Well it was an action packed Patriot's Day weekend for Boston sports. While neither the Bruins nor Celtics were able to pull out a victory, the Red Sox recovered from Friday night's loss to win three in a row against the Tampa Bay Rays. Through 13 games the Sox now stand at 8-5 as they head out on a six game road trip to Toronto and Baltimore. Let's take a look back at what happened against the Rays:
--The story of the weekend has to be the incredible performance of the Red Sox bullpen. Matt Barnes and Heath Hembree have turned into legit, reliable set up men while closer Craig Kimbrel looks as good as he ever has. I was admittedly worried about Kimbrel entering the year after he allowed a worrisome 5.1 walks per nine innings in his first season in Boston last year. However, his control seems to be back in 2017 and the 28-year-old has converted all six of his save chances (and 25 straight dating back to 2016). In seven innings pitched this season Kimbrel has allowed just one run while striking out 12 and walking just two. Many fans were understandably worried about the bullpen after the Tyler Thornburg injury but so far they have pitched to an incredible 1.84 ERA.
--Outside of Chris Sale the Sox starting rotation has been nothing to write home about. In fact, it's been particularly bad in the first inning of games. A lot of this damage came from Steven Wright's disaster of a "performance" against Baltimore last week but right now the rotation's first inning ERA is over 9. This is obviously going to have to change and it comes down to Wright, Drew Pomeranz, and Rick Porcello to simply be better. All three have shown flashes at times this season but they won't be able to keep getting bailed out by the bullpen. For what it's worth Wright finished with a quality start yesterday afternoon, giving up just one earned run over six innings.
--A lot of people were concerned that 22-year-old Andrew Benintendi was batting too high in the order to start the year. After homering on Opening Day he admittedly went into a bit of a funk but has now busted out of it with back to back three hit games. Benny Baseball is now batting .314 with an extremely impressive .390 on base percentage while primarily hitting second for Boston. What struck me most when watching him Monday afternoon was his ability to hit to the opposite field. The Rays were shifting him hard to the right side so Benny did what great players are able to do - he hit three of his four batted balls away from the shift. This kid is going to be special.
--The Sox offense has been good so far this year. However, we have hit just six home runs through 13 games. Not great. Our 1-5 hitters from yesterday's game (Pedroia, Benny, Mookie, Hanley, Xander) have combined for just one long ball this year, which came from Benny on Opening Day. The team has made up for this with a ton of doubles, and you have to figure that the power will come, but it's something to monitor over the next few weeks.
--Markus Lynn Betts hasn't struck out since September 12, 2016. It's a streak spanning 124 consecutive plate appearances, which is the second lost streak since Juan Pierre in 2004. Mookie hasn't yet broke out this year but stats like this are a reminder of how fucking good he is.
--Chris "Best Pitcher in the American League" Sale dominated once again Saturday afternoon. So far in 2017 he has pitched 21.2 innings, struck out 29, allowed just five walks, and has a 1.25 ERA. It's now safe to say he is the best pitcher Boston has seen since Pedro.
--Eduardo Rodriguez will be on paternity leave for his scheduled start in Toronto tonight, so Brian Johnson will be replacing him. It's a tough spot for the left handed Johnson as the Blue Jays have a ton of good right handed bats. However, Josh Donaldson is on the DL right now and the team's offense was struggling even before he got hurt.