RSCTBNL: What a Difference a Week Makes

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The Red Sox could not have gotten off to a worse start to open the season, getting swept at Fenway by the lowly Baltimore Orioles at Fenway.  But the team woke up in a big way in the ensuing week, first sweeping the Rays in a three game set to close out the homestand, then getting revenge against the Orioles in a three game sweep to spoil the O's Home Opener.  In this week's Red Sox Column to be Named Later, I look back at the Red Sox rebound week, opine of the reveal of the Nike Boston Marathon inspired uniforms, make an early call of the winner of the Benintendi/Cordero trade, identify who's trending up and who's trending down, and then take a look at the week ahead for the Sox. 

J.D. Martinez and Xander Bogaerts celebrate in Sunday's 14-9 win over the Orioles/
Photo courtesy of wcvb.com

Turn The Beat Around

There's a saying that you can't win a pennant in April, but you can definitely lose one.  Just ask the 2019 Red Sox.  This year's edition had a similar feel after the Opening Weekend sweep at the hands of the lowly Orioles, and with the defending AL Champ Tampa Bay Rays coming into Fenway next, Red Sox Nation was holding its collective breath.  Those fears were temporarily eased after the Sox scored early and often in the first game of the Rays series, winning a laugher by a score of 11-2.

The blowout win was fun, but what occurred the following night proved much more telling about the 2021 team.  Trailing 3-1 to the Rays going into the eighth inning,, the Red Sox rallied for one run in the eighth and scored another run in the ninth to tie the score at 3-3 and force extra innings.  The Sox then held serve with the Rays in extra innings before scoring a pair of runs in the 12th to take a 6-5 win.  The gutsy win set the tone for the rest of the week, and perhaps the rest of the season.

After another blowout in the series finale against the Rays (9-2), and spoiling the home opener for the Orioles (7-3), the Red Sox again found themselves trailing 4-3 to the O's in the ninth inning on Saturday.  The Sox once again rallied and managed to tie the score when Bobby Dalbec barely beat out a relay to first on what would have been a game ending double play grounder to short.  The Sox pushed across a pair of runs in the tenth and escaped with a 6-4 victory, their fifth win in a row.

The Red Sox closed out the weekend with an offensive explosion in the series finale, winning 14-9.  Three homers from J.D. Martinez and two from Rafael Devers paced the offensive attack.  Though the bullpen nearly gave the lead back, the deficit was too much for the Orioles offense to overcome.

For the week, the Red Sox offense scored 53 runs in six games.  Equally as important, all Red Sox starters pitched at least five innings while allowing less than three runs.  Not a quality start by the traditional definition, but it was an exponential improvement over the 2020 Sox staff.

Of course there is still a very long way to go in the 2021 season, but this week showed the Red Sox can play with intensity and with a fire that the 2020 team lacked.  The pitching staff has no doubt been greatly improved over 2020, and the apparent return to form of Martinez has infused the offense with a new swagger.  Maybe it was the benefit of a full spring training, or maybe it was the return of Alex Cora.  Whatever it was, this Red Sox team is playing with confidence, getting timely hits and pitching and so far is headed in the right direction.  They should be a fun team to watch as the season plays out.


Nike MLB City Connect Series 

Last Tuesday Nike unveiled the first of their new City Connect Series with the Boston Marathon inspired Red Sox jerseys.  The Red Sox are one of seven teams that will wear specially designed uniforms this season, along with Arizona, both Chicago teams, LA Dodgers, Miami and San Francisco.  The remaining uniforms will be revealed as the season progresses.  The Red Sox will wear these new duds for the first three games of their Patriots Day weekend series against the White Sox.  


In the press release issued with the presentation of the new uniforms, Nike stated, "The Balancing that sanctity and ingenuity in a club's identity through creative partnership is what energizes the 2021 Nike MLB City Connect Series. The designs continue to explore a franchise’s connection to its city and its fanbase, each with distinct personalities, values, customs and traditions."

“Nike is uniquely suited for our relationship with MLB because we like pushing the edges of creativity across the board, but it's always done out of a place of supporting the players and advancing the sport,” says Sonja Henning, Nike VP, North America League Partnerships. “We take that same attentive energy in hearing insight from athletes and apply that to visualizing new and familiar relationships between clubs, cities and fans.”

"We viewed the City Connect collaboration with Nike as an opportunity to celebrate the spirit of a weekend that is uniquely Boston," said Red Sox executive Adam Grossman.  "The departure from our traditional style pays homage to that iconic weekend, and recognizes Boston's boldness, culture and creativity."

