BY TIM SCOTT
A far cry from the dread and weariness of the 2012 season, the Boston Red Sox have come
together as a team, and have produced at a higher level throughout their first 23 games. Entering Saturday’s game with the Astros with a 16-7 record, the Red Sox find themselves at the top of the AL East standings (2 games above the Yankees).
With offensive numbers that rank in the top five across the league, and pitching numbers that rank in the top half of the MLB, the Red Sox have emerged as a team that has skill on the mound and in the batter’s box. As a team, the Red Sox are hitting .266 (5th in the MLB), and slugging .438 (2nd). With a team ERA of 3.47 (10th) and a .225 opponent’s batting average (2nd in MLB), the Red Sox have done a skilled job of holding opposing offenses to low-scoring games. In fact, the only time the Red Sox allowed 10 or more runs came on April 23, when they allowed 13 runs to the Oakland Athletics.
A collaborative approach, instituted by new manager John Farrell, has been especially instrumental to the team’s success. Sparked by the strong starts of Dustin Pedroia (.318), Shane Victorino (.292), Daniel Nava (.290), and Jacoby Ellsbury (.287), the Red Sox have been able to get on base more efficiently, and get productive hits at key moments during games. The power behind the run-scoring schemes the Red Sox induce is ignited by Mike Napoli (26 RBI’s) and Will Middlebrooks (6 home runs), along with David Ortiz (homered in two consecutive games entering Saturday).
The Red Sox also have the pitching that could carry the team far into the postseason. Jon Lester (4-0, 2.27 ERA, 28 K’s) and Clay Buchholz (5-0, 1.19 ERA, 39 K’s) have been the spearheads of the pitching staff, combining to win 9 of the Sox’s 16 victories. Ryan Dempster and Felix Doubront have also held their own in the rotation, combining for 64 strikeouts. The bullpen, led by Andrew Bailey (5 saves), has stepped up in the absence of closer Joel Hanrahan. Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara have been two major contributors to the bullpen’s success, while Alex Wilson and Daniel Bard provide depth in the middle-relief game.
In sum, the Red Sox have proven that they have the pieces to carry the team far into postseason play. Barring injuries or major transactions, if everyone continues at their same rate, the Red Sox have the potential to be a contender in the American League East, in contrast to the early season predictions.