I know I am not the only person who was less than thrilled when the 2019 Red Sox schedule was announced, revealing an eleven-game West Coast road trip to kick off the season. But the more I think about it, the more I think that this trip is exactly what Boston needs to start its repeat bid strong. And even if things don’t go exactly as hoped out west, there’s nothing wrong with getting this trip out of the way early as it’ll be the longest of the season for the defending champions. Let’s take a look at Boston’s first three opponents:
The Mariners are coming off an 89-73 campaign where they finished eight games out of a Wild Card spot and 14 games behind the AL West champion Houston Astros. The Mariners are seeking their first playoff berth since 2001 and being in the same division as the Astros does not make ending that drought any easier — especially considering how stacked the AL Wild Card race is expected to be again this year. And it doesn’t seem like the M’s got that much better over the offseason as they parted ways with James Paxton (Yankees), Jean Segura (Phillies), Robinson Cano (Mets) and Nelson Cruz (Twins); while adding 36-year-old Edwin Encarnacion, Jay Bruce, J.P. Crawford and Japanese standout Yusei Kikuchi.
T-Mobile Park (formerly known as Safeco Field) has not necessarily been kind to the Sox in recent history though. Boston is just 8-10 there since 2014 and hasn’t won a series in Seattle since 2013, so it’ll be nice to get this four-game set out of the way early.
Some people might be happy about four early games against the Athletics and I am not one of those people. Boston is 5-8 against the A’s since 2017 and Oakland is one of just four teams that the Red Sox had a losing record against last season (2-4). I’m also less than thrilled about those three 10:07 starts in a row, but lucky for us, there are only two more 10:00 starts on Boston’s schedule after this trip (8/23 at San Diego & 8/30 at LAA).
Oakland is coming off arguably its best campaign since 2002 after finishing last season with a 97-65 record and a loss to the Yankees in the AL Wild Card Game. The A’s turned it on in the second half, winning 42 of their final 65 games, and return key pieces of the roster that made that possible with the exception of Jed Lowrie, who left for the Mets in free agency. Starters Jharel Cotton (elbow) and Sean Manaea (shoulder) will both start the season on the injured list and are expected to miss significant time, but I still think the A’s are going to be a problem at some point this season. Luckily, they will be the AL West’s problem.
J.D. Martinez will finally make his highly-anticipated return to Arizona when the Sox visit the D-backs for a three-game set starting April 5th. Okay, I don’t actually know if this return is “highly anticipated” considering he spent just 62 games there before signing with the Red Sox in free agency … but whatever. It is at least worth noting that this will be the first time Boston and Arizona face off since former Red Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo took over as manager of the D-Backs in 2017. (You will be hearing about that story line again, I’m sure).
Arizona finished last season at 82-80 and is looking for just its third postseason berth in the last 11 years. It won’t be easy as the D-Backs parted ways with Paul Goldschmidt (Cardinals) and A.J. Pollock (Dodgers) over the offseason, in addition to starting pitcher Patrick Corbin (Nationals), leaving significant holes in both the lineup and the rotation. Still, Arizona boasts a solid 1-2 punch in Zack Greinke and Robbie Ray but it’s possible the Sox may miss both based on the way the schedule breaks — which would be cool.
It’ll be hard to top last year’s 17-2 start, but the first few series can be favorable enough for the Red Sox to capitalize on. Repeating as champions will not be an easy task, but a solid start will go a long way in making that a possibility. Boston was a championship-caliber team from the jump last season, but the hot start definitely seemed to instill some of the confidence the team carried throughout the year. So let’s try to do that again and hope it works!