Boston Red Sox

Five takeaways from Red Sox' opening series vs. Mariners

Boston's 2024 season is off to a solid start with a series split in Seattle.

NBC Universal, Inc.

After a disappointing offseason, the Boston Red Sox gave their fans something to cheer about with a solid performance in Seattle.

They opened their season with a 2-2 series split against the Mariners. While it's far too small of a sample size to feel strongly one way or the other, the first four games showed that this Red Sox team could be more competitive than expected.

Before Boston begins its three-game series in Oakland, here are five takeaways from its encouraging start to the campaign.

The rotation may not be so bad after all

By far the biggest positive from Boston's opening series vs. Seattle was the collective performance of the starting rotation. All four Red Sox starters temporarily quieted the naysayers with impressive outings.

Brayan Bello took the mound on Opening Day, allowing two earned runs on five hits (one homer) while striking out two Mariners hitters through five innings. The young right-hander helped Boston start its season with a 6-4 victory.

Nick Pivetta picked up where he left off last year with an ace-like performance in his first start of 2024. In six innings of work, the veteran righty allowed just one run (a solo homer) on three hits. He notched 10 strikeouts and didn't walk anyone.

Unfortunately for Pivetta, the lineup didn't hold up its end of the bargain. The Red Sox failed to put a run on the board against Mariners starter George Kirby and the Seattle bullpen, resulting in a 1-0 defeat.

Kutter Crawford got the Game 3 start and was excellent. The 28-year-old righty hurled six strong innings, allowing just one run (zero earned) on three hits and a walk while striking out seven. With Mariners starter Logan Gilbert also pitching a gem, it was a 1-1 game entering extra innings where Seattle star Julio Rodriguez hit a walk-off single in the 10th.

Garrett Whitlock put the finishing touches on the rotation's strong showing in the series finale. He allowed just one run on three hits through five innings while striking out eight.

Boston's starters amassed a 1.64 ERA, 0.68 WHIP, and .177 batting average against in the four-game set. They totaled 27 strikeouts and walked just one batter.

As our John Tomase stated, the "Andrew Bailey Effect" on the rotation is already being felt. Boston's new pitching coach made some notable changes to the staff's approach, including de-emphasizing fastballs while being more aggressive in the strike zone. We've got a long way to go, but the strategy has proven successful thus far.

Don't sleep on this bullpen

For the most part, the Red Sox bullpen followed the rotation's lead with strong outings, particularly by the newcomers.

Offseason addition Isaiah Campbell, pitching against his former team, allowed one hit (a solo homer on Opening Day) and struck out three in two innings. Greg Weissert, acquired in the Alex Verdugo deal, also tallied three strikeouts with one hit allowed in two scoreless innings.

Another under-the-radar addition, Justin Slaten, looked sharp through his first two big-league appearances. He allowed just one hit and struck out two hitters in 2.1 innings.

The only blemish for the bullpen was Joely Rodriguez, who allowed three runs on two hits in Boston's 4-3 extra-innings loss. He appeared in the high-leverage situation because closer Kenley Jansen took the night off with back soreness.

Besides that, the bullpen looks like it'll be a bright spot. Campbell, Weissert, and Slaten each displayed impressive stuff and could develop into key contributors as the season progresses. That would make new chief baseball officer Craig Breslow's offseason look much better in hindsight.

Ceddanne Rafaela is electrifying

Regardless of how the Red Sox season goes, Ceddanne Rafaela will give fans a reason to tune in. The No. 4 ranked prospect in Boston's system was a spark plug, making his presence felt at the plate, on the basepaths, and in the field in the first series of his rookie year.

Rafaela went 4-for-12 with a double and a triple in three games played. On the triple, he displayed speed and hustle that this Red Sox lineup has lacked in recent seasons.

While Rafaela offers high-upside at the plate, he's even more fun to watch in center field. Already an elite defender at 23 years old, he showed off his talents with a sensational diving catch to rob J.P. Crawford of a hit.

This was only a preview of the Ceddanne Rafaela Experience. With consistent playing time, he could sneak into the American League Rookie of the Year conversation by season's end.

Trevor Story needs to step it up

Story was one of Boston's hottest hitters in spring training, making his early-season struggles even more disappointing.

The veteran shortstop went 3-for-17 (.176) with five strikeouts against Seattle. For a two-time All-Star who will be counted on to lead this Red Sox lineup alongside Rafael Devers, that simply won't cut it.

Story could use injuries as an excuse for his lackluster performance through his first two years in Boston. Now that he's finally healthy, he needs to return to form as the feared hitter he was during his time with the Colorado Rockies.

Although he provides value with elite defense, Story was signed to a six-year, $140 million deal to do damage at the plate. He has yet to come through in that department, and it's safe to say patience among Sox fans is wearing thin.

A healthy Tyler O'Neill is a weapon

The Red Sox' trade to acquire Tyler O'Neill from the St. Louis Cardinals fell under the radar amid a letdown offseason. But if he can stay on the field, he could be a major difference-maker for a Boston lineup that desperately needed a big right-handed bat

O'Neill started his Red Sox tenure in style, setting the MLB record with five consecutive Opening Days with a home run. The slugging outfielder belted another homer in the series finale.

In addition to his power, O'Neill showcased impressive plate discipline with three walks and just one strikeout in 13 plate appearances. He finished the series 4-for-10 with the two solo jacks.

The number one question mark with O'Neill is health. The 28-year-old has been plagued by injuries throughout his six-year MLB career, appearing in more than 96 games just once. That was in 2021 when he hit 34 homers and posted a .912 OPS to finish eighth in National League MVP voting.

A two-time Gold Glover, O'Neill has the talent to become an all-around star if he can stay healthy in 2024. That's a major "if" at this point, but perhaps a change of scenery will be just what the doctor ordered.

Contact Us