Boston Red Sox vs Pittsburgh Pirates series preview

Mar 8, 2017; Port St. Lucie, FL, USA; Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Rick Porcello (22) delivers a pitch against the New York Mets at First Data Field. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 8, 2017; Port St. Lucie, FL, USA; Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Rick Porcello (22) delivers a pitch against the New York Mets at First Data Field. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports /

Previewing the three-game set between the Boston Red Sox and Pittsburgh Pirates to open the 2017 regular season starting April 3.

The Boston Red Sox kick off the season by hosting the Pittsburgh Pirates for a three-game series at Fenway Park.

Boston is coming off a season in which they won 93 games to capture the AL East division title, only to be swept by the Cleveland Indians in the ALDS.

Pittsburgh was one of the National League’s biggest disappointments a year ago. After securing a spot in the postseason as a Wild Card in 2015, the Pirates dropped to 78 wins last season to finish a distant third in the NL Central.

Now it’s a new season and both teams are looking to get off to a fast start in 2017. Who has the edge in this opening series?

Pitching Matchup

Monday, April 3 at 2:05 PM – Rick Porcello vs Gerrit Cole

Wednesday, April 5 at 7:10 PM – Chris Sale vs Jameson Taillon

Thursday, April 6 at 1:35 PM – Eduardo Rodriguez vs Chad Kuhl

Series Notes

  • Reining Cy Young winner Rick Porcello gets the Opening Day nod for the Red Sox. He was sensational when pitching at Fenway last season, going 13-1 with a 2.97 ERA over 16 home starts.
  • First baseman Mitch Moreland‘s status was in question to begin the season as he battled the flu toward the end of spring training, but he’s good to go for Opening Day. Steve Selsky was a surprise addition to the 25-man roster, in part due to his ability to play first base. We may still see him man the position against lefties if Hanley Ramirez‘  sore shoulder keeps him locked into the designated hitter role.
  • The Red Sox acquired Brock Holt in a 2012 trade with the Pirates that sent former closer Mark Melancon to Pittsburgh. Holt isn’t expected to start on Opening Day, but if he makes an appearance at any point in this series it will be the first time he’s faced off against the team that selected him in the 9th round of the 2009 draft.
  • The Red Sox are looking for their third consecutive Opening Day victory. They also haven’t lost a home game on Opening Day since 2002.
  • This series represents a rematch between the two franchises that squared off in Major League Baseball’s first modern day World Series. Back in 1908, the Boston Americans defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates 5-3 in a best-of-nine series.

Key Hitters

Red Sox: Mookie Betts

2016 Stats: .318 batting average, 122 runs, 31 home runs, 113 RBI, 26 steals

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Betts is looking to build on a breakout year that saw him finish as the runner-up in the AL MVP race. He made his first All-Star appearance and won a Gold Glolve by leading the majors with 32 defensive runs saved.

After spending the bulk of 2015 in the lead-off spot, Betts is expected to anchor the middle of the lineup, where he’ll be counted on to be the team’s top run producer in the post-David Ortiz era.

Pirates: Andrew McCutchen

2016 Stats: .256 batting average, 81 runs, 24 home runs, 79 RBI, 6 steals

The 2013 NL MVP looks to rebound from a forgettable season in which he posted the lowest marks of his career in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging, OPS and stolen bases.

If his dip in production at the plate wasn’t bad enough, he was even worse in the field. McCutchen posted a brutal -28 defensive runs saved last season, rating as the worst defensive outfielder in the majors. The end result was a -0.7 WAR from a player who posted a WAR between 4.9 and 8.1 during his previous five All-Star seasons.

Shifting to right field where he’s less of a defensive liability will improve his value, although the Pirates will need his bat to bounce back if they have any hope of competing in a difficult NL Central division.

Next: 5 questions to follow this season

Check back with BoSox Injection prior to the start of every Red Sox series this season for our preview!