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Red Sox at Rays lineup: Chris Sale pitches on Opening Day

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We’re back.

MLB: Spring Training-Boston Red Sox at Miami Marlins
He’s been waiting all winter for this.
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

We’re back! After a successful yet disappointing 2017 season, the two-time defending American League East champion Boston Red Sox kick off the 2018 slate in St. Petersburg this afternoon (4 p.m., NESN) behind Chris Sale, and it’s LIT. For real!

With the smoke clear, the stage will be set for Alex Cora’s first game as a big-league manager and J.D. Martinez’s first game in the Red Sox lineup. Otherwise the team is mostly intact from last year’s strangely downer 93-win affair, but this season figures to be simultaneously lighter and far more vicious. The lighter part can likely be attributed to Cora, whose managerial style suggests the Sox won’t scowl their way through the year, as they last year under John Farrell; the vicious part is the competition, both within the division (from the ascendant Yankees) and without (where the World Series champion Astros loom, as do the Cleveland Indians). If the league has been separated into haves and have-nots, the Sox are obviously a prime example of the former.

The Rays are not. They are a shambles. They lost Alex Cobb and Jake Odorizzi, traded Evan Longoria and Corey Dickerson, let Logan Morrison walk and have committed themselves to a four-man rotation that really begins and ends with today’s starter, Chris Archer. He’s one of the game’s most talented pitchers, which means his time in Tampa might not be long, not that it’ll mean much for the Sox today. The rest of the lineup, though... well, it’s not good when your DH is batting ninth and/or is Rob Refsnyder.

Sale, of course, is one of the game’s great pitchers, and should be up to the challenge of facing Tampa Bay this afternoon, even with Christian Vazquez in place of Sale’s usual catcher, Sandy Leon. Are you excited? I am. Here are the full lineups:

Game 1, Red Sox at Rays

Lineup Spot Red Sox Rays
Lineup Spot Red Sox Rays
1 Mookie Betts, RF Matt Duffy, 3B
2 Andrew Benintendi, LF Kevin Kiermaier, CF
3 Hanley Ramirez, 1B Carlos Gomez, RF
4 J.D. Martinez, DH C.J. Cron, 1B
5 Xander Bogaerts, SS Wilson Ramos, C
6 Rafael Devers, 3B Denard Span, LF
7 Eduardo Nunez, 2B Adeiny Hechavarria, SS
8 Jackie Bradley Jr., CF Daniel Robertson, 2B
9 Christian Vazquez, C Rob Refsnyder, DH
SP Chris Sale, LHP Chris Archer, RHP