The 2021 Red Sox season got off to an awful start, but the good ultimately outweighed the bad over the first six games at Fenway Park. Boston hit well (in the series with the Rays, at least), utilized its improved depth and versatility and showed the kind of spunk that Red Sox fans haven’t seen in a couple of years.
All of those things –and many more — are crucial and will be needed if the Red Sox are to have a good season. But great pitching by far was the most important thing Boston got in its first homestand.
Upon finishing their sweep of the Rays on Wednesday, the Red Sox owned a 3.63 ERA, good for sixth best in the American League and 11th in all of baseball. Obviously, that number would be far better — 1.90, to be exact — if not for Garrett Richards and Josh Taylor allowing a combined 12 runs over five innings.
Nathan Eovaldi on Wednesday delivered Boston’s best outing of the year, allowing one run on three hits while striking out seven and walking three over seven innings. But the hard-throwing right-hander isn’t the only member of the staff capable of delivering winning performances.
“I’m very pleased (with how the rotation has pitched),” Eovaldi said after the game. “We’re a completely different team than we were last year, pitching wise. Our bullpen, they’ve been doing a great job. And the starters, as well, have been able to go out there and limit the walks.
“We’re going out there and we’re attacking the zone, and that’s what we’ve gotta do. We’ve gotta go out there and attack, work quick innings and get the offense back in. I’ve said it over and over: Our offense is one of the best out there. I feel like other teams are sleeping on us right now, which is fine.”
Added manager Alex Cora: “We only had one bad day pitching out of six. We know we can pitch. We know we can play. Sunday just didn’t look too good.”
The Red Sox only have played six games. We don’t know whether they will receive good or bad pitching this season, or somewhere in the middle. We told you before the year we had a feeling the rotation and the bullpen both could be better than expected, but the jury remains out.
Can Eovaldi stay healthy? What will Chris Sale offer this year, if anything? Will the back of the rotation hold up? Outside of Matt Barnes, which relievers can be trusted in the late innings?
Those questions will be answered at a later date. For now, all we know is the pitching looked great over the first six games.
It’ll need to stay that way if the Red Sox are going to be the “sneaky-good” team some believe they can be.
Here are more notes from Wednesday’s Red Sox-Rays game:
— Eovaldi threw 91 pitches, averaging just 13 per inning.
“I’m going out there and trying to attack the zone,” he said. “I had a couple (at-bats) where I had the four-pitch walks, I wasn’t happy with that. Other than that, I didn’t have too many deep counts that I was getting into.
” … There are certain times when I get going a bit too fast and I got step off the back of the rubber, regain control, regroup a bit then go back out there and get in that attack mode.”
Eovaldi’s performance also allowed the Red Sox to rest their bullpen after Monday’s extra-innings affair.
“We needed a big performance from him and he did it,” Cora said. ” … He was amazing. He’s had two starts already, done an amazing job mixing up pitches, throwing strikes. … Now he gets one more day between starts. That’s’ really good for him.”
— J.D. Martinez went 1-for-4 with a two-RBI double to continue his hot start.
Boston’s designated hitter also made some history over the first six games:
— Christian Vazquez went deep with his second homer in as many nights. The recent power surge has offered further proof that Vazquez is a more well-rounded catcher than many predicted he would become.
“He’s the closest thing to a complete package, right? Cora said. “He’s swinging the bat the last two years. Defensively we know what he can do. But nobody gives him the recognition. It’s not that he needs it, but I do believe he’s one of the top catchers in the league. I’m very proud of him.”
— As Cora alluded to, Vazquez isn’t lacking for confidence.
“Iâm feeling good,” he said after the game. “Iâm feeling sexy at the plate.”
— This season marked the 20th time the Red Sox have gotten off to an 0-3 start. Only once before (1951) have they rebounded to win their next three, as they did with their sweeping of the Rays.
After the ugly opening series with the Baltimore Orioles, Cora knew his team already was approaching must-win territory.
“It was important, I’m not going to lie to you,” Cora said of the bounce-back effort. ” … They showed up the last few days and put up complete games. Yesterday was an emotional one; today was a lot better.
“They know they’re good. But the key is they know we have to show up every day.”