The scheduling gods gave the Red Sox some gifts to start the 2018 campaign. The club didn’t even have to travel far from the spring headquarters to start the new season with three games at Tampa and two at Miami before heading back to chilly Boston for yet another set with the Rays. These games are opportunities to rack up some early wins against two rebuilding clubs and, save for a tough loss on Opening Day, the Red Sox responded with six good wins—wins that count just as same as the ones against tough opponents late in the season.
You can argue, justifiably perhaps, that it shouldn’t have been this hard to put away the Rays and the Marlins. Except for a solid 7-3 win over Miami on Monday, four of the remaining six wins have been hard fought, one-run victories. That includes, of course, Opening Day at Fenway, in which Boston was held scoreless until Xander Bogaerts tied the game with a two-out double in the bottom of the ninth inning. That’s when the momentum shifted, though it would take three more frames to finish things off right.
In the end it was Hanley Ramírez who powered a walk-off win that gave Boston a second straight extra-inning victory. The Sox have, in fact, won nine consecutive extra-inning games. The walk-off was the eighth such win at a Fenway home opener, the first since Mo Vaughn‘s grand slam against the Mariners on April 10, 1998.
For Ramírez, who says he feels healthy and may be doubly motivated by a contract incentive, it was his second straight game with a game-winning hit in the 12th inning or later.
Particularly at the start of the season, the schedule makers leave plenty of room for weather-related make-up games. Thanks to that, the Red Sox have an oddball Friday off (their first such Friday rest since 2012), take on the Rays for two more this weekend, then enjoy a Monday off before the Yankees come to town. For most, that series against New York will be the first real test of the season.
Fenway Faithful Rewarded With A WIn
On Thursday David Price struck out five and allowed three hits but held the Rays scoreless through 7.0 innings. It was his second straight scoreless start to the begin the season. Price is the first Sox pitcher to hold an opponent scoreless in his first two starts of a season since Derek Lowe in 2002. Since returning from the DL late last year and including the 2017 postseason, Price has not allowed a run in his last 29.1 IP.
After the game Price acknowledged the fans who cheered him as he left the mound after the seventh inning. “I didn’t want to tip my cap,” Price explained, “because that would take me out of the game.” Price said he didn’t know at the time if Manager Alex Cora would send him back out for another inning. “If I’d been sure of it I definitely would have tipped my cap.”
Overall, Red Sox starting pitching has been outstanding, with an 0.86 ERA through the first seven games. Boston starters have allowed zero or one runs in each of those first seven games thereby extending a major league record streak of consecutive such starts to begin any season.
Carson Smith, first out the pen today, allowed the Rays only runs on a home run by Matt Duffy. For Smith, it was just the third home run he’s allowed over 94 career appearances (89.1 IP). Hector Velázquez and Craig Kimbrel came in for one frame apiece, but it was youngster Bobby Poyner, who once again impressed with two strong innings. Poyner was rewarded with his first major league win.
On the field, Red Sox fielding has been superb with no errors committed to date. That matches the 2013 club’s longest errorless-games streak to begin a season since 1913.
But when it comes to offensive production, the Red Sox aren’t firing on all cylinders just yet. Though Jackie Bradley came through with an important leadoff double in the bottom of the 12th, he likewise grounded out in the bottom of the 9th with the bases loaded. Bradley is slashing .136 AVG/.240 OBP/.227 SLG to open the year, Andrew Benintendi is at just .174/.367/.174 and fans have yet to see flashes of power from new slugger J.D. Martinez.
Until the offense shows up consistently, the fate of the Sox will rest squarely on its pitchers.
Thursday’s home opener improved the Red Sox to 6-1 on the young season.