Sox face daunting opening hurdles

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Sox face daunting opening hurdles

DETROIT -- In each of the past two seasons, the Red Sox missed out on qualifying for the post-season. In 2010, decimated by injuries, they finished six games out of a playoff spot.

Last season, they fell a mere game short, thanks to a blown lead in the last inning of the last game of the season.

But those two seasons have something else in common: the Sox started poorly both years. The Sox kicked off 2010 by going 6-10 and didn't get get over the .500 mark until May 10.

A year ago, they were a disastrous 2-10 and didn't have a winning record until May 16.

In both seasons, the point could be made that a better start might have enabled them to reach the post-season.

This year, the need to get off to a better start is even more acute, thanks a more balanced American Leauge. But getting out of the gate strong will be made more difficult because of the early-season schedule.

The first 15 games the Sox play this year come against teams who were .500 or better a year ago. Of those 15, 12 are against playoff teams from last fall.

The gauntlet:

Three (currently) against the Detroit Tigers, who reached the ALCS last October, then added one of the game's best sluggers, Prince Fielder, to their already-formidable lineup.

Three against the Toronto Blue Jays, who finished 81-81 last season, but are considered one of the game's budding powers with a deep farm system.

Four against the Tampa Bay Rays, who overtook the Red Sox in Game No. 162 last September, qualifying for the post-season for the second straight year and third time in the last four seasons. The Rays probably boast the deepest starting rotation in either league.

Two against the Texas Rangers, who have won the American League pennant in each of the last two seasons. Enough said.

Three against the New York Yankees, who won the East last season, led the American League in victories and have capture the division title 11 times in the last 14 seasons.

If the Sox can survive the first 2 12 weeks, things do get easier in terms of competition.

Starting April 23, the schedule almost completely reverses itself, with a string of series against teams not expected to do much damage in 2012.

From that date, when the Sox begin their second road trip of the season, they'll play the next 22 games against Minnesota (three games); the White Sox (four games), Oakland A's (three
games), Baltimore Orioles (three games), Kansas City Royals (three games), Cleveland Indians (four games) and Seattle Mariners (two games).

In fact, the Sox will go 3 12 weeks matched against teams who aren't expected to contend.

Getting there in good shape, however, will be a challenge.

Quotes, notes and stars: Pedroia was focused on winning, not streak

Quotes, notes and stars: Pedroia was focused on winning, not streak

BOSTON -- Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox’ 8-3 win over the Royals:

QUOTES

“I hadn’t really thought about it. Trying to win games. It’s late in the year . . . I don’t really have time to sit back and pat myself on the back for anything. We’re trying to win as a team.” - Dustin Pedroia on the importance of the 11-for-11 stretch in his career.

“It’s fun. It’s why you go to work in December, January, February. It’s all the work you put in up to this point. It feels good to go out there and get the results you expect to get, especially against a team like [the Royals] who is hot as they are right now.” - David Price on pitching meaningful games with a playoff-like atmosphere.

“Yeah, yeah we [knew about the streak] . . .  It was an awesome roll and it was fun to see . . . Every time I went up to hit, I let Salvador Perez know.” - Xander Bogaerts on Dustin Pedroia’s 11-for-11 streak.

“I think we’ve been able to handle velocity very well. We’ve got good bat-speed in out lineup, and we’re able to handle that.” - John Farrell on the offense thriving against good pitching.

 

NOTES

* David Ortiz played in his 1,000th game at Fenway Park, becoming the fifth player to do so.

* Ortiz also became the first player ever to play 2,000 games as the designated hitter.

* Mookie Betts scored his 100th run of the season off his 29th home run of the year, joining Fred Lynn, Johnny Pesky and Ted Williams as the only players to reach 100 runs before turning 24.

* The Red Sox hit back-to-back home runs for the fourth time this season with Betts and Hanley Ramirez going yard in the fifth.

* With his 2-for-4 day at the plate, Jackie Bradley Jr. improved to 34-for-94 (.362) batting ninth.

 

STARS

1) Dustin Pedroia

Pedroia finished 4-for-5, extending his streak to 11 hits in 11 at-bats, finishing one shy of tying the MLB record.

2) David Price

Price logged his fourth straight quality start with his six-inning, two-run start. He also dropped his ERA below 4.00 for the first time since his Opening Day start with Boston.

3) Salvador Perez

Perez finished 2-for-3 with two home runs. Saturday marked only the second multi-home run game of his career.