The Boston Red Sox flew in from sunny Fort Myers earlier this week, and despite a strong performance from the team’s offense, the pitching staff couldn’t get a grip on a cold and brisk Opening Day in a 10-9 loss to the Baltimore Orioles.
Among the biggest concern for the Sox entering this season were questions regarding the pitching staff and after one game it looks like those concerns were warranted.
Right-handed pitcher Corey Kluber took the ball on opening day and was the first Sox hurler to underwhelm. The two-time Cy Young award winner allowed five runs on six hits and four walks. Kluber was pulled with one out in the 4th inning after 80 pitches only 48 of which were strikes.
“I’d rather them beat me by earning it and me not just handing them free passes,” said Kluber. “I wish I would have done that today, but I just have to make adjustments for next time and hopefully do better.”
Criticism doesn’t just rest on the starter’s shoulders but those who followed couldn’t find the groove either in a pitching catastrophe as the bullpen walked five batters, let go nine hits, and allowed five more runs to score.
Down by six runs twice in the game, the line-up performed well throughout and showed resolve. The Sox rallied to within one but with new addition Adam Duvall at the plate and the tying run at second in the bottom of the ninth, a strikeout halted the Sox’s comeback.
ADLEY RUTSCHMAN JUST HOMERED ON HIS FIRST OPENING DAY!!! pic.twitter.com/jsnKMuvW1e
— Baltimore Orioles (@Orioles) March 30, 2023
But the Orioles kept pouring it on. Ramon Urias hit a two run homer to left off Kluber in the 4th. Later in the inning, Kluber walked the bases loaded, and was pulled. Baltimore scored twice more in the 4th, 3 more times in the 5th and twice more runs in the 7th.
The Sox got good production from the top of their lineup. Their first four batters, Verdugo, Devers, Justin Turner, and Masataka Yoshida, each had two hits on the day.
You get a walk and you get a walk, everybody gets walks!
It’s no secret Red Sox pitching has been poor in recent years, ranking 24th in team ERA and sixth in blown saves in 2022. And certainly allowing 10 runs, 9 walks, and 15 hits was a terrible way to ensure much has changed in that department. The pitchers couldn’t find their command and even tied the MLB record for walks on Opening Day.
It was of course without a few of the Sox’s best pitchers including relievers Richard Bleir, and Kenley Jansen who each joined the team in the offseason. Or right-hander John Schrieber who impressed last season with a 2.22 ERA over 65 innings. Lefty Chris Sale will have much to pick up on in the second game of the series on Saturday. Whether it was by design or not, it seemed the Red Sox didn’t have its best arms on the mound.
Bigger Bases, Bigger Problems?
Over the offseason the MLB implemented many rules including a pitch clock and a ban on infield shifts. But a glaring issue for the Red Sox seemed to be the new regulations limiting pickoffs per at-bat and shortening the base paths by placing larger bases on the diamond.
The Orioles capitalized on Boston’s inefficiency, stealing five bases throughout the game. Red Sox catcher Reese Mcguire didn’t even throw down to second on multiple occasions. It isn’t a good look and very well could be the difference between wins and losses this season, but as with any new rules, it will take time to adjust. And similarly, this Red Sox team may just need time to adjust, gell together, and find its momentum.