The Red Sox are coming off of a historically dominant year in which they topped off a 108 win season with a 5 game World Series victory. The starting rotation was led by a trio of Cy Young winners and/or candidates, with a fourth starter who had a stronger postseason performance than any of them. The offense, surprisingly, was even better, with young stars like Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi leading Boston to the highest team OPS and the most runs scored in 2018, with second place barely within shouting distance. Entering 2019, practically the whole team returned with the aim of repeating, if not improving upon, their near-perfect 2018.
But while in 2018 the Red Sox began 17-2 before running into Sean Manaea in Oakland the night of his first no hitter, thus far the 2019 Red Sox team has fallen flat on its face out of the starting blocks. No Boston starter lasted longer than five innings pitched in their first turn through the rotation, their inability to command or control their lively offerings allowing the red-hot Seattle Mariners to feast. In particular, Chris Sale’s velocity was down in the lower 90’s and just looked rusty as a whole. The offense continued to hit, but often too little and too late to overcome the disastrous starts.
But it would be foolish to panic after just 4 games into a season. The A’s lost both their games to the Mariners, and even teams with little hope of reaching the postseason can go on hot streaks. Chris Sale’s fastball velocity began low last season, and then picked up speed as the weather got warmer. The Red Sox’ other arms haven’t just forgotten how to pitch. This is the same team it was last year, but now all of their young studs have another year of experience of grinding out a big league season, as well now as experience playing on the biggest stage baseball has to offer. They are as formidable an opponent as there is right now.
But, having said that, with Matt Olson out and a full rotation of arms on the IL and not due back until closer to midseason, it would be nice if the Red Sox needed another turn through the rotation before inevitably finding their groove. The A’s have historically dominated left handed pitching, and so taking on a sickly David Price and a slow-y Chris Sale plays well into the team’s strengths. A string of incredible starts from Oakland’s rotation has saved the bullpen a lot of grief, so if that good fortune runs out against J.D. Martinez and company, all non-Treinen and Trivino arms are fresh and able to stop potential bleeding. Even then, there is no doubt that Treinen and Trivino will be used if the situation is dire enough. Playing at home is beneficial enough to Oakland as well, as their bevy of fly ball pitchers can snag bunches of extra outs in the expansive foul territory of Rickey Henderson Field.
As a quick aside, the Red Sox have an enviable core of young talent whom they are currently attempting to lock up long term, as is now the current trend for players who are free agent adjacent. Notably, shortstop Xander Bogaerts, a Scott Boras client, has just agreed to a six year contract extension worth $120 million. This is a great sign for Oakland fans, knowing that the A’s are finally starting to open up the pocket books a wee little bit more, and that Matt Chapman, Jesus Luzardo, and more are Scott Boras clients. Boras has traditionally been very anti-extension for his clients, but perhaps with free agency evolving and changing in the modern world of this game, so to is his advice evolving and changing.
A series win would be best and since the A’s are at home, a series win is probably expected, but moreso than actual wins and losses this early in the season, it’s important for the team to show that it can make the best overall team in the sport sweat a little bit. The A’s have the defense and the bullpen to keep the Red Sox close, and, depending on the health and development of Boston’s pitching, the A’s have the offense to put up several crooked numbers on the scoreboard each game. This series will be a dogfight, but after its over both teams will assuredly spend the month of April climbing the standings before meeting again.
Mookie Betts - RF
Rafael Devers - 3B
J.D. Martinez - LF
Xander Bogaerts - SS
Sam Travis - DH
Mitch Moreland - 1B
Eduardo Nunez - 2B
Christian Vasquez - C
Jackie Bradley Jr - CF
Aaron Brooks vs David Price
Mike Fiers vs Chris Sale
Marco Estrada vs Nate Eovaldi
Brett Anderson vs Eduardo Rodriguez
Game #7: Monday, April 1st at 7:07
Game #8: Tuesday, April 2nd at 7:07
Game #9: Wednesday, April 3rd at 7:07
Game #10: Thursday, April 4th at 12:37
All games will be broadcast on NBCSCA