What’s Behind the Boston Red Sox Hot Start to the 2024 Season?

As the Red Sox return home and prepare for Opening Day at Fenway Park, let’s take a look into their incredibly hot start through 10 games.

Tyler O'Neil
Anaheim, CA - April 05: Tyler O'Neill #17 of the Boston Red Sox high fives teammates after a solo home run against the Los Angeles Angels in the second inning of a baseball game at Angel Stadium in Anaheim on Friday, April 5, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham/MediaNews Group/Pasadena Star-News via Getty Images)

In year’s past, opening the season on the west coast for an extended road trip has essentially ended seasons before they even started, and with low expectations for the 2024 team, hopes were not high amongst the Boston Red Sox fanbase when the team headed out to Seattle to start the year.

Unlike in year’s past, though, this team responded well, going 7-3 on the road trip. Now they are heading back to Fenway just a game out of first place in the division, with a renewed optimism before their home crowd gets to see them take the field for the first time this year.

West Coast Trip Recap

The Red Sox faced a significant challenge out of the gate, opening the season with a four-game set against the Seattle Mariners, who boast what many believe to be the best rotation in baseball.

Boston rose to the challenge, and took the first and last game of the series. Both of the middle games were competitive, with Boston dropping a pair of one-run games, and were likely a healthy Kenley Jansen away from taking three out of four from Seattle. Instead Joely Rodriguez was forced to try to hold down a lead in extra innings in game three and was unable to do so.

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The Seattle trip was followed by a sweep of the Oakland A’s, with Boston allowing just four runs over the three games. Still, Oakland hung tough, and the Red Sox had to hold on to two one-run wins. Game one saw an offensive explosion and Tanner Houck gem. In game three, the offense only produced one run, but that proved to be enough for Nick Pivetta, who threw five scoreless and earned the win.

Boston went on to take two of three from the Angels, once again winning the bread games and dropping the middle game by a run. Game one was one of the best games of the season so far, a back-and-forth affair that saw the Red Sox survive a litany of errors thanks to blasting five home runs en route to an 8-6 win. Game three saw the Red Sox put up another four home runs on the way to a dominant 12-2 win.

A Better Starting Rotation Than Expected?

The biggest takeaway from this trip, by far, has been the dominance of the starting rotation.

While it is still early in the season, what was anticipated to be the team’s biggest weakness has proved to be one of their biggest strengths thus far. Red Sox starters are leading all of baseball with an astounding 1.53 ERA, a 2.67 FIP, and K/BB percentage, and are second in WHIP with an other-worldly 0.96. While the strength, or lack thereof, of the offenses that they faced must be taken into consideration, it is nonetheless encouraging to see the rotation’s early success.

What makes this hot start even more impressive is that, thus far, it has been everyone except presumed ace Brayan Bello carrying the load. Bello has earned the team’s and fanbase’s patience with his past performances, and there is little doubt that as the rest of the rotation begins to regress to the mean, Bello will progress to the production level that is expected of him.

At the other end of that spectrum is Tanner Houck, who could finally be blossoming into the starting pitcher the Red Sox always hoped he would become.

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He has always had some of, if not the best, pure stuff on the team, and this year it seems like he has harnessed his arsenal, posting an incredible 12.75 K/9 and 1.5 BB/9. Houck is yet to allow an earned run, has a WHIP of just 0.75, and is striking out an incredible 38% of the hitters he has faced.

Most significantly for Houck, though, he has been able to work deep into games, throwing six innings and earning quality starts in both of his starts. Facing lineups for a second and third time has long been Houck’s Achilles heel, but thus far he seems to have cleared his former hurdle.

The trio of Nick Pivetta, Kutter Crawford and Garrett Whitlock may be more likely to regress than Houck, but all three have allowed just one earned run across their first two starts.

Tyler O’Neill is Carrying the Offense

Offensively, the team has been led by offseason acquisition Tyler O’Neill, whose five home runs, 12 RBI, and .357 batting average are all tops on the team. O’Neill has always been a productive player when healthy, and if he is able to stay on the field for the majority of the season, he is capable of returning to his 2021 production level, a season in which he finished top-10 in MVP voting.

Jarren Duran, too, has been incredibly productive this season, picking up where he left off after his breakout campaign a season ago. He’s hitting a whopping .349 at the top of the order with an impressive .404 OBP. He’s homered, driven in five runs, and scored six runs through the first 10 games. His speed continues to create problems for opposing defenses, as he has already swiped six bags on the young season.

Overall, this looks to be a much more athletic team than years passed, with Duran, O’Neill, and rookie Ceddanne Rafaela all showing off their speed and athleticism both on the basepaths and in the outfield, helping to contribute to what should be a much-improved defense.

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The one true disappointment on the road trip was the injury to Trevor Story, whose defense up the middle was something that the Red Sox needed desperately after dismal shortstop play last season.

That said, initial reports have been best-case scenario for Boston, as the dislocation did not appear to come with any labrum damage, which would have led to a much more significant stint on the IL. Even though Story believes he will likely be out longer than his 10-day IL designation would indicate, the injury could have been much, much worse.

While the season is still young, there is more optimism in Boston now for the home opener than there was on Opening Day. There is hope, and evidence, that the impact of new pitching coach Andrew Bailey is already showing, and that he will continue to work with the staff and improve the organization’s pitching.

Offensively, there are enough young, exciting, athletic players to produce an exciting brand of baseball. Only time will tell if the Red Sox will be able to continue the Cinderella run in a tough AL East, but they have at least given the fanbase a reason to stay tuned.