By Mark Paulette,
As Yogi Berra would’ve said, it was Deja Vu all over again for Red Sox fans watching the ninth inning unfold after stuffing their guts with Easter Dinner. Tampa had the tying run on third base and the winning run on first, as the real-life version of Rick Vaughn flirted with disaster for the second time in four days. But Joe Kelly got Denard Span to go down swinging and the Sox took the set to move atop the AL East after the season’s opening series.
Many expected the Red Sox to take at least 3-of-4 at The Trop to open the year, however, few expected Boston to outscore the Rays by just one run in the series.
RBI’s from J.D. Martinez and Rafael Devers gave the Sox all the support they needed, as Hector Velazquez recorded his first win of 2018, tossing 5.1 innings of one-run ball.
Velazquez continued the string of impressive performances from Sox starters to begin the season. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, 2018 is the first time in the franchise’s 118-year history that Red Sox starting pitchers have allowed one or zero runs in each of the club’s first four games of a season.
And if the starter’s near-unblemished performances weren’t enough, after the season-opening implosion by the ‘pen, the unit combined for nine scoreless innings over the last three games.
A look ahead: I’m not one to nitpick victories, but three one-run wins over the Rays, despite looking great in the win column, is not a sustainable path to success. The offense failed to make the trip from Ft. Myers, north to Tampa Bay, but perhaps the Sox can swing back through and pick it up on the way to South Beach.
The Marlins opened their season with a surprising 4-game split with the Chicago Cubs, and limited the Cubbies to one run on Friday and a shutout on Saturday. Though, in their two losses, the Marlins allowed eight and 10 runs respectively, so there should be plenty of opportunity for Boston’s bats to come alive in Miami.
Side Note: With Blake Swihart getting the start at DH on Sunday, and Marcus Walden’s Major League-debut, the Red Sox have now featured 24-of-25 players on the active roster in action. The lone man yet to make his season debut is Brian Johnson, who gets the ball Monday night at 7:10 p.m. in Miami.
Mark Paulette is the executive producer of The Drive, weekdays 4pm to 6pm on 92.9fm The Ticket and streaming live at DriveShowMaine.com. Follow us on Twitter, @DriveShowMaine and “Like Us” on Facebook, Drive Show