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With the Red Sox’ home opener at Fenway Park just three days away, the team is already off to a strong start having taken two of three in an interleague series against the Philadelphia Phillies. Boston’s bats came to life in the season opener with an 8-0 win on Monday afternoon, before cooling off Wednesday in a 4-2 loss. In the rubber match on Thursday night, a strong third inning lifted the Red Sox to a 6-2 victory. While it is only three games out of the 162-game schedule, there are a lot of things to take away from the opening series. Here’s what we learned:
1. The Sox can hit for power. Like, really hit for power.
The BoSox hit the seams off the ball in the opener of the series, clearing the fence on five occasions. The power surge was capped off by grand slam in the top of the ninth inning by Red Sox newcomer Hanley Ramirez. Ramirez, along with veteran second baseman Dustin Pedroia (2) and 22-year-old outfielder Mookie Betts also added solo shots, which accounted for all of Boston’s scoring in the game. While Philadelphia’s Citizens Bank Park is a home run hitters’ paradise, so is Fenway for right-handed pull hitters. Each of the five home runs sailed over the left-field wall, and if this is any indication of what we have to come this season, fans in the Monster Seats could be taking home quite a few souvenirs this summer. The Red Sox failed to hit any round trippers in the final two games of the series, but put some good charges into the ball that would have likely been homers in the warmer air come this summer. The second two games were played at 41 and 43 degrees respectively, poor conditions for power hitters.
2. Clay Buchholz, knock on wood, appears to already be in mid-season form.
The biggest question mark coming out of Spring Training for the Red Sox was the team’s incredibly mediocre rotation on paper, led by (who few would call an) ace, Clay Buchholz. Despite talks of whether he had Opening Day-type abilities as a starter, Buchholz shined on Monday afternoon, completely shutting down the Philadelphia bats. Buchholz went seven shutout innings allowing just three hits and one walk while striking out nine and had all of his pitches working for him. His lethal 12-6 curve had batters buckling at the plate all day long and really kept the Phillies on their toes as they went to bat with no idea what to expect. The Phillies aren’t exactly going to be anything near a contender this year, but if Buchholz can continue throwing like that, he can really prove himself to be this team’s true ace.
3. The Sox bullpen looks very, very legit.
With some concerns about the Red Sox starting rotation, it is going to prove to be key for Boston relievers to come in and shut the door in the late innings of games, and in this series they did that and then some. Over the three games, Sox relievers combined for seven innings of work, allowing no earned runs and giving up just two hits. While it is a very small sample size, it bodes well for a team that has the offensive ability to come back late in games if they find themselves in a hole. If ever a starter has a rough outing, the bullpen should be able to stop the bleeding and allow the offense to do their thing.
4. Red Sox hitters will wear down opposing pitchers.
Although it’s still early, Boston hitters proved to be very selective in the opening series against Philadephia, seeing 552 pitches in just three games. This calculates to an average of 4.525 pitches per plate appearance, which is tops in Major League Baseball. Don’t get me wrong, poor Philadelphia pitching absolutely factored into this equation, but the Sox had to fight off some good pitches to earn their 17 walks (also tops in the league) through three games. With such a strong lineup, it will be key for the Red Sox to get baserunners this season, and will hopefully be able to bring them around score most nights. If the Red Sox can continue to work pitch counts, they will also make other teams go to the bullpen early on in the night. If they make a habit of this, a four-game series could take a toll on opposing bullpens and the Red Sox could really score a lot of runs in the later innings of games.
With a big three-game set in the Bronx against the Yankees separating them from their home opener, the Red Sox look poised for a strong 2015 season. A lot will change over the course of the year as injuries and other factors start to pile up, but the outlook is bright for the new-look Boston Red Sox. It should be a pretty fun summer at Fenway Park.
(Isn’t it always though? Let’s be real.)
Curtis Fraser ’16 is the sports editor of The Hub. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.