Major League Baseball implemented several new rules that could be considered radical changes in time for the 2023 season. The most-discussed entering Opening Day was the pitch clock. Just a few minutes after Cubs starting pitcher Marcus Stroman committed the first pitch clock violation in MLB history, we saw the opposite end happen in Fenway Park as a hitter was called for violating the new rules of the clock. Later in that game, we saw the first strikeout recorded via a violation.
Keep in mind, the pitch clock doesn’t only go one way. Sure, the pitcher has to throw the ball within the allotted time (15 seconds with the bases empty and 20 seconds with runners on), but the batter also must be ready to hit in time. Specifically, the hitter must be in the box and ready before there are eight seconds remaining on the clock.
In the Orioles’ game vs. the Red Sox Thursday afternoon, Orioles’ right fielder Austin Hays became the first hitter to commit a violation of this rule in MLB history (Giants first baseman J.D. Davis committed one just about two minutes later in Yankee Stadium, narrowly missing out on being the answer to the trivia question). Boston’s Ryan Brasier was on the mound for Hays’ lackadaisical approach.
But give the Red Sox this much – just when it appeared they’d be blown out of their own building to set a horrible tone on a 2023 season that already borders on buzzless, they showed enough fight, especially offensively, to forestall their obituary.
I can’t really crush them today, because the ratio of negatives to positives basically mirrored the 10-9 final vs. the Orioles. The Red Sox spent the winter carefully constructing a pitching staff that would absolutely, positively throw strikes, and then promptly tied a franchise record for an opener with nine walks. All of those extra baserunners contributed to five of the easiest steals the Orioles will ever record while running wild.
But after falling behind 5-1, 7-2, and 10-4, the Red Sox still made a game of it, aided in part by some sloppy Baltimore defense. New left fielder Masataka Yoshida looked like the real deal, going 2 for 4 with an RBI and easily turning around a 95 mph fastball over the inside corner. Rafael Devers hit rockets from pole to pole. Justin Turner and Alex Verdugo recorded two hits apiece. The offense had some juice.
The Red Sox outscored the Orioles 5-0 over the final two innings and nearly completed the comeback in the ninth before Adam Duvall struck out with the tying run on second to end it.
So while no one’s suggesting we should feel good about yet another 0-1 start, at least the Red Sox avoided an unmitigated disaster.
“You want to win the first one. We’ll try it again next year,” said manager Alex Cora. “It’s just the way we played, too. You’d rather play a crisp 3-2 game, 1-0 game, but that wasn’t the case. But you take the positive at the end. We battled and had traffic. Offensively we did a lot of good things.”
Orioles: The Orioles were one of the biggest surprises of last season, competing for a playoff spot after entering the spring with modest expectations. Baltimore was led by young talent, including catcher Adley Rutschman, and the team has more kids on the way, including infielder Gunnar Henderson (the top prospect in the minors, per our estimate). That’s a good thing, because they didn’t add much this offseason. Veteran starters Kyle Gibson and Cole Irvin served as the main additions to the rotation, while infielder Adam Frazier was the biggest signing Baltimore made to bolster its lineup. As a result, most projection systems have the Orioles missing out on the playoffs, again.
Red Sox: The Red Sox are looking to rebound after finishing in last place for the second time in three years. Xander Bogaerts, long a franchise mainstay, is now a member of the Padres. The Red Sox did attempt to replace Bogaerts’ star power and offensive potency by signing outfielder Masataka Yoshida and veteran infielder Justin Turner. It’s to be seen if that’ll work. This will be the first game for third baseman Rafael Devers since he signed a long-term extension with the Red Sox. It’ll also be Kluber’s first start with the Red Sox, having joined the team over the offseason.
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