It took until August for the 2022 Boston Red Sox to win their first series against an American League East opponent. This season, it took them three days.

Despite all of the efforts of Corey Kluber and Chris Sale, the offense flat out refused to let the Red Sox start out the season behind the eight ball. The two former Cy Young Award winners both pitched atrociously, uncharacteristically wild while serving up cock shots that buried the team in early six-run holes in the first two games of the season. While a little rust should be anticipated from Sale, who was making his first regular season start in eight months, Kluber was the antithesis of the wily control freak that was advertised when Alex Cora named him the Opening Day starter.

As optimistic as I was about the Boston Red Sox offense coming into the season, there is definitely going to be some doubt when your 3-4-5 hitters have a combined zero total at bats for your team. Luckily, this group came together immediately and we watched the best case scenario for the offense unfold.

The Red Sox battled back from the 8-2 deficit Kluber, Zack Kelly, Kaleb Ort, and Ryan Brasier dug them into on Opening Day. They even got the tying run into scoring position in the ninth inning before Orioles closer Felix Bautista struck out new Red Sox centerfielder Adam Duvall to cap off a 10-9 O’s win. Duvall, however, was far from done with Bautista.

The Opening Day near-comeback was impressive enough from an offensive standpoint even though they came up a run short. The high-profile newcomers came through bigtime, with Duvall, Justin Turner, and rookies Triston Casas and Masataka Yoshida combining for five RBI. In a complete role reversal from the 2022 team, these Red Sox scored almost at will while being completely inept at run prevention. What had started as an utter mess concluded with a silver lining.

At least these guys can hit.

Of course, the pitching issue was magnified on Saturday when Chris Sale was battered around even worse than Kluber. The lanky lefty gave up seven runs on seven hits, including three 420-foot bombs off the bats of Ryan Mountcastle, Austin Hays, and Cedric Mullins. Down 7-1 after two-and-a-half innings, the Red Sox offense was tasked with yet another seemingly impossible objective. Until Adam Duvall said, “hold my beer.”

It was Alex Verdugo that actually started the hit parade, taking Orioles starter Dean Kremer over the bullpen for a two-run homer. Duvall followed suit four batters later with his first two-run shot of the day to make it a 7-5 game. The Orioles added a run in the fourth off Zack Kelly before Cora handed the ball over to his best bullpen arms. Josh Winckowski, John Schreiber, Chris Martin, and Kenley Jansen shut down a Baltimore attack that appeared unstoppable until then, allowing Duvall and company to chow down on the Orioles relief core.

A Kiké Hernandez blast made it a two-run game again in the seventh, and a Duvall RBI double trimmed the margin to one. It stayed 8-7 until the bottom of the ninth, where Bautista looked a lot more like the dominant closer from 2022 than he had in game one. For all intents and purposes, Bautista closed out the game a 1-2-3 ninth inning. However, left fielder Ryan McKenna dropped Yoshida’s lazy fly ball, allowing Duvall to step up to the plate representing the winning run.

The walk-off missile immediately bought Adam Duvall some serious cache with the Fenway not-so-Faithful-of-late. His four-hit, five-RBI performance has turned an inexplicably under-the-radar signing into the toast of Landsdowne Street. With most of the hot stove talk focusing on the additions of Yoshida, Turner, Jansen, and Kluber, I feel like I’m the only humble writer/podcaster that has been excited about the guy that was signed to replace the righthanded production of Trevor Story.

As I’ve mentioned before, Adam Duvall led the National League with 113 RBI on his way to a 2021 World Series ring with the Atlanta Braves. He broke his wrist in 2022, cutting his contract year short and enabling Chaim Bloom to acquire him for a bargain basement one-year, $7 million deal in the offseason. I’ve heard a solid year of whining from Red Sox fans about trading Hunter Renfroe away for two prospects and Jackie Bradley Jr, yet there has been zero praise for obtaining Duvall, who is essentially a better version of Renfroe.

Duvall has just as much power and is a better outfielder who can not only play a good center field, but who also won’t commit the errors and hero ball sins that became Renfroe’s defensive calling cards in Boston. I expect Duvall to have a big year denting the green monster and being a defensive stalwart. He’s gotten of to an amazing start, already setting a franchise record by reaching base 13 times in his first four games with the team. 

