If the first three games are any indication, Fenway Park could look more like Six Flags this season. The roller-coaster ride continued Friday night in Toronto, as the Red Sox rallied from a 7-2 deficit to defeat the Toronto Blue Jays 8-2. The win improved the team’s record to 2-1 on the young season.
Both teams received great offense, but brutal starting pitching. Ultimately, the Boston bullpen was able to shut down the Toronto lineup, helping the Sox pick up a statement win on the Blue Jays’ home opener.
The Sox will take on Toronto again Saturday afternoon at 1:07 PM, with Rick Porcello set to make his dreaded season debut on the mound.
Bullpen – For all the runs the sox were able to score, the guys in the pen were the stars of the game. Noe Ramirez, Matt Barnes, Junichi Tazawa, Koji Uehara, and Craig Kimbrel combined for 6 IP, 2 H, 4 SO, and zero eared-runs against probably the best offense in baseball. They retired 14 of the final 15 Toronto batters. Barnes picked up the win, while Kimbrel notched his first save in a Red Sox uniform. With Carson Smith still out indefinitely, Friday’s performance by the relief staff was very encouraging.
Brock Holt – The legend continues. Holt went 2-for-4 with five RBIs, including a line-drive grand slam that got the Sox back into the game. Once Shaw was again lifted for Chris Young, Holt moved to third base and made a great back-handed play in eighth inning with a runner on second. The “Brockstar” has been hot out of the gate, going 6-for-12 with two home runs and eight RBIs.
Travis Shaw – It’s not looking good for Pablo Sandoval. If Shaw keeps playing this way, the Panda won’t sniff the keys to third base anytime soon. Shaw had a 1-for-2 night, including a double, two runs, and a walk, improving to 4-for-9 on the season. The walk in the sixth inning was a great at-bat that knocked Marcus Stroman out of the game, while loading the bases for Brock Holt. He also made a great bare-handed play to end the second inning.
— Pete Abraham (@PeteAbe) April 9, 2016
Joe Kelly – The second-annual Joe Kelly Cy Young campaign got off to a rocky start Friday night. It’s too bad, because Kelly actually looked pretty good through the first three innings. I was particularly impressed with his confidence in his breaking pitches in hitters’ counts. But in the fourth inning, the wheels came off, and the car exploded. Kelly gave up four-consecutive singles, before drilling Kevin Pillar in the helmet to load the bases, and ultimately surrendering a grand slam to reigning AL MVP Josh Donaldson. Pillar was fortunate to avoid injury, but Kelly again showed an inability to stop the bleeding, an issue that plagued him for most of last season.
John Farrell – The Red Sox manager should not be let off the hook. It was clear to anyone watching that even before Kelly hit Pillar in the head, that he was toast. Toronto has a great offense, it happens. But Farrell should’ve pulled him right then. Instead, Donaldson made him pay. With a difficult schedule early on, the Sox can’t afford to drop any of these division games, and Farrell can’t be afraid to have a short leash with his starters.
Clint Fagan – Terrible night for the home plate umpire. The only predictable ting about Pagan’s strike zone all night, was that it was completely unpredictable. Two at-bats really stood out. In the sixth inning, Jesse Chavez threw seven pitches clearly outside to Jackie Bradley. As he should’ve, Bradley never took the bat off his shoulders, but was called out on strikes anyway. In the seventh inning, Junichi Tazawa threw two curveballs up-and-inside to Russell Martin. The first was a borderline strike, but was called a ball. The next pitch was almost in the exact same spot, but was called a strike, despite being even further inside. Russell looked back, incredulous to what was and wasn’t considered a strike. By the end of the game, Pagan really started to hear it from both sides.
SOMETHING TO KEEP AN EYE ON
While Friday was a great win for the Sox, the upcoming schedule is brutal. Over the next 13 days, Boston has six more games against Toronto, and three games against both the Rays and the Orioles. By the end of the month, the Sox will also have to deal with the Yankees and the Houston Astros, AL West champions from a season ago.
The AL East looks to once again be very competitive, and it’s imperative that Boston doesn’t dig itself an early hole. The team has the resources necessary to make a deal to bolster their weak starting pitching, but it won’t be necessary if they’re buried in the standings before the calendar even turns to May.