After six long months, the 2021 Red Sox will open their season at home with a three game set against the Baltimore Orioles. The games will be Thursday at 2:10 pm, Saturday at 1:10 pm, and Sunday at 1:10 pm. Here are the biggest storylines to follow for the first series.
2021 Red Sox: Starting Pitchers
Earlier in spring training, manager Alex Cora announced that Eduardo Rodriguez would be the Red Sox Opening Day starter. However, Rodriguez developed “dead arm” so will likely miss at least his first start. In his place, Boston will turn to Nathan Eovaldi, who also opened in 2020. While Eovaldi did not have the strongest spring, he excelled in his final start throwing 5.2 shutout innings. He will be facing off against Orioles starter John Means who had a 4.53 ERA in 2020.
Game two will likely be started by Tanner Houck. Houck was not expected to make the 2021 Red Sox roster, but Eduardo Rodriguez‘s injury has opened up an opportunity for the young righty. In three 2020 starts, Houck was electric allowing just one run while recording 21 strikeouts. Much like Eovaldi, Houck struggled at times this spring but had an amazing final appearance against the Atlanta Braves starters. Houck went 4.1 innings allowing no runs on two hits with six strikeouts. With a chance to prove himself, Houck will be bringing his A-game against Baltimore. The Orioles will counter with Matt Harvey who has been terrible the previous two seasons.
Newly acquired Garrett Richards is expected to make his season debut with the 2021 Red Sox on Sunday. Excluding a 2019 campaign where Richards started only three games, he has earned an ERA+ over 100 in six seasons from 2014-2020. He will look to get off to a fast start against Baltimore starter Bruce Zimmerman who will be making just his second career start.
2021 Red Sox: New Faces in Boston
The 2021 Red Sox will have many new players on their Opening Day roster. In the starting lineup will be second baseman Kiké Hernandez who will fill the leadoff role. Joining Alex Verdugo in the outfield will be some combination of Hunter Renfroe, Marwin Gonzalez, and Franchy Cordero. All three were acquired this offseason with Renfroe and Gonzalez joining through free agency and Cordero as the key piece in the Andrew Benintendi trade.
In the bullpen, Adam Ottavino and Hirokazu Sawamura will be two of the biggest pieces along with long time Red Sox pitcher Matt Barnes. The three will likely be the core of a bullpen that looks to greatly improve from a terrible 2020 pitching performance.
2021 Red Sox: What to Expect
Simply put, lots of runs. This is still one of the best offenses in all of baseball and against an abysmal Orioles rotation, Boston hitters should rake. If Rodriguez, Houck, and Richards can perform even just adequately, the Red Sox should expect to win at least two if not all three games. Against a weak Baltimore team, Boston has a great opportunity to get out to a fast start to their 2021 season.