Boston Red Sox: 10 Things We Learned from Series Win over Tampa Bay Rays
The Boston Red Sox returned to Fenway Park after a horrible road trip that left them with the worst record in the majors. They clearly missed being home.
The 1-5 Sox commemorated the beginning of the 100th season of baseball at Fenway Park by roaring back into form against the Tampa Bay Rays.
Boston took the first three games in fine fashion before running into a brilliant performance from James Shields, who helped shut them out in the finale.
The Sox are now 4-6, just 1.5 games out of the AL East lead.
David Ortiz is on fire. Long gone are the memories of the abysmal Aprils of 2009 and 2010.
Big Papi clearly was glad to return to Fenway Park, as he had a big series. Papi went 9-for-16 with eight RBI, four runs, two walks and a home run.
He is now batting .410 on the young season and already has five multi-hit games.
If you took the stat lines from both of Josh Beckett's starts this year and compared them, you would swear they were from different people.
April 7, @ Detroit: 4.2 IP, 7 ER, 1 BB, 3 K
April 13, vs. Tampa: 8.0 IP, 1 ER, 1 BB, 1 K
The home opener drew a dazzling performance from Beckett, which helped calm any concerns about him after the nightmare that was his first start.
The fact he didn't strike out a batter until the eighth inning is unusual for Beckett—he has never had a start where he didn't have at least one K. However, this could be a sign that he is becoming better at using his full repertoire of pitches, rather than relying on his fastball.
Josh Beckett left just one inning for a reliever to handle, and the job fell to Mark Melancon. He got through the ninth allowing only a solo home run, the only run the bullpen would allow all series.
The second game saw Franklin Morales and Alfredo Aceves take the eighth and ninth innings, respectively, and both were perfect.
In Game 3, Scott Atchison, Vicente Padilla, Morales and Aceves all came to the mound after starter Felix Doubront went five innings. The four relievers pitched brilliantly, keeping the Rays scoreless through four innings, while allowing just four hits.
The Sox lost the series finale, but Justin Thomas and Matt Albers combined for 2.1 innings of scoreless relief.
After the disastrous road trip, which saw the bullpen blow two saves and allow two walk-off hits, it was a welcome return to form. In the series, the pen was 1-0 with a 0.96 ERA and a save.
Not everything that came out of the Rays series was good. The Red Sox lost their center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury to a right shoulder subluxation. A clumsy collision at second base took Ellsbury out of the first game, and shortly after the news came through that he would miss six to eight weeks.
Ellsbury was the runner-up in the AL MVP voting last season, and hopes were high for another stellar season in 2012. We will have to wait until June to find out what he can do this year.
Another bad note was the continued struggles of Clay Buchholz. Unlike Josh Beckett, who rebounded from a bad opening start to pitch very well, Buchholz was poor again.
Six days after allowing seven runs to the Detroit Tigers, Buchholz gave up five to the Rays. He was a little better, striking out more and going longer into the game, so he's going in the right direction.
Also bear in mind that these are the first two starts he has had since a back injury ended his 2011 season before the All-Star game.
Home Sweet Home
Boston has always been two different teams at home and on the road, and this has been clearly evident in the early going in 2012.
In six games in Detroit and Toronto, Boston scored 22 runs. However, 12 of them came in a slugfest loss to the Tigers. In the other five games, they never scored more than four runs and were shut out once.
Back at Fenway, it was a different story. The Sox scored 31 runs in the first three games, and only a gem from James Shields kept them off the scoreboard in the finale.
In six games on the road, the Red Sox went through a bit of a power outage, only hitting two home runs. However, in the first series back at Fenway Park, Boston hit seven, all of which came in the first three games.
Bard pitched into the seventh inning before tiring. Through 6.2 innings, he had allowed no runs on three hits and four walks. When he reached around 100 pitches, though, he labored, allowing the next three batters to reach base. He then walked Evan Longoria to plate the game's only run.
That gave him the loss, but before it unraveled in the seventh, Bard had totally shut down the Tampa lineup. He pitched well enough to win but was unlucky to come up against James Shields.
Bobby Valentine is going to be a controversial manager, that much is clear already. In an interview, the Sox manager said that third baseman Kevin Youkilis was less "into the game" than he had been in the past.
His comments provoked criticism from fans and from second baseman Dustin Pedroia. It's only the second week of the season, and already Bobby V is criticizing his players in the media, only to have the Sox clubhouse side with the player he called out.
This Is Going to Be a Special Season
The pregame ceremonies in this series were wonderful. The home opener is always going to be a celebratory affair, but the Red Sox followed that up by honoring former outfielder Johnny Pesky, whose No. 6 was retired a few years ago.
A local man who, like Fenway Park, is celebrating his 100th birthday threw out the first pitch.
If the Sox keep these ceremonies and tributes going all year, it will be a very emotional season indeed.
Adam MacDonald is a Scottish journalism student at GCU. He has been a featured columnist for the Boston Red Sox since October 2010. You can follow him on Twitter, or tell him how awesome/terrible this article was, by clicking here.