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Opening Series Wrap-up

By Thomas Casey
4/9

Today marks the end of the 2009 opening series between the Red Sox and ALCS champion Rays. Boston fans are hoping that the pitching displayed in games two and three are not an indication of things to come.

Game one saw Josh Beckett take the mound for the Red Sox against the Rays’ James Shields. Tuesday’s game had the highest ratings of any program that night, giving the nation (not just Red Sox nation) the chance to see a 10K performance by a healthy and rejuvenated Beckett. The second pitch home run from Dustin Pedroia was also a bright spot of the game as the Red Sox bested the Rays 5-3.

Game two was a matchup of skillful southpaws, with Lester and Kazmir facing off in Fenway. Going into the day, both pitchers harbored excellent histories in famed Fenway. But it was Kazmir who came out on top, striking out four and posting a 1.50 era over 6 innings.

After Gabe Kapler had been introduced and the Fenway faithful gave him a roaring ovation, many held their breath as reached base in the fifth. Playing brilliant small ball to grab the lead, the Rays proceeded to use their power (delivered by three and four hitters Longoria and Pena) to deliver the coup de grace in a 7-2 defeat of the Red Sox.

In spite of this, the Red Sox entered the game today hopeful that Daisuke Matsuzaka could stop the bleeding. This, however, was not the case.

The first inning concluded with Dice-K finding himself in a jam, but escaping unscathed. Yet, he would find himself giving up the long ball three times in his 5.1 innings pitched Thursday. Dice-K only allowed 25 home runs all year in 2008, and at current projection he would find himself the proud owner of circa 90 long balls in 2009.

In spite of this, the Red Sox would make a game of it as the bullpen delivered some strong innings backed by Delcarmen and Ramirez keeping the game close. Nevertheless, the Red Sox would eventually find themselves in a whole far too deep to emerge as the Rays took game three 4-3.

Even though the Red Sox have dropped two out of three to start the season, there are some bright spots and questions that have been answered.

One, the question of whether or not Jason Varitek can swing the bat well enough to solidify the bottom of the lineup seems to be answered. It may be too early to come to a verdict over this issue, but hitting two home runs against some very solid Rays pitching is as good an indication as any.

Two, how will fan favorite Mike Lowell perform after returning from an injury ridden season? The good news here is that he doesn’t seem to be showing any pain, and it appears as if his bat is looking sharp. Boston fans hope that he can be back to 2007 form where he had 20 home runs, 120 rbis and was an anchor defensively at third base.

The only pieces of the puzzle that seem to be in question is the power are Ortiz and some of the starting pitching. If Ortiz can mentally shake off the problems afforded to him last year and swing the bat confidentially, he will be back to the Big Papi Boston loves in no time. The pitching on the other hand should be no worry, the players in the rotation for the Red Sox have all had bad starts but they have proven themselves mentally tough and will undoubtedly bounce back.

Even after dropping games two and three to division rivals Tampa Bay, there are a lot of positives to take from the series. Boston is right where it should be after a tough series, and we as fans appreciate the exciting season ahead.

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