Boston Red Sox

Five takeaways from Red Sox' series sweep of the A's

Boston is 5-2 after its first two series of the 2024 season.

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Two series down, one to go for the Boston Red Sox' West Coast road trip to start 2024.

After splitting their four-game opening series in Seattle, the Red Sox traveled to Oakland and swept a three-game set vs. the lowly A's. That makes them 5-2 on the young season, a half-game behind the New York Yankees for first place in the American League East.

Next up is a three-game series against the Los Angeles Angels in Anaheim. First, here are the biggest takeaways from Boston breaking out the brooms in the East Bay.

Jarren Duran's speed is a game-changer

Duran was enjoying a breakout 2023 before suffering a toe injury in August that required season-ending surgery. Boston's former top outfield prospect notched 34 doubles, two triples, and eight home runs for a .828 OPS in 102 games. He was successful on 24 of his 26 stolen bases attempts.

The Red Sox haven't had a player who can wreak havoc on the basepaths like Duran since Jacoby Ellsbury. His impact has already been felt through seven games this season, swiping an MLB-leading six bases including three in the series opener against Oakland.

According to J.P. Long (@SoxNotes on X), Duran became the first Red Sox player ever and the first big-leaguer in the Expansion Era to record a hit and steal a base in each of the first three innings of a game.

Duran went 9-for-12 with two RBI and four steals in the series. He's now hitting .393 through seven games played.

Ceddanne Rafaela's defense saves the series

While pitching was the No. 1 reason for the Red Sox' demise last season, their poor defense deserved plenty of the blame. Rookie Ceddanne Rafaela is doing his part to fix that issue.

Rafaela, who made a spectacular catch in Seattle, flashed the leather with a game-saving grab in Game 2 of the Oakland series. He covered 92 feet in center field to make an over-the-shoulder grab that kept the A's from tying the game in the 11th inning.

The No. 4 ranked Red Sox prospect isn't lacking confidence in his defensive talents.

“I had a pretty good jump… I think that’s why I made the catch," he told reporters after Boston's 5-4 extra-innings win. "In my mind, everything that’s in the park I have to catch it.”

Rafaela did it again in the series finale with a leaping grab against the wall to rob Brent Rooker of extra bases and save a run. That proved to be the difference in a 1-0 victory.

It's fair to say these kinds of plays wouldn't have been made last season. This year, Boston appears capable of winning games with its defense, and Rafaela is a huge part of that as possibly the best defensive outfielder Boston has had since Jackie Bradley Jr.

Bullpen still dominant

The Red Sox' new-look bullpen was a highlight from the opening series vs. Seattle and it continued its dominance in Oakland.

In the opener, Chase Anderson followed a brilliant Tanner Houck outing with one hit allowed and three strikeouts in three scoreless innings of relief. He closed out the 9-0 victory.

Game 2 was a bullpen masterclass. Right-hander Brayan Bello allowed four earned runs in five innings, but Boston's relievers didn't allow a run to cross from innings six through 11. Greg Weissert, Isaiah Campbell, Chris Martin, Kenley Jansen, and Josh Winckowski combined to allow just two hits and three walks in six innings while striking out eight. They propelled the Red Sox to a 5-4 win in extras.

The group stepped up again in the Red Sox' 1-0 series-finale win. After starter Nick Pivetta pitched five scoreless innings, Rodriguez and Slaten kept Oakland off the scoreboard with just one hit over the next two innings. Martin pitched a scoreless eighth, and Kenley Jansen closed it out despite a pair of walks in the ninth.

Pitching remains a surprising strength for Boston through the first two series of the year. We'll see whether that keeps up against a tougher Anaheim offense.

Trevor Story is heating up

Story had a rough start to the regular season after a stellar spring training at the plate. The two-time All-Star went 3-for-17 (.176) with five strikeouts in Seattle.

Against Oakland, Story started to find his groove. He went 4-for-12 with three doubles and four RBI, including the game-tying single in the seventh inning of Game 2.

Story cooled down with an 0-for-3 performance in the series finale, but it was encouraging to see his bat wake up in Games 1 and 2. The Red Sox will need that version of Story to show up more often than not if they're to have any chance of contending in 2024.

A's fans deserve better

Oakland is now 1-6 on the campaign, which comes as no surprise after it posted a league-worst 50-112 record in 2023. Another 100+ loss season is on the way with a pitiful roster that the front office unsurprisingly didn't bother to improve in the offseason.

At this point, all A's owner John Fisher and Co. care about is the impending move to Las Vegas, which likely won't be complete until 2028 at the earliest. Fans have rightfully responded by ditching Oakland Coliseum. The average attendance for A's games in 2023 was 10,276. Through seven games this year, it's 6,437.

To put that alarming number in perspective, the Triple-A Worcester Red Sox averaged 7,424 fans at Polar Park in 2023. The Double-A Portland Sea Dogs averaged 6,121 at Hadlock Field.

One of the only reasons for A's fans to show up to games this season was speedy outfielder Esteury Ruiz, who stole a an AL-leading 67 bases as a rookie last year. He hit .429 through three games before the front office made the bizarre decision to demote him to Triple-A. He didn't play in the series against Boston.

At this point, ownership is spitting in the faces of those who have been loyal through the organization's highs and lows. A's fans deserve better but sadly, they won't get it any time soon.

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