Another week of Red Sox baseball is in the books, and as I begin with this entry I’ll give my weekly rundown of the happenings with Boston’s beloved nine after the completion of Sunday’s game. Typically the end of the weekend series occurs Sunday afternoon (or in case of ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball late Sunday night) but with tomorrow being “Patriots’ Day” in Massachusetts the Tampa Bay Rays are in town for one more game, an 11:05 AM first pitch on the day that most Bostonians simply refer to as “Marathon Monday”. Since this is my first entry dedicated to the 2012 Boston Red Sox it will also lamentably include the results of the first two games of the season, that besides one incredibly exciting half inning in the opener I’m pretty sure every Sox fan wants to forget. From today on I will try to get a weekly write-up published every Sunday to keep my readers up to date on the goings-on over on at Yawkey Way with my favorite team.
April 5: 3-2 loss at Detroit (9th inning rally wasted by Melancon, Aceves failures)
April 7: 10-0 loss at Detroit (Josh Beckett on the mound for a Tiger home run derby)
April 8: 13-12 loss at Detroit (Wild extra-inning Easter affair)
April 9: 4-2 win at Toronto (3 run 9th inning propels Sox)
April 10: 7-3 loss at Toronto (Daniel Bard’s first start spoiled)
April 11: 3-1 loss at Toronto (Ricky Romero brilliant performance)
April 13: 12-2 win vs. Tampa Bay (Jacoby Ellsbury injured)
April 14: 13-5 win vs. Tampa (Sox hit 5 home runs, Ortiz 5 RBIs, Ross 4 RBIs)
April 15: 6-4 win vs. Tampa (More Ortiz and Ross)
AL East Standings (click to enlarge)
Pitching is the name of the game, and the Red Sox pitchers have been far from brilliant so far this year. After 9 games the team sits in 28th out of 30 teams in staff Earned Run Average (ERA) with 5.65 runs allowed per 9 innings. The staff sits in the middle of the pack in strike-outs with 63 on the young season (good for a tie for 17th in team rankings), but have allowed 11 home runs (only 4 teams have allowed more) and opposing batters are hitting .269 off Sox pitching. It is true that the first weekend in Detroit, and especially Beckett’s first outing (4 2/3 innings, 7 ER, 4 HR allowed) attribute to the inflated statistics, but until I see more from Sox pitching I’m not going to be sold on what this group can accomplish. Two encouraging signs so far this year have been Beckett’s second outing on Friday against the Rays (8 innings, 5 hits allowed, 1 strikeout, and just 1 run allowed) and also what seems like the coming-around of current Sox closer Alfredo Aceves. Aceves started the year with 3 extremely poor efforts, but in his last three outings he’s pitched 3 perfect innings, with 3 strikeouts,and he is now looking more like the pitcher called upon by former manager Terry Francona 55 times in 2011. The Sox will need continued consistent outings from Aceves and the rest of the bullpen if they want to compete this season.
There is one thing that the Red Sox know how to do, and that is score runs. The 2011 Red Sox led Major League Baseball in runs scored last season with 875 and through a week and a half of 2012 the Sox are just 4 runs behind the St.Louis Cardinals for the most in the Bigs this year (St. Louis has the advantage of playing 10 games, the Red Sox only 9). Sox hitters are also second to the Cardinals in team batting average, with the Sox hitting .281 and the Cardinals leading at .299. The Sox bats are led by designated hitter David Ortiz who is batting an astounding .444 on the young season with 1 HR and 10 RBIs. After a big series so far against the Rays, Cody Ross is also in that discussion for this week as he now is tied for the team lead in home-runs with 2 and second in RBIs with 8. For players with over 30 at-bats first baseman Adrian Gonzalez and second baseman Dustin Pedroia are also producing at the plate. Kevin Youkilis, a 2011 All-Star at third base, is the one player that really needs to pick up the pace offensively as he is struggling at a .200 average with only 3 RBIs and no home runs. He also resides in last place in team OPS (On-Base plus slugging percentage) which is very surprising for the man dubbed “Greek God of Walks” in the best-selling book Moneyball.
The Red Sox have only made two errors through 9 games, trailing only the Detroit Tigers who have just one fielding miscue on the year. As a team they have a .994 fielding percentage on 318 total chances. Fielding is one of those things that goes unnoticed when you are winning and is magnified when you are losing, but so far the Red Sox are doing a very capable job in the field. One thing to take notice of over the next few weeks is the defensive play in center field, as losing Jacoby Ellsbury could be a big factor in the success of the club, but so far, so good.
April 16: Close out series with Tampa with 11:05 AM Marathon Monday start
April 17+18: Quick Two Game set with defending AL Champion Texas Rangers at Fenway
April 20-22: Rival Yankees come to Boston to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Fenway Park