Every Red Sox season has been met with excitement in these parts. This year is no exception, although excitement is sprinkled with anxiety, uncertainty and a boatload of leftover emotions from the painful 2011 campaign. The Sox set forth on their mission to right the wrongs Thursday in Detroit, but instead endured more negativity, falling to the Tigers 3-2.
Here’s what we learned Thursday:
Not so bullish on the pen
The bullpen was a bit of a question mark before the Andrew Bailey injury, and became a much bigger one the moment Bailey felt pain in his thumb while squeezing a shampoo bottle. After a performance in which four relievers combined to give up two runs on four hits, a walk and a hit batter in just one inning of work, concern has only increased. Alfredo Aceves was excellent last year but that was in a very different role. And is there anyone else in the pen that elicits supreme confidence? Not really. It’s only one game, but until the relief corps is straightened out it could get messy.
Good first step for Lester
Much has been made of Jon Lester’s slow starts in years past; including a clunker in Texas last April 6. He entered this one 0-2 with an 8.38 ERA in his last four season debuts. Lester nearly kept pace with the great Justin Verlander before giving up an RBI double that snapped a scoreless tie with two outs in the seventh. The Sox southpaw gave up the one run on six hits and three walks in seven frames, striking out four. Although the final result won’t bring forth many smiles, Lester had a solid opener for once.
The Ryan Sweeney Era has begun
If you predicted that the biggest play of the game for the Red Sox would involve Ryan Sweeney driving in Darnell McDonald with a triple, you deserve a pat on the back. Also, you lie. Sweeney, whose playing time figures to diminish once Carl Crawford returns, had Boston’s second hit of the game with a single off Verlander in the fifth and the club’s fifth and final hit with the three-bagger in the ninth that tied it 2-2. Sweeney had taken a poor route on a triple by Austin Jackson in the eighth that led to Detroit’s second run; the game-tying RBI helped him to make amends.
We all remember how the Sox began the 2011 season, going 0-6 and then 2-10 before finally beginning to climb out of the hole. A bad start this year will not sit well with the itchy masses, but with the Tigers, Blue Jays, Rays, Rangers and Yankees on the immediate docket it could be another slow April. Those teams averaged 92 wins in 2011 and one could make a case that each of them is stronger on paper. Boston’s opponents after that opening gauntlet are as follows: Minnesota, Chicago, Oakland, Baltimore, Kansas City, Cleveland and Seattle. But will an antsy fan base be able to wait it out if the first two weeks are a disaster? So far, not so good.