Game 4: Red Sox at Tampa Bay Rays (April 1, 2018)

After dealing with the driving and lousy weather at my daughter's softball tournament the day before, I enjoyed the day yesterday relaxing on the couch watching the Sox close out the series with the Rays. The Sox had Hector Velazquez starting on the mound, who I actually saw him up close this past summer when he pitched for the Pawtucket Red Sox here against the Indianapolis Indians. He was pretty good at that game and was solid in the few starts he made with Boston toward the end of last summer, so I was interested to see how he'd do. After a shaky start and giving up a solo home run to Tampa's Brad Miller, he settled down and pitched great. He got more aggressive in the strike zone as the game went on and gave the team six solid innings. The middle relief was good, too; when Matt Barnes is pitching well, he's tough. The coolest story of the day was Sox reliever Marcus Walden, who was making his Major League debut at age 29! He got the final out of the fifth inning and pitched a 1-2-3 inning in the sixth. I can only imagine how exciting that must've been for him. The scariest part of the game came when Alex Core put Joe Kelly in to close the game in the ninth. Leading 2-1, Joe made it interesting by giving up two hits but he was able to strike two out and earn the save as he secured the victory, 2-1. Still, I hope Joe closing out a one run game isn't something we see too often this season.

While a three game winning streak this early in the season is nice, as is the Red Sox now being alone in first place in the division, I'm still concerned about the offense. It's been almost non-existent in this series and the team has carried over their troubling trend from 2017 of stranding a lot of runners on base. Mookie Betts broke out and went 2-3 (and was also hit by two pitches), Rafael Devers and JD Martinez each drove in a run, and Jackie Bradley finally got his first hit of the season, but otherwise the bats were very quiet. While it's always nice to win close games (and the Sox have won each of the last three by one run), it's not something that's sustainable over the course of a long season. It's especially troubling because quite frankly, the Rays are not a very good team. I'm hoping the offense picks up and they can convert more scoring chances as the season develops because the other contenders in the American League like the Yankees, Astros, and Indians are far superior (especially on offense) to the likes of the Rays and will be difficult to catch if we fall behind them in the standings. The Sox start a new series with another bad team (Miami) tonight, so I'm hopeful they can make some hay and get a few more easy wins before heading to Fenway to open the home season next week.