By Matt Straub
After winning two straight series, including one in the Bronx, the Red Sox finally get to play at home this afternoon. They will do so against the Washington Nationals, who expect to win the National League, something they have been very open about. The Nationals, however, have struggled out of the gate, making this an interesting series with two teams trying to grab a foothold early in the season.
The Red Sox are looking to bounce back fromSunday’s beating and prove they’re the team which had started so well, while the Nationals need some wins to start looking like the team which did everything but guarantee a championship before the year started.
Let’s look at what should be a fun series between two teams full of talented players looking to make a mark as week two of the season begins.
Washington Nationals (2-4, 4th place NL East)
at Boston Red Sox (4-2, 1st place AL East)
Monday, 3:05 p.m.
Jordan Zimmerman (1-0, 1.50) vs. Rick Porcello (0-1, 4.50)
Tuesday, 6:10 p.m.
Stephen Strasburg (0-1, 5.06) vs. Justin Masterson (1-0, 3.00)
Wednesday, 1:35 p.m.
Gio Gonzalez (0-1, 4.26) vs. Wade Miley (0-0, 3.38)
The Red Sox had plenty of it heading into Sunday. Winning four of their first five and picking up two exhilarating wins over the Yankees, including the 19-inning classic from Friday night. Sunday ruined the party, however, as the Red Sox gave up a couple of touchdowns in a brutal loss to the hated Yankees. Winning four of every six is a great way to go through the year, but getting drubbed by the Yankees took some wind out of the sails. It will be important for the Red Sox to bounce back this week and make sure the train stays on the track. Washington, which was talking about ring sizes before the year began thanks to its incredibly good pitching staff and solid lineup, is suddenly looking up at most of the NL East. The division is far, far from over, but the Nationals have to be wondering what happened to their cruise through the regular season.
Three Red Sox Storylines
1. The search for an ace continues. Clay Buchholz was hammered by the Yankees Sunday and looked depressed or disinterested in the process, which isn’t what you want from your No. 1. Rick Porcello followed his $82.5 million deal with a so-so outing at best, and the rest of the staff is OK at best. Joe Kelly was great Saturday, giving the Red Sox some crucial length after the 19-inning game, but he’s not an ace either.
2. The offense looks impressive. As long as the pitchers give up less than 14 runs, everything should be fine. The scary thing is David Ortiz and Mike Napoli haven’t hit their stride yet, which would make this team even better. The length of this lineup is better than the sum of its parts, which makes every inning a challenge for the opposing pitcher.
3. Now the test begins for Hanley Ramirez in the outfield. Figuring out the Green Monster isn’t easy, and Ramirez doesn’t have any experience except for some spring training games which have allowed him to use the replica wall at JetBlue Park. If he can handle the wall even remotely well in left, the Red Sox will have a good defensive outfield.
Three Nationals To Know
1. Stephen Strasburg is one of the best young pitchers in baseball. He has yet to put together the full, dominant season every fan has been waiting for, but he’s been really good. He didn’t pitch well against the Mets in his first start, but any time you get to watch a good young pitcher, it’s worth it.
2. Bryce Harper is another one of the star young players in baseball. He is still finding his game at 22 years old, and getting to see his pure athleticism is a treat. As he continues to get better as a hitter there might even be a higher level to come, which is scary for the opposition. Boston fans don’t get to see him much, so this is a good chance.
3. Michael Taylor is a 24-year old outfielder who has given the Nats a nice lift with Jayson Werth and Denard Span out. He’s one of the team leaders in batting average and has been a good table-setter for the team’s loaded middle of the order and will be someone Boston has to keep off the bases in the series.
The Orioles come to town this weekend in an early division battle.