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Time Out For Sports Talk – Sox Opening Day Win Leads To Optimism

TOST Question of the Week: Does Boston’s 8-2 Opening Day victory in the Bronx make this season’s outlook even more promising than expected?

Todd: There was much to like about the Red Sox, particularly since they last opened the season with a win three years ago.  In fact, this victory served as a blueprint as to how the 2013 Sox are going to succeed, if they are to succeed consistently.

The pitching was strong, from Jon Lester’s seven strikeouts to the four innings of one-hit ball by the bullpen ‘law firm’ of Uehara, Miller, Bailey, Tazawa and Hanrahan.  Keep an eye on these relievers, as they could turn out to be as good as the 2012 Baltimore Orioles’ pen which won an obscene number of one-run and extra-inning games and helped the Birds make the playoffs for the first time in 15 years.

Offensively, the Sox got their punch from the top of the order, as Ellsbury, Victorino and Pedroia combined to go 7-for-18 with six RBI.  As for the new kid in town, Jackie Bradley Jr. had a memorable day that included a nice catch in left field.  Despite not getting his first major league hit, JBJ showed enough patience and plate discipline to draw three walks off of lefty pitching (two vs. Yankee ace CC Sabathia) and score twice.  Maybe there’s no quandary at all with regards to how the Sox should handle Bradley.  If he continues to show the poise of a veteran player there is no need to send him back to the minors, service time be damned.

Despite all that went right yesterday, I will pump the brakes and acknowledge that the Yankees fielded a lineup which resembled a split-squad game played in Florida just a week ago.  The pinstripes are a walking M*A*S*H unit with all their injuries, and hopefully the Sox can continue to take advantage this week before Toronto, Baltimore and Tampa Bay appear on the schedule.

With many experts predicting both the Sox and Yanks to miss the playoffs, it’s interesting to note that since MLB introduced the Wild Card to the postseason format in 1995, either the Red Sox, Yankees or both teams have qualified for the playoffs each season.

Mike: 162-0 baby!!!!

LOL, OK, maybe that’s a bit much, but I was pleasantly surprised by the first game of the season. With all the dire predictions surrounding the Sox this spring, it was great to finally get the games under way. Sure, the Yankees were/are beat up, but they were still facing an elite pitcher, and had their way with him.

Another positive sign was the offensive performance of Jose Iglesias, with three big hits. The knock on him coming into the season was, while he was outstanding with the glove, he was useless at the plate. Sure, it’s a small sample, but if he has found some sort of batting stroke, it will make it hard for the Sox to take him out when Steven “Don’t Call Me JD” Drew comes back from his concussion.

As for JBJ, he did everything that could be expected of a 22-year-old rookie in his MLB debut, and more. While he didn’t have a hit, drawing three walks and knocking in a run is pretty impressive, and he made the team look smart for putting him on the big league roster this spring. And like Iglesias, I think it’s going to be pretty hard to keep him out of the lineup if he keeps playing like this.

Now, to address the question at hand, does this make me feel like this season will be more promising than expected? As I said before, one game is way too tiny of a sample to make a real judgement, but I will say that I have a feeling that a playoff push (Wild Card, not a division – I’m not that optimistic…yet.) is not out of the realm of possibility. I will add, that I am optimistic that another title isn’t that far off here, as the team is rebuilding with a couple of good rookies that could be the backbone of this team for years to come.

Now we just need to make sure that the pitching staff holds together…

Check out more Time Out For Sports Talk on Facebook and Twitter. You can watch the TOST show here.

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