Red Sox Need To Win Season-Opening Series

Oct 4, 2015; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona (17) takes the ball from relief pitcher Kyle Crockett (57) during a pitching change in the sixth inning against the Boston Red Sox at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 4, 2015; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona (17) takes the ball from relief pitcher Kyle Crockett (57) during a pitching change in the sixth inning against the Boston Red Sox at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports /

Based on the opening schedule in April, the Boston Red Sox need to start with a series win against the Cleveland Indians to set the tone against the AL East.

On April 4th, 2016, the Boston Red Sox begin their 115th professional baseball campaign on the road against the Cleveland Indians. The three-game series will have a break on April 5th before continuing on the 6th and 7th. This series will begin after the Red Sox finish their spring training session with two games in Montreal, Quebec at Olympic Stadium against the Toronto Blue Jays.

Before chewing on that nugget of information a bit more, let us also note that the Red Sox will continue their regular season after being in Cleveland by going to Toronto the next day to begin another three-same series against those same Blue Jays, the 2015 American League East division winners. From there, the Red Sox will finally come home to begin their first homestand with three series against the Baltimore Orioles, the Blue Jays once again, and the Tampa Bay Rays.

Talk about a pressure-filled start to the year for Boston!

Three divisional rivals come to Fenway Park to start the home game schedule. The Red Sox were dead last in the division last season, with a record of 78-84. The Blue Jays won the division with a record of 93-69, 15 more victories than Red Sox Nation would have liked. If Boston would like to get out of the division cellar, starting this season with three series wins against these teams would serve them well to put some distance between them and to take a bit of the pressure off of the club.

However, the crucial series to set the tone will definitely be against the non-division opponent. Or, at least, it should serve well as an early litmus test.

The Cleveland Indians finished with an 81-80 record for third in the AL Central division, 13.5 games back of the World Series champion Kansas City Royals, but only three games up on the Red Sox. Their expected three starters against Boston would be Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, and Danny Salazar. Their collective ERA of 3.52 isn’t terrible but it also gives the Red Sox hope that they can outscore them. ESPN reported the Indians to have the 18th ranked team in terms of offensive runs scored in the majors; the Red Sox were fourth in the same category last season.

If it were possible to sweep the Indians, much of the Fenway faithful would be relieved, even for only a few days, before the divisional rivals come to town.

Yet, remember that first nugget?

If anyone is forgetting about why the Red Sox will be in Quebec before the season starts, it is because of that Canadian team that flew south and became the Washington Nationals. The Montreal Expos may no longer exist, but that identity change stung the hearts of Canadians, especially the loyal Quebec fans who looked at their team as an organization steeped in French-Canadian cultural significance.

The people in Montreal may love their hockey and Les Habitants, a.k.a. the Montreal Canadiens, above all else in the sporting world, but a close second was their connection to professional baseball. The Canadian publication The Globe and Mail had a report from Ingrid Peritz around when the movie 42, regarding the life of baseball legend Jackie Robinson, premiered. Robinson may have broken the color barrier in Major League Baseball with the Brooklyn Dodgers; however, Montreal was one of the first places that he did it first in professional baseball. Peritz wrote, “Montrealers may not get their cinematic due, but they haven’t been forgotten by the woman who experienced their openness first-hand. Rachel Robinson, 90, remembers the city’s tolerance during Jackie Robinson’s debut with the Montreal Royals in 1946.” The Canadian city is fiercely proud of that moment in history, and the Expos helped them extend that pride with decades of their own success.

People have been pleading, appropriately and inappropriately, with MLB officials that Montreal needs and deserves another team. The Blue Jays have been capitalizing on the passion by having preseason games held in the Expos’ former home to show solidarity between the English and French sides of the country. The place will be another madhouse for the two-game series with the Red Sox, just like it was last year.

The French-Canadians already have well-documented disdain for the U.S. over the years, so having the Expos moved out of Quebec and into the U.S. capital itself might as well have been a kick in the teeth after just being kicked in the groin. With ravenous fans shouting from the top of their lungs how much they love their country, angry with the Nationals, angry with MLB officials for not bowing to their demands year after year, would you be excited to be the Red Sox players to play in that kind of atmosphere, even as a preseason series?

Even if Boston’s players had a thrill from it, it would still be at least an emotional dumping just before their crucial series with the Indians, putting even more on the line for them to have a good start in their first regular season game.

That’s not even factoring that it will be ace David Price‘s first game to impress Red Sox Nation in their club’s uniform.

Not enough pressure for you? Let’s try again by mentioning that the Blue Jays, with pretty much the same lineup as last season, crushed 71 home runs and scored 143 more runs than the Red Sox in 2015. This team, sporting the defending AL MVP Award winner Josh Donaldson and bat-flipper extraordinaire Jose Bautista, will play the Red Sox nine times, seven of them regular season games, in 18 days.

Next: Red Sox 5 Spring Training Questions

Between the emotions, the rivalries, and the international cultural frustrations, on top of Boston’s own issues with their team’s performance last season, anyone else thinking that the Red Sox would really like to sweep the Indians to start the season?