Red Sox starting rotation off to historically great start

BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 09: Chris Sale
BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 09: Chris Sale /

The brilliance of the Boston Red Sox starting rotation this season has included accomplishments that have never been seen by this franchise.

The usual small sample size caveats aside, the Boston Red Sox starting rotation has been nothing short of spectacular to begin the 2018 season.

Red Sox pitchers own a 2.31 ERA through four games, which ranks third in the American League. They also rank third in the league with a .190 batting average against. That’s impressive on its own but would be a lot more so if the bullpen hadn’t inflated those numbers. Boston’s starting rotation has been on another level.

The Opening Day bullpen meltdown overshadowed a dominant performance by Chris Sale. The ace went six shutout innings, allowing only one hit and striking out nine. Sale allowed three walks, signaling his typically sharp command isn’t quite in mid-season form. The Tampa Bay Rays couldn’t make him pay for the free passes and Sale still pitched well enough to deserve a win. He wouldn’t end up factoring into the decision after the bullpen blew it but Sale is the only Red Sox starter this season who hasn’t earned a win.

As well as Sale pitched in the opener, David Price may have been even better. He tossed seven shutout innings, scattering four hits and striking out five. He did not walk a batter and made it through his outing with an ultra-efficient 76 pitches. Had he done this in June he may have gone the distance for the complete game shutout. Given that it was only March and he was limited by injury last year there was no reason to push him.

Sale and Price became the first Red Sox starters to open the season with consecutive scoreless outings since Lefty Grove and Jim Bagby did it in 1940.

Next up was Rick Porcello. He breezed through five scoreless innings before giving up a run on a sac fly. That represented the first run allowed by a Red Sox starting pitcher this season and ended Porcello’s outing with one out in the sixth. The 18 inning scoreless streak is the longest in franchise history to begin a season since the 1940 rotation made it to 19 innings.

Dating back to 2016, the Red Sox have won 21 consecutive games when they provide Porcello with 3+ runs of support. In the last 32 starts in which Porcello received 3+ runs of support, he is 27-0 with a 3.24 ERA. The Red Sox are 31-1 in those games.

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The series in Tampa wrapped up with Hector Velazquez earning the win. A rough second inning began with Velazquez giving up a home run. A pair of singles gave the Rays two more base runners before he escaped the inning without further damage. Velazquez settled down after that, giving up only that one run on five hits over 5 2/3 innings.

The Red Sox rotation gave up 1 run or less in each of the first four games of the season. This is the first time in franchise history the starting staff has accomplished this, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Granted, these dominant performances by the Red Sox staff have come against the light-hitting Rays. This lineup lost their top four home run threats in Evan Longoria, Logan Morrison, Corey Dickerson and Steven Souza over the winter. Those four combined for 115 home runs last year, more than half the team total that landed them in the middle of the pack among AL teams.

The competition and small sample size make us inclined to take these results with a grain of salt. However, it’s not as if the road gets much harder in the immediate future. The Red Sox head to Miami for two games before returning to Fenway for three more against the Rays.

Next: Breaking down Sale's first inning

A meeting with the New York Yankees juggernaut lineup looms after that but there’s still time for the Red Sox to keep building momentum against inferior opponents and increase their lead in the AL East.