Greetings from the Edes cave, and a few random thoughts on the day after an enormously satisfying home opener for the Red Sox:
* Yes, Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz have earned praise for the way they have pitched through the first week of the season -- a combined 4-0 record and 1.04 ERA through two turns apiece. But it should be noted that Lester pitched very well in his first two starts last season, too, holding the powerful Tigers to a run in seven innings in a no-decision against Detroit’s Justin Verlander, then following with an eight-inning, three-run effort in a 3-1 loss to Ricky Romero and the Blue Jays.
* As for Buchholz, he has allowed better than a baserunner an inning (15 baserunners, 14 innings) in his first two starts, and only one has scored. Last year, Matt Wieters' blast to right in the second inning Monday would have carried into the seats, and Buchholz would have hung a curve to Adam Jones with two on in the third inning, instead of dropping in a beauty for a called third strike. Every mistake he made in the season’s first month last season, he seemingly paid for dearly, and while he may have been a little tentative because he was coming back from a stress fracture in his back, his stuff was still pretty good.
* No Sox team has ever opened the season with seven consecutive errorless games. Second baseman Dustin Pedroia bobbled a double-play ball Monday on the transfer, then juggled another DP ground ball but salvaged an out both times. You may not see him mishandle two balls in the same game the rest of the season.
* The biggest difference on the field between this team and last year’s version is the bullpen. Bobby Valentine went into the year essentially auditioning Alfredo Aceves as his closer and quickly showed how little confidence he had in Mark Melancon by yanking him in the ninth inning of a tie game after a couple of soft hits and bringing in Aceves, who gave up the game-winner.
Farrell has so far managed his bullpen masterfully and has the luxury of multiple power arms to call upon -- Joel Hanrahan, Andrew Bailey, Junichi Tazawa and Andrew Miller -- and a split-fingered marvel in Koji Uehara. Bailey, fully healthy, and Hanrahan give Farrell two legitimate closers, though the ninth inning clearly belongs to Hanrahan. Take away two bad outings by Alfredo Aceves, neither of which affected the outcome, and the pen has allowed just 4 earned runs in 16 1/3 innings, a 2.20 ERA.
The bullpen has yet to give back a single lead in seven games. Last season, the Sox lost nine games in which they led entering the eighth innings, eight games in which they led entering the ninth, and 10 games out of 12 that went to extra innings. Contrast that to the Orioles, who were 74-0 in games they held a lead entering the eighth, 75-1 in games they led entering the ninth, and 16-2 in extra-inning games.
* Hanrahan, by the way, has thrown 16 pitches in each of his last two appearances for the Sox, both of which have ended in saves. He threw all fastballs in Friday night’s 6-4 win over the Jays. He mixed in four sliders on Monday against the Orioles, and his velocity topped out at 99.77 miles an hour, according to brooksbaseball.net. Adam Jones led off the inning with a home run off a fastball a hair under 98 miles an hour on the outer half, belt-high. J.J. Hardy hit a slider that was middle in for a double.
* Yes, there is clearly a different vibe with this team, particularly in its endorsement of Farrell and the way he wants to play the game. But again, for all the unnecessary distractions created by Farrell’s predecessor, the Sox on July 1 had a record of 42-37 and were a half-game out of a wild-card spot. That’s just short of half the season. For all the good feeling surrounding this club, let’s see where it stands at the midway point.
* And after one week of play, a small sample size to be sure, Carl Crawford is batting .450 with 9 hits, including 2 doubles, has stolen 2 bases and has scored 5 runs in 6 games, while Adrian Gonzalez is batting .400 with 5 RBIs and an OPS of 1.000, which is .050 lower than Crawford’s. Josh Beckett is 0-1 but made a quality start (6 IP, 3 ER) and Nick Punto, off the bench, is batting .600 (3 for 5).