The Red Sox high-powered offense and bullpen stole the show again in Toronto, as Boston prevailed over the Blue Jays 8-4 Saturday afternoon. The Sox received a mixed effort in Rick Porcello’s season debut, but the much-maligned pitcher was able to keep his team in the game long enough to allow the lineup to do its thing.
It didn’t look good early on, as Porcello continued his bad habit of leaving hanging sinkers out over the plate against one of the best lineups in baseball. Jose Bautista took Porcello deep twice, but the Sox came back with a solid team effort. Eight-of-nine batters in Boston’s lineup registered a hit, with the belt-busting Pablo Sandoval the only exception. More on that later.
The win improved the Sox to 3-1 on the season, as they’ll look for the series sweep tomorrow afternoon.
Rusney Castillo – After riding the bench in every game this season, as well as hearing talk of being sent back down to Pawtucket, Castillo made his season debut Saturday, and he played pretty well. He singled to left, and ripped an opposite-field double that showed signs of why the Sox are paying the 28-year-old Cuban $10.5 million per-year. Castillo also showed good speed and range in the outfield. His baseball instincts are still very suspect, and playing time will be hard to come by, but he can really help himself by performing well when he gets the chance.
Bullpen – What was such a glaring weakness last season appears to be an area of great strength this year. Koji Uehara and Robbie Ross Jr. combined for three perfect innings to close out the game as Uehara continues to defy all logic. After three seasons of being one of the best closers in the game, he was relegated to the setup role, a position he’s thrived at in the past. With Jose Bautista and Josh Donaldson due up in the seventh, John Farrell lifted Porcello for Uehara. The 41-year-old Japanese sinker-baller responded with a 1-2-3 inning, including a strikeout of Donaldson on an 87-MPH fastball.
Dustin Pedroia – Great game for Pedroia. The second baseman came into the game hitting just .214 over the first three games, but broke out with a 3-for-5 day, including a double and an RBI. He also made a great diving play in the sixth inning to rob Ryan Goins of a base hit. It always seems to be just a matter of time before Pedroia gets hurt, but when healthy, he’s still one of the most reliable second basemen in the game.
Pablo Sandoval’s Bat – Just go home. Really, do us all a favor, and go back to the Burger King you crawled out from. Sandoval got his first crack at the starting lineup on Saturday, and it couldn’t have gone much worse. He went 0-for-4 on the game with three strikeouts. For a guy with such a big reputation for rising to the occasion when the pressure is on, it sure looks like he’s lost a lot of confidence. That’s not a good thing, because the Sox may really need him before the season’s over.
Pablo Sandoval’s Glove – No better way to silence your fielding critics than by air-mailing your first opportunity in your first start. In the second inning, Sandoval fielded a grounder off the bat of Darwin Barney, but threw wide to Travis Shaw. Sources close to the team have said that Sandoval’s benching had more to do for to his issues on the field than at the plate. His .949 fielding-percentage in 2015 was the lowest in baseball among qualifying third basemen.
Pablo Sandoval’s Belly – Shark-jumping at its finest. During his first at-bat in the second inning, just before the first of his many strikeouts, Sandoval fouled off an R.A Dickey knuckleball, breaking his belt in the process. Seriously. His belt couldn’t contain the seismic force of his $95 million gut. Tough to imagine a worse day for the Panda.
SOMETHING TO KEEP AN EYE ON
Henry Owens had a strong debut for the Pawtucket Red Sox Friday night. The lanky left-hander, who had a rough spring, threw six shutout innings, allowing just one hit while walking three and striking out eight in a 2-0 PawSox win.
Still just 23-years-old, Owens has a ton of promise, and started to pitch very well towards the end of last season. If he can get some of his control issues under-wraps, it might not be long before he gets another crack with the big club, especially if some of Boston’s starters continue to struggle.