Well, the Red Sox opening home stretch is over and I think it’s safe to say that it was not as bad as we’d feared. It was worse. Much, much worse.
Much had been said in the offseason and Spring Training about the lack of depth in the Sox starting rotation, with only three genuine starters on the roster in Chris Sale, Nathan Eovaldi and Eduardo Rodriguez following David Price’s exit as part of the Mookie Betts trade and Rick Porcello heading to the Mets via free agency. Some of us – can’t think who – had even posited the possibility of using an opener to help alleviate this problem.
Then Sale went down with an injury, we feared the worst and got the worst – Tommy John surgery, his season over before it had even begun. With Opening Day on the horizon it went from bad to worse – COVID hit the Red Sox camp striking down E-Rod and leaving him with inflation of the heart that has him shutdown for the foreseeable future. That starting rotation went from threadbare to paper thin.
For nine innings on the opening weekend of this unprecedented season that was all forgotten though.
The Sox opened the season against division rivals the Baltimore Orioles and all those pre-season woes seemed like worrying over nothing. Nasty Nate had the flamethrower fuelled, giving up just one run off five hits through six innings. But crucially, the fire was there! His fastball averaging 97.5mph and his cutter averaging just under 91mph. Eovaldi is healthy, and if he can stay that way we all know what he’s capable of!Embed from Getty Images
It wasn’t just Eovaldi‘s arm that was hot though, the offence brought the heat as well. J.D. Martinez looked like J.D. Martinez, going 3-for-5 and driving in 3 RBI. Kevin Pillar and Jose Peraza both enjoyed excellent debuts going 3-for-5 and 4-for-5 respectively. All in all the Red Sox hitters combined for 17 hits, driving in 13 runs. A cracking 13-2 win in the opening game, what had we been worrying about?Embed from Getty Images
Then the wheels came off…Embed from Getty Images
Since that first game we’ve allowed 29 runs across the next four games, seven or more in each game (all at Fenway remember, where we should have home field advantage). In response we’ve only driven in 11. Needless to say we’ve lost all four of those games.
What’s been truly notable about each of those losses is how we’ve fallen behind early in each and every one of them. By the end of the second inning in games 2 to 5 we’ve been behind and never got back in front. The starting pitchers have (with the exception of Eovaldi) simply not been good.
We need to sort that out. Quickly. As the opening game showed, we have an offence that can produce enough to beat anyone. But they need a base to launch from. Constantly having to chase the game is mentally tiring and demoralising for the hitters – especially without the energy of the crowd to feed on and help inspire a rally.
I’m not writing the season off yet by any means. But I wouldn’t be surprised if, come the end of it, our wins column bears a striking correlation to Eovaldi’s games started one…
Rich Hampson is covering the Boston Red Sox during 2020 as part of the growing team of writers at Bat Flips and Nerds. Follow him on Twitter @Armchairbaseba1