Sunday, April 3, 2011

Red Sox and Phillies Start in Opposite Directions

Clay Buchholz, as he is about to get pulled by Terry Francona this afternoon
The Red Sox were supposed to mash, and the Phillies were supposed to struggle through games with a thin lineup, despite a stellar rotation.  The Red Sox struggled both offensively and on the mound this weekend while losing three to the Rangers.  The Phillies, on the other hand, were dominant on the mound and scored 21 runs in a three game sweep of the Astros.  Obviously, the Rangers and the Astros are nowhere near each other in terms of level of competition, as the Rangers are the defending AL champs and the Astros are, well, the Astros (enough said).  However, Phillies fans are probably feeling a lot more comfortable tonight than they were last week, and Red Sox fans are wondering where their $160 million lineup went.

The Sox lost their three games in Texas by a combined score of 26-11 (9-5 on Friday, 12-5 on Saturday, 5-1 today).  Their pitching looked suspect, as Jon Lester, John Lackey, and Clay Buchholz all struggled, giving up a combined nine home runs.  The bullpen (ahem, Daniel Bard) blew the game on Friday and didn't have much impact the rest of the weekend.  Lastly, the offense didn't live up to its preseason billing (example: Carl Crawford only hit .182 during the series and Kevin Youkilis only hit .222).

Ryan Howard hits a three-run homer on Sunday
The Phillies, on the other hand, looked better than expected during their first weekend.  Their starting pitching was phenomenal, as Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Roy Oswalt only gave up six runs while striking out 23.  The bullpen was solid, even with the absence of closer Brad Lidge.  The offense, the biggest question mark during spring training, was better than expected.  Over the first eight innings of their first game, they were manhandled by Astros' pitching, but starting in the 9th inning on Opening Day (with their walk-off win) the offense came alive.  In the three games, the Phillies recorded a team batting average of .349.

Obviously, it's impossible to tell how both teams' seasons will end up.  However, this was definitely not the start that Red Sox wanted, or imagined.  The Phillies' offense probably will sputter some as the season progresses without second baseman Chase Utley in the lineup, but for at least this weekend, they backed up their off-season hype as the best team in the National League.

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