What a weird start to the year. Through the first five days of the Major League season (Sunday 4/2 - Thursday 4/6) the Red Sox played just twice due to a rainout and two off days. In their second game of the year they were missing their best position player, Markus Lynn Betts, due to the flu. My first thought was that sucks but I expected him back within a day or two. What I did not expect was half the organization to be out of commission along with him. Hanley missed four games due to this and while Andrew Benintendi was able to play he reportedly puked in the middle of a game.
On top of all this the team lost Xander Bogaerts and Matt Barnes to the bereavement list due to deaths in their families. I have no problem with players taking time off for this but the situation got magnified in Bogaerts' case since we were already missing some good players and because his flight got delayed which caused him to miss a fourth game instead of just the three he was expecting to be absent for. As if this weren't enough Jackie Bradley Jr. is now on the 10 day DL with a knee injury he suffered running the bases. Ultimately the Sox lost three of four in Detroit and return to Boston for a seven game home stand with a record of 3-3. Regardless of the weirdness surrounding the team the games went on. Here are some thoughts:
--Monday was an absolute waste of a gem thrown by Chris "Best Pitcher in the American League" Sale. In 7 2/3 innings he gave up two runs on five hits while walking one and striking out 10. In the 14 2/3 innings he has pitched through his first two starts the offense has scored a total of ONE run for him. Sale legitimately looks as good as advertised so far, in terms of both his stuff and his demeanor on the mound, so the run support for him is something that needs to change right away.
--Even on a day when he didn't have his best stuff Sale's co-ace Rick Porcello gave the Sox a chance to win Sunday afternoon. He gave up three runs on 11 hits through six innings to go along with one walk and eight strikeouts. It was Rick's second straight outing of throwing a quality start without completely taking the game over, which is alright. Nobody expects Porcello to match last year's numbers but he should still be better moving forward. He got off to a similarly pedestrian start to the season last year before coming into his own once Summer hit.
--A lot is being made of Pablo Sandoval's go ahead three run homer from Friday's game. It was a much needed clutch at bat that unfortunately was squandered by the bullpen. I am rooting for Pablo this year and was happy to see him have his first meaningful Red Sox moment (although it came in year three of his $95 million contract), but aside from that one hit he hasn't done much. Overall he's hitting .130 with a couple of errors in the field. I hope there are more moments like Friday's homer moving forward but he still needs to play better before Red Sox fans fully embrace him.
--First impressions matter so much in Boston, which is why people were anti-Mitch Moreland after just two hitless games from our new first baseman. But right now he's our hottest bat and will enter Tuesday night's game with a .333 batting average and a league leading five doubles. Moreland is one of those left handed hitters that is always described as having "a perfect swing for Fenway". Ironically enough he has done all his damage on the road this year but his weekend resurgence was great to see for an offense missing most of its big bats.
--The other hot hitter in the line up is none other than Sandy Leon. I wrote last week that he will remain this team's starting catcher for as long as he hits. So far he's doing his part and has gotten the game winning hit in two consecutive Red Sox wins. First there was the walk off three run homer from last Wednesday night. Then there was Sunday's go ahead two run single. There has been so much talk about his hitting I nearly forgot he only ever made it to the majors in the first place for his defense. So far this year base runners are 0-for-3 trying to steal against Leon.
--Drew Pomeranz makes his season debut against the Orioles tonight. I'm not holding my breath for him to be anything different than the mediocre starter he was last year. Trading away top prospect Anderson Espinoza for him is my least favorite Dombrowski move of the past two years.
--19 of our next 23 games are against AL East opponents. Now would be a good time for everyone to get healthy and for the offense to start hitting.
--Next Monday (Patriot's Day) is going to be a great day for Boston sports. The Sox play the Rays at 11 AM, the Boston Marathon will be underway, and the night concludes with the Bruins' first home playoff game of the year.