The first game of the season is always leaves a strange aftertaste. We at once have the most real baseball we've had to talk about in six months. More, really, if we're talking about meaningful games. And yet...it's one game, and one game can only say so much.
Which is why I'm going to torture it for everything it's worth! Or near enough. We could hit up every single player--David Ortiz and Koji Uehara are both over 40 and both awesome, news at 10--but let's go ahead and stick with just the five:
How good is Mookie Betts?
Betts is now 2-for-2 in going deep on Opening Day. And while it might be jumping the gun to call it a tradition already...it's also a lot more fun to do so. So it's a tradition now. We look forward to volume three.
In the meantime, Betts can go about being the star everyone in Boston should know he is by now while the rest of the nation catches up. Anyone making mention of Mookie Betts as an MVP candidate is probably just having a bit of fun, at least so long as Mike Trout A) exists and B) plays in the same league, but he's probably the best shot this team has had at that particular (individual) prize since 2011, when Jacoby Ellsbury went bonkers. He does everything well, after all, and we saw just about all of it on Tuesday, save maybe a stolen base.
Honestly, though, as much as Betts stands as one of the more certain commodities on a roster with far too few, he also remains one of the most interesting players as well. This is a guy who was playing in his first full season in 2015, making it hard to say exactly how good he can be. For as good as he was last year, it's easy to forget he was hitting .189/.274/.297 on April 26. What if we just...skipped that part this time? What if his good streaks are even better with another year under his belt?
That this season has started out so nicely in Game 1 doesn't mean we're in for anything different in 2016 since, of course, he started out 2015 doing the exact same thing. But man oh man, the simple prospect of Mookie actually getting better might even be more interesting than...
Blake Swihart's disciplined start
Blake Swihart's second walk of 2015 came in his 13th game of the season. In 2016, it came in his fourth plate appearance.
Now, Swihart's walk record can occasionally be deceptive. He has a tendency to get hot, swing the bat a ton while he racks up hits, and then return to a more balanced approach once those hits stop falling. For instance, that 13th game? It came after he rocketed up to a .406 average, then dropped down to .304 after a 1-for-14 stretch. Swihart drew his first walk of the year in his next game (April 24th), and before May arrived, he had six of them.
Swihart's two-walk day, then, is not quite as out-of-the-ordinary as it might appear. But it's a good start to the year from the man with a 5.8% BB rate last year in Boston. Not that more could have been expected from him given how early he was thrown into the fire.
Brock Holt is weird and magical and \o/
The Brock Holt miracle tour has started right away. Holt didn't exactly destroy the ball, but he sent it to the right spots one way or another and ended up with a couple hits and an RBI. And honestly, luck wasn't even entirely on his side. He should have broken the game wide open with a big bases-loaded hit in the seventh, but had his sharp hit snagged by Juan Uribe at third on the fly.
That Holt even took that bat is a bit odd, though. Bases loaded in a 2-run game and John Farrell sticks with him against the lefty reliever? I suppose if he brings in Chris Young the Indians make a change, but you kinda have to make them waste the arm in that case.
Then again, Holt had two hits, and damn near turned a double play attempt into zero outs by running hard into second on a Swihart ground ball. Maybe Farrell just didn't want to pull him after that start. And I can't really blame him. The hits are nice, but the last bit is the sort of thing that makes Holt so endearing. He's a guy who's long thought he needs to do everything he can to stay afloat in this league, so he goes for it. And seeing that guy solidify his place with the team to the point where NESN is running commercials with him and TC is oddly encouraging.
Now, I'm the last person to fawn over a David Eckstein type, but when things are going well for Brock Holt, it seems like things just naturally go well for the team. Largely nonsensical and illogical? Sure. But screw it, Brock Holt often doesn't make any sense either.
\o/ \o/ \o/
A good starting point for Junichi Tazawa
Boston's designated seventh-inning man (at least until the return of Carson Smith) didn't quite have his usual velocity Tuesday afternoon. Not terribly surprising given the date and the weather. But of the three Red Sox relievers, he may actually have had the most impressive--and most encouraging--performance. Tazawa didn't look like he could do much of anything when his season came to an end in 2015. Against the Indians, he made it look easy, inducing a ground ball from Juan Uribe, and dismissing Tyler Naquin and Rajai Davis on (swinging) strikes using just seven pitches.
The key will lie in keeping Tazawa at this level over the long run, which will require either some bigger leads or some longer starts, and eventually the return of Carson Smith. But the good news is that, if this one inning is to be believed, Junichi Tazawa's starting point is exactly where the Red Sox want it to be.
Hanley Ramirez hits and hustles
While Pablo Sandoval's situation has just gotten worse and worse, the story of Hanley Ramirez' decline has quietly faded into the background. And for his part, Ramirez is one game into his campaign to make it forgotten entirely. Playing a more familiar (if still foreign) position, Ramirez looked perfectly comfortable at first base. At the plate, Ramirez showed easy power to the opposite field (the sort that was seriously lacking after his injury last year). And on the basepaths, he made a high-effort play to go from first-to-third on a shallow single from Travis Shaw and set up the go-ahead single from Brock Holt. He wasn't exactly challenged defensively, but this is certainly the recipe for a big rebound year from Hanley.