Boston Red Sox

Boston Red Sox

Monday, April 05, 2010

A Good Start and Some Good Signs for Red Sox

Though the first game was a bit of a mixed bag, all's well that ends well.

Red Sox resident ace Josh Beckett looked rather ordinary on the mound, throwing 94 pitches in just 4.2 innings. In that span, Beckett surrendered eight hits, three walks, two home runs, and five runs in all. What's more, he had just one strike out, his fewest in nearly two years (June, 2007).

The good news was that the Red Sox came back from deficits of 5-1 and 7-5, scoring the winning run on a passed ball in the seventh.

And the Sox bullpen out dueled the Yankee pen, an optimistic sign for Sox fans everywhere.

Red Sox' bullpen: 4.1 innings, 4 hits, 2 earned runs, 3 walks, 1 strikeout
Yankees' bullpen: 2.2 innings, 6 hits, 3 earned runs, 2 walks, 1 strikeout

It was also encouraging to see the new guys get off to strong starts.

Adrian Beltre went 1 for 3 with two RBIs. Mike Cameron and Marco Scutaro were both 2 for 3. The trio accounted for five hits, two runs scored, two walks, three RBI – and no errors.

Beating the defending champs on Opening Night was uplifting for both the Red Sox and their fans, but as Kevin Youkilis noted, “We’ve still got 161 games to play.’’

Winning at home is one thing, but the Red Sox will need to get it done on the road this season as well.

The Red Sox were a very good home team last year, as they have been for much of the decade. In fact, since 2003, the Red Sox 373 wins, .294 average, 5.9 runs per game, and 1,411 doubles at home lead the Majors.

However, the team's glaring weakness in 2009 was that they were significantly better at home than on the road.

The Red Sox scored 481 runs at Fenway last year, leading the Majors. But they were ninth in the Majors (fifth in the AL) in runs scored on the road, with 391. That 90 run differential was their Achilles heel, and it was exploited by the Angels in the ALDS.

The Red Sox 2009 season can be defined as a tale of two teams; the Red Sox at home, and the Red Sox on the road.

The team's lackluster road offense haunted them all season; they were just 39-42 away from Fenway in 2009.

Much of that was due to the fact that the Sox batted just .257 on the road, a number that ranked ninth in the American League behind teams like Cleveland, Oakland and Chicago.

And they were 12th in slugging on the road, at .414. That was in direct contrast to their offense at home, where they were first in slugging, at .498, and fifth in average, at .294.

The Sox road deficiencies were especially obvious in the ALDS; the team hit just .131 in Anaheim. But they exploded for six runs in Game 3 upon returning to Fenway.

Those were the issues Theo Epstein and company hoped to address this offseason; they needed to create a team with more balance, and more offense away from Fenway.

While the consensus is that the Sox' GM significantly improved the club's pitching and defense, questions remain about the offense.

Once you get past the first four batters in the Red Sox order, the questions begin.

After batting just .238 last year, can David Ortiz still hit?

Is Adrian Beltre's shoulder fully healed, and can he recover his lost offense?

Can JD Drew stay healthy and productive for at least 140 games this year?

Will Mike Cameron's free swinging ways, low average, and high strike out rate prove to be a significant offensive liability?

Can Marco Scurato repeat his 2009 season?

Those questions are yet to be answered, and we may not know the truth until perhaps some time in late May. It should take that long to get a sense of the offense this roster can produce, and for each hitter's cold or hot starts to even out.

Last night was a good sign; the Red Sox scored nine runs with the help of just one homer, a two-run shot by Dustin Pedroia.

To be successful, they will need more road offense than last season, and more balance through batting order as well. If the 5-9 hitters can be productive, the Red Sox will be a premier team, one that can win the World Series.

But there are lots of "ifs". If every batter hits like he's capable of, this will be a very fun and interesting season for the Red Sox.

That remains to be seen, with 161 games still to play.

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