SEATTLE - It wasn’t pretty, but the Red Sox found a way to claw back and win their first game of the season on Friday night.
They did it behind a lineup that saved them more than a few times in 2018 and a bullpen that was expected to be their downfall.
After starter Nathan Eovaldi allowed six runs on six hits including three home runs, the bullpen shut out the Mariners over the final four frames.
“We know we can do it,” Alex Cora said. “When we stay in the zone we are very dangerous.”
Mitch Moreland’s pinch-hit, three-run home run helped propel the win.
“We gotta get that first one out of the way,” Moreland said. “Now we got that done, now we can roll.”
Oh, and we finally know who Alex Cora picked to close out games. At least for one night.
Welcome to the ninth inning, Matt Barnes.
“You don’t want to be the guy to give it up,” said Barnes. “So I was just locked in, trying to do my job and put up a zero.”
Still, for the better part of eight innings, the storyline wasn’t the comeback.
For the second game in a row, the starting pitcher put the Sox in a hole. And for the second game in a row, commanding the strike zone was an issue.
“I have to do a better job of executing when I’m ahead in the count,” said Eovaldi.
Manager Alex Cora appeared perplexed and searching for answers.
“It was strange," Cora said. "We’ll dig into it and go from there.”
In two games this season Red Sox pitchers have allowed 18 runs, 13 of those off starters Chris Sale and Eovaldi.
Even more concerning than the run total is the number of home runs the Mariners have hit. Seattle has hit eight home runs in the first ten innings against the Red Sox. Six of those were off Sale and Eovaldi.
It took 11 games last year for the opposition to knock as many balls out of the park. The Red Sox didn’t give up eight home runs until the 11th of April.
Alex Cora has said from the start the team has a plan. They will bring pitchers along slowly, aiming for peak performance in September and October, not March and April.
The problem? This was the same plan of attack last season and the team jumped out to a 9-1 start.
The first loss of the 2018 season also came on Opening Day, but it wasn’t the fault of the Sale, who started that opener as well. The bullpen blew that one and then settled in.
The poor early performances prompt a number of questions.
Is Chris Sale healthy?
(On Friday Cora repeatedly said the lefty is fine.)
Which Nathan Eovaldi did the Red Sox sign to a four year, $67.5 million dollar deal? The one who was nails in the postseason or the guy who has only finished two seasons with an ERA under 4.00?
(My best guess is the latter.)
Is the slow start due to a slow build-up? Or did the Sox make a colossal mistake by choosing Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart over game-calling favorite Sandy Leon?
(My best guess is the former.)
The offense saved the game on Friday and helped stave off the questions surrounding starting pitching, but that won’t last long.
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