A big comeback win like Saturday’s can be an enormous lift for a team with so many new faces in the clubhouse. Even with the team-wide epidemic of crappy starting pitching, winning makes everything ok. So much of baseball is mental, and starting off strong builds the confidence a team needs to create a winning attitude. If you feel good about yourself, you will play looser and, in all likelihood, much better. If a player starts out the season hot, he will feel confident and put together more quality at bats because he’s not pressing, tightening up, or endlessly tinkering with his swing. If a whole offense starts out hot, that attitude can permeate through the entire locker room and enable the team to elevate themselves into something potentially greater than the sum of their parts.

Saturday’s victory was followed up by another nine-run outburst Sunday afternoon. Duvall racked up three more hits, Kiké went deep again, Yoshida and Verdugo each knocked in two runs, and Tanner Houck delivered the only positive starting pitching performance of the season as the Red Sox took the series with a 9-5 victory. The American League East is officially not unbeatable from Boston’s perspective in 2023 thanks to an offense that has clicked from the get-go. 

The bats kept rolling right into Monday, hitting three first-inning homers off Pirates starting pitcher Johan Oviedo. Devers and Casas knocked their first dongs of the season, and Yoshida pounded his first career Major League round tripper over the monster. What’s more, the bullpen also shut the Pirates down for five scoreless innings. However, it was the same old story with the starting pitching. Kutter Crawford made it three stinkers out of four games for the Red Sox rotation, putting up a stat line that was nearly identical to the gruesome one that Sale recorded Saturday (seven runs, eight hits, six strikeouts, two walks, and three home runs in four innings). The offense ain’t gonna score nine runs every day, and they lost to the Pirates 7-6. 

There’s a whole lot of reason for concern on the pitching front. Kluber, Sale, and Crawford were all nothing short of putrid in their first turns through the rotation. Houck was pretty good, but only lasted five innings. Although the bullpen has been solid aside from the Opening Day nightmare, they can’t keep this pace up for long. If the starting pitchers don’t start eating some innings and spare the relievers the excessive workload, the season could start falling apart fast. The pressure is on Nick Pivetta to have a strong performance Tuesday night so the bullpen won’t have to cobble together five or six innings of work once again.

On the bright side, Garret Whitlock (Thursday), Brayan Bello (Wednesday), and James Paxton (Tuesday) are scheduled to make rehab starts with minor league affiliates this week, with Whitlock hopefully able to join the Red Sox as early as next week. If those three can all complete their rehab assignments without any setbacks and join the rotation, Crawford and Houck can move into a refortified bullpen and Ort can be sent down to Worcester. Of course, that scenario is all dependent on a lot of injury-plagued pitchers getting healthy and/or staying that way for a considerable period of time. 

Beyond the pitching woes, the offense is beginning to prove some doubters wrong. A lot of Red Sox fans scoffed at the notion that dumbass Verdugo, Devers, 38-year-old Turner, Japanese rookie Yoshida, unimpressive Duvall, and sunbathing freakshow Casas could make a formidable top six crew of hitters. Through four games though, they’ve delivered in spades. A cool-off is inevitable, and may in fact have already begun Monday night (one run after the first inning). The question is if this crew can continue to give good at bats and come up with enough clutch hits to avoid a prolonged cold spell and resultant losing streak, especially while being paired with a starting rotation that has given them virtually no support whatsoever. 

It’s interesting to note that Turner, Yoshida, and Casas have not even heated up yet, despite each of them making significant contributions to the scoring barrage. Scoring 34 runs in four games while three guys in the middle of the order have not been carving up the opposition is an encouraging sign. It’s an indication that the potent slugging of the last four games is not necessarily an aberration. When Duvall, Devers, and Verdugo begin to scuffle, it will hopefully be time for Turner, Yoshida, Casas, Hernandez, and/or Arroyo to get locked in and carry the load for awhile. Getting hot in shifts and doing the little things right are among the hallmarks of a sustainable offensive attack. 

During this incredibly small four-game sample size, I think all Red Sox fans can agree that we love what we’ve seen at the dish. Yet a 34-run assault over four games should absolutely net you more than two wins, and that kind of production does not feel nearly as impressive when you consider that the opposition scored 29 runs in those same four games. And while I feel like this lineup can continue to deliver at an elite rate throughout the season, there’s one more thing that we can all agree on. 

They can’t do it alone. 



By Luke

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