As clean and neatly packaged as Opening Day was for the Red Sox, Wednesday night’s game against Cleveland was a mess that unraveled quickly. Clay Buchholz spotted the Indians four first-inning runs, and never looked comfortable.
Thanks to back-to-back home runs by David Ortiz and Hanley Ramirez, Boston rallied to tie the game, but an eighth-inning home run by Mike Napoli off Junichi Tazawa doomed the Sox in the end.
The loss dropped the Sox to 1-1 on the young season, as they’ll look to earn a series victory tomorrow night. Game time is slated for 6:10 p.m., but the forecast in Cleveland isn’t looking too promising.
Brock Holt — It’s early, but the “Brockstar” is showing why the team chose him as their primary left fielder. Holt is off to a 4-for-8 start, and added a home run and two RBIs Wednesday night. His base-running on Mookie Betts’ RBI ground out was a prime example of how he can impact a game in a number of ways. Though he committed an error after switching to third base in the sixth inning, his positional versatility more than makes up for the occasional mishap.
Hanley Ramirez — I’m trying really hard to not get ahead of myself with Ramirez. His scorching start and screeching halt last season makes it difficult to completely trust him, but the early returns sure are encouraging. Hanley has looked more than capable at first base, and the willingness to run faster than the bare-minimum has been a welcome surprise. We know the guy can swing the bat, and if he can stay healthy, he could be the biggest difference maker for the team this season.
Matt Barnes — I thought about picking Ortiz, but I was really impressed with Barnes. Granted it’s a small sample size, but the presence and increased command that he showed in the spring seems to have carried over. He gave up a hit and a walk, but I thought he never let Rajai Davis’ speed distract him too much, and he was able to settle down and get a big strikeout. With Carson Smith’s injury concerns and Tazawa being on an innings watch, Barnes could could pick up some meaningful innings in the early going.
Clay Buchholz – Woof. Ugly starts at the beginning of the season are starting to become the norm for Buchholz. His final line was brutal: 4 IP, 6 H, 5 ER, 3 BB. He needed 94 pitches to get a dozen outs. His fastball location was off, and he failed to get a normally aggressive Indians lineup to register early swings and misses. Clay has always been a pitcher who needs everything around him to feel just right, so the poor weather may have been a factor. Still, with so many question marks in the rotation, Buchholz will have to do better than this.
Xander Bogaerts — Tough night for Xander. Cleveland closer Cody Allen made him look foolish in the ninth-inning, and he took a tough shot to the shoulder on the Rajai Davis steal. It’s obviously very early, but he’s off to an 0 for 9 start, and has yet to make any solid contact. The guy obviously oozes talent, but its fair to expect pitchers will deal with him a little differently after his breakout 2015 season.
Cleveland — Definitely not doing itself any favors. The weather has been miserable, and it doesn’t look any better for tomorrow. And while I’m not certain Red Sox fans would turn out much differently, the amount of empty seats so far in the series, especially on opening day, has been disappointing.
SOMETHING TO KEEP AN EYE ON
The way John Farrell manages positions going forward is going to be interesting. I think Wednesday was a good indicator of how fans should expect the left side of the field to play out, at least in the early going. On most days, if Blake Swihart is in the lineup, the Red Sox have three left-handers and one switch-hitter in the last four spots of the order. Farrell has talked about a need to break that trend up, especially when the game gets into the bullpens.
Farrell pinch-hit Chris Young for Travis Shaw once Ross Detwiler came into the game in the sixth inning. Young, a right-handed hitter, stayed in left field while Holt moved to third base. Once Young’s turn in the order came again, he was pinch hit for by Pablo Sandoval, who stayed in the game at third while Holt moved back to left.
While having so many high-contract players on the bench is far from an ideal situation, it affords the Red Sox the ability to mix and match with high-talent players late in games. With that said, the Sox will certainly look for more positional stability as the season moves forward.