This sprint of a baseball season began Friday, and I say this with confidence. If the Boston Red Sox score 13 runs per game, or close to it, or play the Baltimore Orioles 60 times between now and the end of September, they will be one of the teams playing in the expanded postseason Major League Baseball has planned.

It’s going to be hard to miss out on these expanded playoffs. It might take more work to fail to qualify than to trip and flop into one of the eight playoff spots in each league. The expanded postseason field should hold the attention of more fans of more teams. Because evidently a 60-game dash of a season doesn’t have enough built-in excitement.

These Red Sox will crush baseballs. Even without Mookie Betts, this lineup returns three players — JD Martinez, Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers — who hit at least 30 home runs and drove in 100 runs last season. Christian Vazquez, Mitch Moreland, Michael Chavis and Jackie Bradley, Jr. have each shown the ability to drive in runs. Barring a teamwide slump, offense will not be a concern for the Red Sox.

That pitching, though.

Boston’s pitching staff is built on guys with “good stuff” and hope. We hope Nathan Eovaldi can make it through a short season healthy. We hope Martin Perez can keep his earned run average under 5.00 for the first time since 2017. We hope Ryan Weber, who in five seasons pitching in the big leagues has never made more than five starts in a season, can be a solid middle of the rotation guy.

We hope Eduardo Rodriguez, who became a legitimate top of the rotation pitcher last season, can win his fight against Covid-19 and rejoin the team and doesn’t backslide in his development.

There have been Red Sox teams that have won despite wafer thin pitching. Those teams usually had an ace, though. The 1999 Red Sox won 94 games. The staff featured Pedro Martinez at the top of his game. After Pedro, the Sox rotation featured former Cy Young Award winner Bret Saberhagen giving it one final, gutsy go on a worn out arm, Mark Portugal (7-12, 5.51 ERA in 27 starts), Pat Rapp (6-7, 4.12 ERA in 26 starts), and Tim Wakefield, who started 17 games before going to the bullpen to become the most unorthodox closer the team has ever had.

There is no Pedro to set the tone at the top of the 2020 Red Sox rotation. There is Eovaldi, who will always be revered in these parts for his six inning bulldog relief effort in the 18 inning Game 3 of the 2018 World Series. Friday, Eovaldi was strong, allowing one run in six innings. He had control of his 100 mile per hour fastball. Can he do it again, and again after that? If he can’t, and if the other pitchers range from mediocre to heartburn-inducing, it will be a long 60 games.

The bullpen is a collection of strong arms you hope can handle pressure situations and doesn’t burn out from overuse.

We will crane our necks to catch a glimpse of Chris Sale rehabbing his explosive left arm from Tommy John surgery and dream of 2021.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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