Sure, it’s hard to take much of anything away from one baseball game, but with a team full of so many question marks, it’s always fun to start peeling back layers – as small as they may be – to uncover some of those answers. While we probably won’t have much of a handle on what this team rally is until late May/early June, there were some positive takeaways to look at from yesterday’s game that are worth talking about. Let’s jump right in…
Jon Lester was mostly good, but still has some work to do.
I liked most of what I saw from Lester on Monday, especially in the early innings. Truth be told, he looked a lot like the Lester of old, slashing back and forth across the plate and using his fastball to set up his cutter – which was absolutely devastating. Almost all his pitches were kept down in the zone and he seemed to be hitting his spots pretty well while keeping his velocity at more-than-acceptable-for-Opening-Day levels. All things considered, the first three innings when about as well as anyone could have hoped.
In the fourth inning, he ran into some control issues of which he wrestled with for the rest of the start. I’m not sure that’s opening day fatigue, the cold weather or whatever – but all his pitches seemed to bleed up higher in the zone. His control got so bad at one point, that he missed his spot six times in a row – and pretty badly at that. Still, you have to take the inning with a grain of salt – he could have prevented those runs but he also could’ve given more up. He got BABIP’d a bit with Francisco Cervelli’s hit that landed on the chalk in left field and knocked in the only two Yankees runs, but also got a little lucky throwing a fastball right down the pipe for a called strike three that Jayson Nix just stared at. Either way, he worked his way out of it and rebounded nicely with a 12 pitch fifth inning where he struck out Eduardo Nunez and Vernon Wells. Lester kept the damage to a respectable minimum, which I’m not sure would have happened last year.
Overall, he wasn’t spectacular by any means, but there were certainly some strong positives he can take away from his start and build on.
The Base Running might quietly be the biggest improvement of the Red Sox offseason. Keep an eye on it.
Too often good base running gets confused for being fast and stealing bases and stuff – but the reality is that it’s none of that. It’s being able to read the field, judge one’s own ability and make sound decisions on when to advance and when not to. One of the more underrated aspects of this offseason is that the Red Sox brought in a group of players who fit that mold. With injuries to David Ortiz and Stephen Drew, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Jose Iglesias have found themselves in the opening day lineup as well – taking an already solid base running team and making them that much better.
Both made their presence felt throughout the day – with Iglesias legging out infield hits and Jackie Bradley Jr. providing a nice heads up play at 2B. Even Jonny Gomes got in on the action; catching the Yankees infield napping at one point to score a sneaky seventh run that felt like a total knockout blow. If the Red Sox do nothing else this year, they should run the bases well, so keep an eye on it as the season progresses. I know it’s one game, but I’m confident this is the year the Red Sox emerge from the dark ages of Tim Bogar and come out into the light of sound base running and fewer wasted outs.
This bullpen, man…
Seriously. These guys looked lights out. While the usually strong Yankee pen struggled to locate anything all afternoon, the Red Sox hurlers closed the door, nailed it shut and attached plastic explosives to it for good measure. Koji Uehara’s splitter looks a lot better than I remember it being and both Junichi Tazawa and Andrew Bailey looked borderline dominant. Most surprising to me though, was just how completely overwhelmed the Yankees – as depleted as they may be – looked once they got a look at Joel Hanrahan’s 98-99mph gas. After staring at velocity mostly in the low 90’s all afternoon, they looked completely overmatched. The only sort-of-low-light was Andrew Miller, who is hit and miss anyway, but for the most part- the bullpen looked better than advertised.