On Unexpected Starts

The Boston Red Sox are 16-2. Read that sentence again, and tell me if you predicted that start to the season. You probably didn’t. Teams just don’t win 16 of their 18 games without a lot of unpredictable events going its way.

The 2018 Red Sox have already had their fair share. I tried to do my best to nail down the ones that have been the most vital to their hot start, and the most surprising.

Rick Porcello keeping the ball in the yard

Porcello gave up a league-high 38 home runs in 2017, resulting in a ghastly 1.7 dingers per nine innings. It was a career high, and one of the driving factors behind his 4.65 ERA.

This season has been the opposite. No, like the total opposite. He hasn’t even given up a single home run yet in 25.2 innings pitched.

And he’s had plenty of chances. He’s faced the New York Yankees, a squad which boasts the vaunted Giancarlo Stanton-Aaron Judge-Gary Sanchez power trio. He held them to a pair of hits over seven scoreless innings. Then came the Angels, who lead the American League with 26 dingers.

He and Chris Sale have combined to create the league’s most dominant one-two punch thus far. As I wrote last week, Porcello’s success is the team’s X-factor. Him laying off the home run balls and piling on the strikeouts certainly helps.

Mitch Moreland thriving in limbo

When the Red Sox added J.D. Martinez, everything improved… aside from Mitch Moreland’s clarity towards his role for 2018 and beyond.

Mitch Moreland was more than serviceable as the team’s starting first baseman last season. With Martinez in the fold, a bit of a logjam has been created at the position. Martinez moved Hanley Ramirez mostly back to first, as he has rotated between designated hitter and outfield.

That leaves Moreland, who’s been in proverbial limbo, bouncing from the bench to the starting nine, and from first base to designated hitter.

If you want to put it into basketball terms, he’s the sixth-man. A late game defensive substitution at first. A starter when Martinez is in the outfield and Ramirez is DH’ing. He’s all over the place, and he’s been killing it.

He’s hitting .343 in his new role, with an OPS of 0.986. Against the Angels on Wednesday, he went 3-for-4 with a home run, a walk and three RBI.

If this Boston team has real World Series aspirations, depth will be key. If Mitch Moreland can keep contributing like he has (although hitting .355 for the rest of the season might be a tad lofty) the depth will be alright.

The team’s 5-1 record against New York and Los Angeles

Was anyone exactly surprised when the Red Sox opened the season 8-1 against the rebuilding Tampa Bay Rays and Miami Marlins? Not exactly. Anything less might have been a disappointment.

But to follow that up with a 5-1 record against one team expected to win its division by many pundits (New York) and another team leading the AL West (Los Angeles) all while mixing in a sweep of the Orioles? That’s a real resume booster.

The Sox have done it in a number of ways. With pitching, with hitting. In blowouts and it close wins. This, more than anything, is optimistic to see as we begin to reach the point of the season where its decided whether teams are “for real” or not.

Header photo by Richard Mackson — USA TODAY Sports

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