There may not be another team with the most to prove this year than the Boston Red Sox. After a dismal last-place finish in 2015, the Red Sox made a number of key moves, including gaining David Price, Craig Kimbrel, Carson Smith, and Chris Young.
In the first four games of the season, though, the Red Sox seem poised for a bounce-back season.
The Red Sox defeated the Toronto Blue Jays 8-4 in the second game of a three game series Saturday afternoon at the Rogers Centre. Rick Porcello got his first win of the season for the Red Sox, while R.A. Dickey picked up the loss for Toronto.
Other than Pablo Sandoval, everybody in the Red Sox lineup recorded a hit. Rusney Castillo and Dustin Pedroia were the only starters to record multiple hits, as Castillo connected with two and Pedroia had three. For the Jays, the part of the lineup that includes Josh Donaldson, José Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, and Troy Tulowitzki, went 6-15 while the rest of the lineup went just 1-20.
Blue Jays Get To Porcello Early, But Their Bats Would Silence All The Way To The End
Porcello had a very rough first season with the Sox. The right hander finished 9-15 with a 4.92 ERA including a surprising stint with the Triple-A Pawtucket Red Sox. In the beginning of the game, it looked like the same Porcello had returned.
After a leadoff strikeout and Donaldson single, Bautista connected with his first home run of the year in the first inning. Porcello left a hanging breaking ball in the middle of the plate, and Bautista hammered it. Porcello would give up a single to Encarnacion, but would get out of the first inning with no further damage.
After getting out of the second inning without any harm, the Bautista and Donaldson duo got the best of Porcello once again. Donaldson kicked off the inning with a double on a 3-0 count and then Bautista would take Porcello yard once again. This shot was hit with power, and Bautista knew it was gone right away.
However, the sinker-baller would settle down. Porcello would set down eight in a row after the Bautista home run, and would not allow another run the rest of the way; Porcello would exit after six innings with allowing seven hits, four runs, and racking up seven strikeouts.
In the seventh inning, it was time for Boston's bullpen. Heading into the game, the bullpen has been absolutely dominant, allowing just two runs in 13 innings of work. In Friday night's game, Boston's bullpen would support Joe Kelly's rough start allowing no runs through seven innings.
The bullpen did more of the same today.
Koji Uehara pitched his third inning of the year in the seventh inning, and would set down Kevin Pillar, Donaldson, and Bautista in order. Beginning 2016 with his new set-up role to Craig Kimbrel, Uehara has been flawless.
Robbie Ross Jr. would go on to pitch both the eighth and ninth inning. Ross would go on to retire all six hitters he saw, and struck out two of them. Ross' first experience of the new season went well, especially against a heavy right-handed lineup as a lefty. The bullpen was a real struggle last season, but it looks to be a big bright spot thus far for Boston.
Red Sox Offense Continues Hot Start To Season
Heading into the game, the Red Sox were tenth in the majors in scoring at six runs per game. The lineup has a lot of explosiveness in it, and a lot players can make a difference offensively.
Their leader through their first three games, David Ortiz, didn't even play today, and Boston did not hit a home run, but the bats were still very alive.
After they couldn't get anything going in the first two innings while trailing 2-0, the offense showed up for the third. Castillo would open up his season with a single, and Blake Swihart would follow up with a walk. With Mookie Betts at the plate, Dickey had a very strange pickoff attempt to second base, and the throw sailed to center field, advancing the runners. Betts would strike out and Pedroia would ground out scoring Castillo, but Xander Bogaerts and Travis Shaw connected with back-to-back ground rule doubles to give Boston a 3-2 lead. The Red Sox needed another fast start off the knuckleballer, and the early lead fueled them.
Blue Jays' Defense Struggles
Catching the knuckleball is no easy task, but Josh Thole did not seem as if he was nearly prepared to be behind the plate for Dickey. Thole looked uncomfortable, and it cost his team. In the fourth inning, after Brock Holt struck out, Thole could not handle the knuckleball as Holt would reach on the dropped third strike. Thole also had to make the throw to first to the leadoff hitter Sandoval after he struck out on the knuckleball, and the ball traveled all the way to the backstop. Castillo would hit a bullet off the wall for a double that would advance Holt to third, and Swihart would hit a sacrifice fly giving Dickey an unearned run.
In the fifth inning, it got much worse. Pedroia and Bogaerts would both reach base to begin the inning, and with one out, Hanley Ramirez hit a blooper to right field that looked sure to be an RBI single that could score two. However, Bautista played the ball very lazily, and the ball sailed over his head. Ramirez would reach third on the play.
On the very next batter, Thole would mishandle another knuckleball that traveled to the backstop once more, and Ramirez would score on the play. Dickey had to have been frustrated, as Ramirez got three free bases from lousy defense. At that point, it was 7-4, and the Blue Jays had all the energy knocked out of them.
Boston would score their eighth run in the top of the sixth inning after Pedroia's RBI double, good for his second RBI of the day. Thole had more trouble catching Dickey's knuckleball, as Thole would let two more knuckleballs ball sail to the backstop.
David Ortiz and Jackie Bradley Jr. both had the day off, moving Ramirez to DH and Shaw to first base. Sandoval got his first start of the season after losing his starting third base job to Travis Shaw, but went 0-4 and had an error. The Red Sox now have 28 runs on 43 innings and are averaging 6.67 runs per game. Boston will send a knuckleballer of their own Steven Wright against Toronto to attempt a sweep in the series finale on Sunday.
The Blue Jays continue to use different lineups, as Russell Martin, Justin Smoak, Michael Saunders, and Chris Collabello all did not start. Martin, Smoak, and Collabello all came off the bench to pinch hit. Troy Tulowitzki is having a rough go of things to begin the season, as he is just 2-17. Toronto will send Marco Estrada to avoid the sweep on Sunday.
During the game, two animal rights protesters ran on to the field with signs to stop play. Both were handled by security quickly, and were dismissed from the stadium. Total attendance was 47,138 in a closed Rogers Centre during a 2:48 game.