Red Sox nine-game road trip can erase my skepticism
By Rick McNair
The Boston Red Sox have their first test to pass on the 2018 season with a nine-game road trip. Is this team the real deal? We may all know in another two weeks.
I remain unconvinced. Still a Boston Red Sox skeptic despite a 13-2 start that has erased competition. The offense suddenly caught fire and the pitching continues to be amazingly consistent, just about the best in the American League. Injuries have done virtually nothing to impact the surging Red Sox. Are they unstoppable?
The BIG test is the next nine games with a possibly perilous road excursion that starts in the west coast. The Red Sox often have had the west coast become their own elephant graveyard. A place where Red Sox teams that run the gamut from awful to outstanding have gone to die. This team appears different. This is a very good road club.
In 2017, the Red Sox finished 45-36 (.556) on the road. Anything above .500 is generally a benchmark for season success. Another note of interest is the Red Sox in 2017 scored 398 runs on the road and 387 at home. They can score on the road. No more lumbering one-dimensional offensive tools designed purely for Fenway Park.
First stop is the Angels which are located somewhere in Southern California and choose their name of convenience – either Los Angels or Anaheim. I just go LAA. This is the most improved team in baseball. Zack Cozart and Ian Kinsler were quality pickups who along with Andrelton Simmons have a lockdown defense. The Angels are also off to a blazing start. An early season preview of the ALCS? Don’t tell that to Houston.
The best player in the American League is Mike Trout and he now has company with the best player from Japan in pitching/hitting sensation Shohei Ohtani. The offense can punish you and they are collectively at a 5.7 fWAR. The best offense in baseball in the early reviews. The balance sheet does have a second part – pitching. The Angels are in the middle of the pack.
The Red Sox venture on to Oakland and the second most despicable park in baseball. But the team is a hitting machine with some legitimate power in Khris Davis, Matt Chapman, and Jed Lowrie. They can light it up, but they have some real gas cans on the pitching staff. A staff that has a 0.1 fWAR.
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The Red Sox have six games out west and if you are, like myself, a believer in the old baseball axiom that good pitching shuts down good hitting the Red Sox will keep on an offensive roll that has brought memories of routine double-digit games in runs and hits that were absent in 2017.
The Red Sox finish off in Toronto and the Blue Jays. Last season Boston went 13-6 against the Jays. This season the Jays have been on an early season resurrection and trail the Red Sox in the standings by 3.5 games. That, however, is not a failure since the Jays are playing at a .643 clip (through 4/15). But the collective is interesting in that the Jays pitching and hitting remains in the middle of the MLB collective.
Just what to expect in the next nine? What would erase my lingering doubts? I’d love to see a 9-0, but I do have a slight attachment to reality. I do not expect the Red Sox to consider the next nine games as a revisit to Tampa and Miami. A 6-3 record would be excellent, but a 5-4 record would most certainly be acceptable. Anything over .500 thing.
The weather will be far more conducive to baseball. No hand warmers. No wind chill factor. No snow flurries. The Red Sox will face the mound sensation Ohtani and his 100 MPH heater. Maybe see him at DH for the other two games?
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The canceled game on Monday gets the squad off to an early send-off and that is always a real plus. The pitching is all set and the bullpen rested. The Red Sox have a Big Three€ in Chris Sale, David Price, and Rick Porcello. All have that stopper quality that can prevent the depressing four or five-game losing skids. This team looks very good. A successful road excursion can make me start saying this is a great team.