the Red Sox win their third straight game and the series.
Matt Barnes was showing signs of serious improvement after last year, when he was the only reliever John Farrell wouldn’t use in the September 5, 19-inning game against Toronto. Farrell even opted for Carson Smith over Barnes in the 17th inning, even though Smith hadn’t pitched since 2015. Tonight, however, Barnes almost cost us the first extra-inning game of the season when he began walking every batter he faced. Thankfully, Heath Hembree was there to close out the game after Cora turned to Craig Kimbrel too early.