The Red Sox offense is off to a historic start to the 2023 season
By Sean Penney
It usually takes time for an offense to be firing on all cylinders. Hitters are still working on finding their rhythm at the plate early in the season. The ball tends to travel better in warmer air as summer approaches. The Boston Red Sox couldn't wait to break out their bats. They made a statement in the opening series of the season by pounding the Baltimore Orioles for 27 runs over three games at Fenway Park.
The Red Sox scored nine runs in each game of the series, joining the 1978 Brewers and 1976 Reds as the only three teams since 1901 to score nine or more runs in each of their first three games, per MassLive's Christopher Smith. This also marks the first time since 1995 that the Red Sox have scored at least eight runs in each of their first three games of a season, according to MLB.com's Ian Browne.
The Red Sox won two out of three to open the season
The nine runs weren't enough to overcome a dreadful Opening Day performance from Corey Kluber and the bullpen, as Boston dropped their first game of the season in a 10-9 slugfest. The offense did its part with 11 hits leading to their nine runs but the pitching staff put them into a deep hole. A late rally that saw the tying run reach scoring position in the ninth came up just short. While the pitching only moderately improved as the series went on, the offense wouldn't let up.
Adam Duvall was the hero of Game 2 with a four-hit performance that included a pair of home runs, a triple and a double.
The Red Sox were given new life when Orioles left fielder Ryan McKenna dropped a routine fly ball with two outs in the ninth inning, allowing Masataka Yoshida to reach safely representing the tying run. Duvall wasn't going to settle for the base hit that would have completed the cycle. He smashed a 99 mph fastball from Orioles closer Félix Bautista that barely cleared the ledge on top of the Green Monster in left field for a walk-off home run.
Duvall is the first Red Sox player to hit a walk-off home run in a game they were trailing with two outs in the final inning since Christian Vazquez in 2017.
Boston strung together a season-high 14 hits to tally another nine runs in Sunday's finale, a 9-5 victory that clinched a series win to open the season.
Duvall led the way again with three of those hits to go along with a pair of RBI. Five Red Sox hitters had multiple hits in the game and four of them had multiple RBI. Yoshida's RBI base hit in the fifth inning gave the Red Sox a lead that they wouldn't relinquish. Even when the O's tried to rally with a couple of runs, Boston's bats kept hammering away to keep the game out of reach.
Duvall is off to a scorching start, hitting .571/.600/1.357 through three games. He leads the majors among hitters with 10+ plate appearances with eight RBI, 416 wRC+ and a .817 wOBA.
He's not the only bat in this lineup doing damage though. Kiké Hernández (271), Alex Verdugo (192), Rafael Devers (189) and Justin Turner (187) all rank in the top-25 in the American League in wRC+ this season.
It's only been three games but it's encouraging to see that the Red Sox are second in the majors with 29 runs scored. They rank third with a .564 SLG while sitting fourth with a .327 AVG, .395 OBP, 153 wRC+ and .419 wOBA, per FanGraphs. They will certainly face more challenging pitching staffs than the one Baltimore presented them with but it's not a stretch to believe that the Red Sox could have a top-five offense this season.
The Red Sox notoriously struggled against divisional opponents last season with a 26-50 record against the AL East. They didn't win a series against a divisional opponent last season until August. A balanced schedule that means fewer games against the other teams in the AL East is one of several reasons to be more optimistic about this season but getting a series win over a division rival this early removes a burden that weighed on this team last year.