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Real or not? Red Sox's cautious approach is costing them

The big news from Red Sox nation on Monday was the official announcement of Xander Bogaerts' six-year, $120 million contract extension that should keep him in Boston through at least 2025 (though there is an opt out after the 2022 season).

The bad news from Red Sox nation was another Boston starter having a less-than-stellar outing, as the A's hit three home runs off David Price in a 7-0 victory that dropped the defending champions to 1-4 with six games to go on their season-opening 11-game road trip.

The final tally for Red Sox starters after one trip through the rotation: 32 runs allowed in 21 innings, including 11 home runs. That homer total is tied with the 1955 Braves and 1978 Blue Jays for the most allowed by a team's starting pitchers through the first five games of the season, according to Elias. Price joined Chris Sale and Nathan Eovaldi in allowing three home runs. That makes three times in five games; last year, a Red Sox starter allowed three or more home runs just seven times in 162 games.

To be fair, Price was one out away from a solid outing, but Chad Pinder pounced on a first-pitch high changeup for a two-run homer with two outs in the sixth inning. Earlier, Khris Davis homered off a changeup left up in the zone. Price threw 31 changeups out of 93 pitches, but that wasn't necessarily a surprise, as the pitch was a big key to his postseason success. (He threw 40 in his ALCS-clinching win over the Astros.)

Red Sox starters worked very little in spring training, at least in official game settings. Eduardo Rodriguez threw 15 innings, the most of the five starters. Eovaldi pitched just seven innings and Price just 6⅔. Sure, there was work on back fields, but there was a concerted effort from the start of spring training to take a slow ride into 2019. That was an acknowledgment of the workloads Price, Eovaldi and Rick Porcello carried last October, plus Sale's recovery from the sore shoulder that limited him the final two months of the past season.

In fact, the Red Sox were so worried about protecting their starters that at the outset of spring training, Alex Cora announced that the team would begin the season with a six-man rotation. That idea fell by the wayside when Steven Wright was hit with an 80-game suspension for a positive drug test and Brian Johnson remained in the bullpen.

But were the Red Sox too cautious? That was the focus of Peter Abraham's story Monday in the Boston Globe, in which he asked if the Sox focused too much on rest and not enough on preparation. Cora said that wasn't the issue behind the awful outings from the first four starters. "Whoever is doubting us, check what happened last year. We did the same thing," Cora said.

As Abraham pointed out, however, it wasn't the same. Sale, Price and Porcello combined for 42⅔ spring innings in 2018 compared to 27⅔ this year. (Rodriguez was recovering from knee surgery last year.) As the Red Sox pointed out, there were live batting practice sessions and minor league games to build up arm strength, but that's not the same as facing major league batters in spring training games.

Is any of this of concern? Not yet. It's one trip through the rotation. These things happen, though admittedly it has been an especially ugly five days, and it's a bit disconcerting compared to last year's 17-2 start that put the Red Sox in control of the division. It's also not without some meaning: According to FanGraphs, the Red Sox's odds of winning the AL East are about 7 percentage points lower than they were on Opening Day.

Throw of the day: Remember Ramon Laureano, the late-season addition to the A's last year who came up and unleashed several Roberto Clemente-like throws? Or as us kids like to say, Jesse Barfield-like throws. Well, he was at it again in Oakland's win:

Replay reviews upheld the out call at home, though a later replay seemed to show that Bogaerts got his foot in ahead of the tag. The throw was clocked at 96.0 mph, which is impressive though not unique (Marlins outfielder Peter O'Brien had a throw clocked at 96.1 mph earlier in the evening). Still, it solidifies Laureano's growing reputation as the best arm in the game and will make baserunners hesitant to challenge him for the extra base.

For good measure, he later blasted this long home run:

It looks like Peter Alonso can hit the low fastball: The Mets' rookie first baseman made his first major league home run a big one, as he blasted a 444-foot, 112.8 mph rocket out to center field, turning a 4-3 Mets lead in the ninth into a more comfortable 7-3 cushion. Edwin Diaz worked out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam by striking out the side to seal the win.

MLB.com's Sarah Langs, our old ESPN colleague, reported that it was the sixth-hardest home run by a Mets player since the Statcast era began in 2015. That's three doubles and a home run in four games for Alonso, and I love that Mickey Calloway is batting him second, as his minor league numbers from last year suggest he'll take some walks to go with his power. The interesting thing to watch will be his contact rate. At Double-A, he fanned just 18.3 percent of the time, but after a midseason call-up to Triple-A, that rose to 25.9, and it was 25 percent in the Arizona Fall League. If he can keep it under 25 percent, he's going to put up some numbers.

LOL Cubs: Jesse Rogers has the report on another Cubs debacle. They were shut out and made six errors in an 8-0 loss to the Braves, becoming the first team since the 1985 Phillies and just the fifth in the past 50 years to get blanked while making at least six errors. Fun factoid: That 1985 Phillies game actually came on Opening Day at home, with the immortal Steve Jeltz committing three errors at shortstop. Maybe the Cubs need to go back to sleeping less, eating more junk food and taking less batting practice.

Long live the opener: The Rays unveiled the opener for the first time in 2019, and it worked the same way it did much of last season. Ryne Stanek struck out the side, Ryan Yarbrough served as the "bulk guy" -- I talked to Stanek and Yarbrough in spring training, and that was their choice for the name of the guy who follows the opener -- and allowed one run 4⅓ innings, and four relievers followed to shut down the Rockies 7-1.

My takeaway from this game, however, was Kevin Kiermaier's home run:

Kiermaier is a huge key to Tampa's success. Although he has continued to put up insane defensive metrics, he has averaged just 97 games the past three seasons. He hit well enough in 2016 and 2017 (.261/.335/.430) before struggling in 2018 (.217/.282/.370). A healthy Kiermaier playing 140-plus games and hitting like he did two years ago could be worth three wins over the 2018 version of Kiermaier and the alternate options in center field.

Break up the Orioles! We might not get the chance to write many nice things about the Orioles, so kudos to them for beating the Blue Jays 6-5 and running their winning streak to three games -- their first three-game win streak on the road since August 2017. David Hess started the game and left after 6⅓ hitless innings. He is the first Orioles pitcher to take a no-hitter into the seventh inning since Freddy Garcia in 2013 (the longest such drought in the majors). The bullpen promptly served up a home run to ruin the combined no-hit bid and nearly blew a 6-0 lead. Still, the O's held on, and maybe that over/under line of 59 wins will be in play after all. (Yes, I took the under.)

The first of many: Yes, Fernando Tatis Jr. has some bat speed. Here's his first major league home run:

At 20 years, 90 days, he becomes the second-youngest player in Padres history to hit a home run. Roberto Alomar beat him by five days with his first home run in 1988.