Just like that the Red Sox fall to 0-3 and are already chasing a losing record less than a week into the 2021 season.
Nathan Eovaldi and Tanner Houck looked great in the Red Sox first two games of the season, which was super encouraging to see. Eovaldi struck out 4 in 5.1 innings giving up just 1 run and only got pulled because of the analytics (rather than his performance) and the fact that you don’t want your injury prone 1A starter throwing 120 pitches on Opening Day. Houck was also dynamite as he struck out 8 in 5 innings and surrendered just 2 earned runs. Obviously Eovaldi is an injury waiting to happen and Houck has thrown 22 innings in his entire career so the optimism here is fragile. Oh and in the last game of the opening series Garrett Richards did exactly what we all knew he would do and got shelled giving up 6 earned runs in just 2 innings.
I’m not about to freak out but getting off to a fast start is more important than you think. Just about every time the Sox have had a losing record in April over the past decade they’ve missed the playoffs. Do you realized that despite their massive achievements (two World Series titles since 2013) the Red Sox have missed the playoffs 7 out of the last 11 seasons?? This is no time to start slow because the Sox have shown they cannot dig themselves out down the stretch.
Now there is reason for some optimism here. If Eovaldi (injury prone) and Houck (young and unproven) can be a solid No. 2 and No. 3 and if Eduardo Rodriguez can come back and be the ace the Red Sox expect him to be, then the team’s pitching staff could be…I’m gonna say it…pretty good. At least in the sense that you only need 3 starters to get through a playoff series. Now, I say ace with a small “A” until E-Rod shows he can return to and improve upon his 2019 form (19-6, 3.81 ERA) after a year plus missed due to Covid and now dead arm etc.
That’s before you even start to think about Chris Sale coming back from Tommy John. The team has been very tight lipped about the time table for his return, but mid-late summer would make sense based on when he got the surgery. I’m not pinning my hopes on another guy coming off Tommy John, but if the Sox are in contention by late summer then the return of Sale could be a huge shot in the arm for this team.
The biggest disappointment of this young season though has without a doubt been the offense. Say what you will about the absolute disaster of historic proportions the 2020 Red Sox were, but they still finished 2nd in Hits, 5th in Total Bases, 3rd in batting average, and 8th in Slugging Percentage in all of baseball last season. So we know if nothing else this team can hit. So to get swept by the Orioles with little to no production from the lineup was ugly. Sure it was the first series of the year with temperatures just above freezing at times, but to score just 5 runs in 3 games against the Orioles and the corpse of Matt Harvey is concerning.
The Sox have no time to dwell as they’re right back at it tonight against the defending AL champs, Tampa Bay. With Nick Pivetta and Martin Perez starting the first two games of the series though the Sox will need to finally get the offense going if they want to avoid really falling into an early season hole.