The Boston Red Sox claimed they were more than ready to put the epic collapse of 2011 behind them when the 2012 season kicked off last Thursday. Unfortunately, this year is already looking a lot like last for the Sox.
The Detroit Tigers finished off a sweep of Boston on Sunday, sending the Red Sox to 0-3 for the second year in a row. In 2011, Texas crushed the visiting Red Sox a combined 26-11 and hit 11 home runs for an opening three-game sweep. Red Sox starters allowed 18 earned runs and nine homers in 15 1/3 innings in that series. That was Boston’s first 0-3 start since 1996, and it led to an 0-6 start for only the third time in franchise history. The Red Sox record is eight straight losses to open the season in 1945.
Last week, the Tigers laid a similar beating on the Red Sox in outscoring Boston 26-14. Two of the three games were close, with Detroit winning both the opener and the finale in its final at-bat. But other than Jon Lester in the opener, the starting pitching was atrocious.
So is it time for Red Sox fans to worry? Perhaps.
In the last 11 seasons, 88 teams have qualified for the playoffs. Of those 88 to reach the postseason, only five started the season winless in their first three games. They were last year’s Tampa Bay Rays and Milwaukee Brewers, the 2007 Phillies, the 2003 Braves and the 2001 Cardinals.
In major league history, four teams have started the season 0-3 and won the World Series — the 1998 New York Yankees (114-48), the 1973 Oakland Athletics (94-68), the 1914 Boston Braves (94-59) and 1911 Philadelphia Athletics (101-50).
By comparison, four clubs began 3-0 last year, and three of the four not only made the playoffs but also won their division — the Texas Rangers, Philadelphia Phillies and Cincinnati Reds. The only club from 2011 to miss out was the Baltimore Orioles, who would finish last in the AL East.
The Red Sox have now dropped from 11-1 at Bovada to win the World Series from the start of the season to 12-1, and their odds to win the American League pennant have also gotten slightly longer, moving from 11-2 to 6-1. Detroit, meanwhile, has moved from 9-1 to win the Fall Classic to 7-1 (only behind the Phillies) and to win the AL pennant from 4-1 to the favorite at 7-2.
Just like last year, the Sox are on the road for their second series of the season, this time traveling to Toronto, which won two of three games over the weekend in Cleveland. The series line is a pick 'em, with both clubs at -115. It will be the Jays’ home opener on Monday as they start right-hander Henderson Alvarez against Sox lefty Felix Doubront. Toronto is -125 for the opener, with the Sox at +105.
Alvarez was 1-3 with a 3.53 ERA in 10 starts last year, his rookie season. He faced Boston once, shutting out the Red Sox over six innings, striking out four and allowing four hits. Meanwhile, it will be only Doubront’s fourth major league start. He won the No. 4 spot in the rotation thanks to a tremendous spring, going 1-0 with a 2.70 ERA in four Grapefruit League appearances. Doubront, 24, started three games for the Red Sox in 2010 (1-2, 4.11 ERA) and split the rest of his time between Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket.
Tuesday’s pitching matchup also features two youngsters as Boston’s Daniel Bard, who won the No. 5 spot this spring after beginning his career in relief, faces the Jays’ Kyle Drabek.
The Sox likely will be slight favorites for this game. Bard has pitched 197 innings in his big-league career but none of them as a starter — he last started in 2007 in the minors. Bard had a 6.57 ERA in six spring appearances, walking 16 and striking out 18 in 24 innings.
Drabek was a key piece of the trade that sent Roy Halladay to the Phillies a few years back. Drabek was 4-5 with a 6.06 ERA in 18 games last season as a rookie. He was roughed up in two starts against Boston, going 0-1 with a 12.00 ERA as Boston batters hit .366 against him.
The series finale on Wednesday features two of the best lefties in the AL East in Boston’s Lester and the Jays’ Ricky Romero. Lester had the misfortune of facing Tigers ace Justin Verlander on Opening Day. Lester held the Tigers to one run over seven innings but took a no decision. He is 6-3 with a 3.33 ERA in 11 career starts in Toronto.
Romero wasn’t sharp in his first start, allowing four runs on three hits (including a home run) and three walks over five innings, but he took a no decision thanks to a late Jays comeback. Romero started four times against Boston last year and was 2-2 with a 6.56 ERA. That was his worst ERA against any team in which Romero went at least four innings.
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