I cringed when I first saw these uniforms.  My initial fear was the MLB was going to turn into the NBA, with multiple uniforms for teams in non-traditional team colors.  As I've ranted before in this blogspace and on our podcasts, that some NBA teams has become unrecognizable to me with all the new uniforms and color schemes.  I hate having to try to figure out who is playing when I click on a game or catch a highlight.  The Lakers wearing baby blue?  The Heat wearing pink? Stop the madness - not in the MLB!

However, I then quickly made the connection to the colors of the Boston Marathon, colors that have become the unofficial colors of the city after the Marathon Bombings in 2013.  At that point I quickly changed my opinion and gave kudos to Nike and the Sox for paying homage to what the Marathon has come to mean to the city.  But the more I think about it, the more it started to aggravate me again.

Look, we all know the primary purpose these uniforms serve is to sell more jerseys and hats.  The bottom line is the Bottom Line, for both Nike and the MLB.  With that thought thought in mind, it pisses me off that both are trying to cash in on the tragedy of the Marathon Bombing.  These jerseys are selling at the MLB Shop for $149. Will any of the profits from the sale of this new apparel be donated to charities for the bombing victims, or for any Boston related charities?  There was no mention of that in any of the press releases.  Think twice before you shell out your hard-earned cash.


Early Returns

It's far too early to make a call, but the early returns from reporting precincts have the Red Sox with a slight margin over the Royals in the deal that brought Franchy Cordero to Boston in exchange for Andrew Benintendi.  There were other players and teams involved in the deal, but for the moment let's focus on the major league principal players.

Cordero - 8 GMs, 21 ABs, 7 hits, 2 2Bs, 3 RBI, .333/.364/.429, 

Benintendi - 7 GMs, 29 ABs, 6 hits, 0 XBH, 1 RBI, .207/.281/.207


Trending Up

There's nobody hotter on the Red Sox so far this season than J.D. Martinez.  Martinez was one of the lone bright spots in the season opening sweep by the Orioles, and he continued that production this week.  In five games, Martinez slashed .458/.500/1.125 with four homers, four doubles and a whopping 13 RBI.  

In the latest Red Sox Podcast to be Named Later, I said I was concerned with Martinez after his poor 2020 season and slow start in Spring Training.  I thought his swing looked slow and that his skills were starting to diminishp.  I am happy to say I was wrong.

Xander Bogaerts quietly had a very productive week of his own, slashing .550/.609/.650.

On the pitching side, Matt Barnes has been nearly flawless so far in 2021.  This week he made three appearances, tossing four innings while allowing no runs and striking out nine without surrendering a hit or issuing a walk.  Though he has not had the opportunity to pitch in a traditional closer situation, and Cora has not officially named a closer, it's a pretty safe bet Barnes will get that call if it and when it comes up.


Trending Down

Bobby Dalbec was given a few games off after a rough start to the season and finally collected  three hits this week to boost his average to .120.  He picked up his first extra base hit Sunday against the Orioles, barely missing a home run by a foot.  In 25 at bats this season, Dalbec has struck out ten times.


Look Ahead

The competition is about to get a lot more challenging for the Red Sox.  The Sox will play their next eight games against AL Central powers Minnesota and Chicago.  The week will kick off with a four game set against the Twins, with whom the Red Sox should be well acquainted after playing them 75 times in Spring Training.  The Twins are off to a 5-4 start this season, after losing two of three over the weekend to the Mariners.

The White Sox have also gotten off to a slow start, sitting at 4-5 after splitting an abbreviated two game set with the Royals.  After a scheduled off-day Friday following the Chicago home opener on Thursday, Saturday's game was postponed due to weather.  

The Pale Hose feature a solid group of starting pitchers, led by one of the game's best in Lucas Giolito, who is on track get one of the starts in Fenway.  Chicago also has veteran hurlers Dallas Keuchel (a former Cy Young Award winner) and Lance Lynn on their starting staff, as well as a bevy of young talent in their everyday lineup.  

Wins over the depleted Rays and the rebuilding O's were fun, and beating up on weaker teams is something a good team should do.  The Twins and White Sox will give us a much better feel for the chances of this team to compete this season.


Follow Bill on Twitter @BTravers_SYN

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Boston Sports Syndicate: RSCTBNL: What a Difference a Week Makes
RSCTBNL: What a Difference a Week Makes
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