Red Sox Recap: Who Needs Cole Hamels?
Well, if there were any doubts that Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Clay Buchholz could match skills with ace Cole Hamels, they were quickly dispelled, dispensed, and utterly destroyed.
After an off-season where Buchholz and the rest of Boston’s starting rotation had to hear day after day that they were not good enough to be successful, it was time to prove the critics wrong. Opening Day of the regular season saw the Philadelphia Phillies host the Red Sox, with Hamels, the coveted left-hander, to greet them on the mound at Citizens Bank Park. In front of just over 45 500 baseball fans, and millions watching at home, Hamels had the chance to prove why Phillies management asked for so many prospects and other assets, pretty much the future of the Red Sox, in order to obtain his services.
Instead, Buchholz served up a giant slice of humble pie to any doubters, including members of Red Sox Nation, for suggesting that he could not be an ace of the franchise.
The right-handed, Texas native completely shut down the Phillies offense, with some help from the bullpen in the eighth and ninth innings. Buchholz struck out 9 opposing batters, with only 1 walk, on just 3 hits and no earned runs in 7 innings of work. Junichi Tazawa and Tommy Layne mopped up an inning each, with Layne having a walk as the single blemish on their record.
Ironically, Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard, known more for striking out at the plate more than anyone on his team, was the only real threat, with a double to go 1-for-4. Catcher Carlos Ruiz made up the other ‘danger’ by walking twice. The Phillies left 6 runners on base, 3 of them in scoring position.
Apr 6, 2015; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Boston Red Sox shortstop Hanley Ramirez (13) is congratulated after hitting a grand slam home run against the Philadelphia Phillies during the ninth inning at Citizens bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Offensively, the Red Sox bats had much to say about this game, as well. With so many new additions, including big names like left fielder Hanley Ramirez and third baseman Pablo Sandoval, questions were asked, in the off-season, whether they could work together and produce to their potential. Not only did they produce, but they pounded the ball to put the game out of reach for the Phillies.
All it took was the second batter for Hamels to make a mistake in the first inning. Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia launched the team’s first home run of 2015 over the center field fence. What a statement from one of the team’s undisputed leaders. And, that statement was heard, felt, and learned by leadoff man Mookie Betts, who did the same to Hamels to lead off the top of the third inning.
Not to be outdone, Pedroia responded to the young man by hitting yet another home run to center field, in the top of the fifth inning. Ramirez also decided to get in on the Hamels-hit-parade by crushing a pitch to have it meet Pedroia’s ball, two batters later.
Apparently, that was all that the Phillies could allow their star pitcher to take. He finished the inning, but the damage had been done. Hamels’ finishing line was 4 runs on 5 hits, with 6 strikeouts to 3 walks. Clearly, the long ball was the problem for Hamels, as he technically only allowed one hit per inning. With more time to stretch out, Hamels will continue to improve on this outing, as the pitches seemed more like beach balls to the Red Sox, left fat in the strikezone.
To be fair to the Phillies, nothing much else happened until the top of the ninth inning. A couple of hits were all that the Red Sox could muster, until Phillies relief pitcher Jake Diekman served Ramirez his second home run of the game, a grand slam, which cashed in Allen Craig, Betts, and Mike Napoli. Immediately, Caesar Jimenez was brought in for relief and closed out the inning, and the game as the Philly bats were ice cold.
The Red Sox won the game 8-0.
- With all the runs being scored, it’s worth noting that other Red Sox batters did fairly poorly in the game. Sandoval and first baseman David Ortiz went a combined 0-for-9, striking out 6 times without being walked. Right fielder Shane Victorino also went 0-for-3, with a strikeout and 2 walks.
- The Red Sox went 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position, leaving a total 7 runners on base. At least, when they got on base, they frequently moved into position to give their team a chance to score.
- There was no need for someone to close the game, with the score being more than 3 runs. Hamels took the loss and Buchholz recorded the win. With the temperature at 71 degrees Fahrenheit and a wind blowing 11 mph out to right field, you would think that the ball might have some trouble leaving the park, at least to center field, yet Hamels gave up 4 solo home runs.
What other grade could you possibly give the Red Sox starting pitcher? With all of the hype to this game being about how Hamels could be the savior ace to Boston, if they were to make the trade, at least for today, Buchholz silenced that narrative. He completely dominated a, granted, weak and aging lineup. Normally, these grades are meant to evaluate the player and not his head-to-head opponent, but, in this case, how can you not compare? All of these experts did nothing but compare Hamels to Buchholz during the off-season; it’s only fair to return the favor. Hamels looked like the one who was doubting his skills, while Buchholz looked like the ace of spades, dealing out death to the hopes and dreams of any of the Phillies batters that they would get a score, or even a big hit, against him. His only real blemish was a fielding error in the first inning. We’ll let that slide if he can do this performance every time.
What more can be said? They came in, silenced the Phillies and their fans for an inning, and left. That’s what you want from your bullpen. You should never feel like they change a ballgame’s progress, in any way, if you are in the lead.
Yep, it’s a pretty severe grade, considering that the team posted 8 runs. The team hit 5 homers, and yet they could do better. Except for the grand slam, off of a middle reliever, late in the game, the others were only solo jobs. Many of the veteran names did not even get on base, let alone smash a hit. With so many home runs, the score could have been even more, if people were on base. There’s temptation to even make the grade a B+, if not for the fact that Pedroia hit two massive long balls off of Hamels. A clear message was sent, each time the ball left the field: we don’t need Hamels if we just have our pitcher’s back. To bash 4 home runs off of supposedly the future ace of the Red Sox, it makes you question why some want to give up so many top prospects and young studs in a trade for his services. Hamels’ career suggests the answer, but let’s enjoy the moment, for now.
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