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BOSTON RED SOX (1-0) at PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES (0-1)
The Phillies look to rebound from the pounding they took from this Boston Red Sox group in the opener when they meet in Philadelphia on Wednesday.
The Red Sox come into this year off a poor 2014 season, but made a flurry of moves in the offseason in order to improve and it certainly paid off on Opening Day. In the game they won 8-0 over this Phillies team behind nine hits and one of their newer acquisitions, OF Hanley Ramirez, jacked two HRs (5 RBIs) as longtime Boston 2B Dustin Pedroia hit a pair of long balls himself. The other big offseason signing, 3B Pablo Sandoval, did not get in the groove early, going 0-for-5 with three strikeouts. Philadelphia is in a transition phase and has shed a few of its bigger contracts in an effort to improve its future. If Mondays contest was a foreshadowing of the season to come, the Phillies are in trouble as they managed a meager three hits as they went 0-for-3 with RISP. The 1-3 hitters were particularly poor, combining to go 0-for-12 with four strikeouts. The pitching matchup in this game will feature 26-year-old youngster RHP Rick Porcello (15-13, 3.43 ERA in 2014) and RHP Aaron Harang (12-12, 3.57 ERA in 2014); both making debuts with their new teams. Neither team did well last year, finishing last in their respective divisions as Boston was a poor 37-44 (.457) when on the road as Philadelphia put up the same 37-44 record (.457) as the home team. The Red Sox win in the first game of this series upped their record to 3-2 against the Phillies over the past three seasons, outscoring them 30-12 in that time. Trends show us that Philadelphia is a mere 44-59 (.427) in home games against AL East opponents since 1997 as Boston is a poor 34-43 (.442) as a favorite of -110 or higher in the past two seasons. The injury report has closer Koji Uehara (Hamstring) on the 15-day DL for the Red Sox as the Phillies are still without OF Dominic Brown (Achillies) for a little longer.
Porcello was a tremendous starter in his time with the Tigers, putting together a career 76-63 record despite being just 26-years-old as hes had double-digit wins in each of the past five seasons. He hit 200+ innings for the first time last year as he posted a career-best 3.43 ERA, but saw his strikeouts drop to a mere 5.7 K/9. With the fewer strikeouts came fewer walks, giving up just 1.8 BB/9 as he allowed a meager 0.79 homeruns per nine frames. Porcello has seen this opponent just once in his career when he grabbed a win behind six innings of three-run ball (7 hits) with three strikeouts. He hasnt had much of a chance to face many of these National League opponents, but has seen OF Ben Revere 19 times, giving up seven hits (1 triple, 2 RBIs) and failing to strike him out. Only one other player, OF Grady Sizemore, has double-digit at-bats against the righty and he is only 3-for-18 (.167) in that time with three strikeouts. The Sox bullpen was solid last year, going 21-27 (.438) with a 3.33 ERA (1.27 WHIP) as they successfully saved 36-of-54 (67percent) games. Junichi Tazawa (0.00 ERA, 0 saves) will hold down the closers role until Uehara comes off the disabled list and he is coming off a solid 2014 campaign when he struck out better than a batter per inning and had a 2.86 ERA over 63.0 IP.
Harang really had an impressive bounce-back season in 2014 with the Braves, getting a career-best 3.57 ERA as he struck out over seven batters per nine innings for the second consecutive year. He didnt allow many balls to leave the park during the season, with a mere 0.66 HR/9 as he also left a solid 74.8percent of runners on base. It will be tough to imagine that he can repeat this type of performance once again as he eclipsed 200 innings for the first time since 2007 and has a career ERA of 4.21. Harang has gone 2-2 (2-3 team record) with a poor 5.08 ERA (1.48 WHIP) when facing the Red Sox and his team has lost each of his past two meetings with them. OF Hanley Ramirez could continue an early surge as hes gone 10-for-29 (.345) against the veteran with five homers and seven RBIs while DH David Ortiz (5-for-11, 3 doubles, 1 HR, six RBIs) has also been great when facing him. On the other hand, 3B Pablo Sandoval (5-for-26, 4 Ks) has not seen the ball well coming out of Harangs hand. Philadelphias bullpen was decent last year, going 26-24 (.520) with a 3.64 ERA (1.28 WHIP) as they were 40-for-56 (.714) in save opportunities. Jonathan Papelbon (2.04 ERA, 39 saves) will be the closer for the Phillies for the fourth straight year and in his time here he is 106-for-121 (88percent) in save chances.
Rivals and pals, Frazier and Meadows create Draft buzz
Clint Frazier and Austin Meadows. Or Austin Meadows and Clint Frazier. It really depends on whom you ask.
Georgia high schools have produced a fair share of baseball talent, especially in recent years. Just a year ago, outfielder Byron Buxton was drafted No. 2 overall by the Twins and right-hander Lucas Sims was selected later in the first round by the Braves. But the Peach State hasn't seen anything quite like the buzz these two prep outfielders -- ranked 4th and 5th on MLB.com's Top 100 Draft Prospects list -- have created.
Frazier and Meadows have grown up together on baseball fields, and their high schools are a virtual stone's throw from each other. They have long been compared to each other and likely will continue to be for as long as they put on a uniform. And, as next month's First-Year Player Draft approaches, neither seems to have a problem with that.
"During the summer I was out on a mission to prove to myself and everybody else that I was as good as, if not better than, Austin," said Frazier, who played with Meadows at various summer showcases, which he said helped him prepare for the extra attention they've received this spring. "I used him as motivation over the summer. I wasn't going to take a play off, because I knew he wasn't going to take a play off.
"I think having me there helped push him, too. [Coaches and instructors] were always challenging us to beat each other. I think we really pushed each other this year."
Said Meadows: "It's been a really good relationship; it's a friendly competition. We played together the whole summer, through all the events, had fun with each other, helped each other out through the bad days and the good days, learning each other's strengths and weaknesses. We've played with each other since we were nine or 10 years old, so we know each other well on the baseball side of things. It's good to have him to support me, as well as me to support him."
Though the two may have brought out the best in each other, they're not exactly the same. Meadows is, as scouts like to say, "what they look like" -- tall, athletic, projectable. He has a fairly advanced approach at the plate, should hit for plenty of average and can really run on both sides of the ball, with perhaps a touch more speed than Frazier.
Frazier, on the other hand, is smaller and has more of a "grip it and rip it" approach at the plate. He freely admits he's aggressive at the plate, and he possesses more pop than Meadows.
Both have the tools to be good defensive outfielders.
"He hits for power; I have some speed," Meadows said. "We're two different types of players. It's good to work with each other through everything.
"I think where it showed the most was in the summer. We were different kinds of players in Chicago [at the Under Armour All-America Baseball Game]. He laced a triple down the line. I hit a double off the wall. He hits for more average. I make up for it in power.
"I think our personalities are kind of similar to our games. He's a little shyer, and in the box he's a little more toned down. I have more personality, and I'm more aggressive. If I could hit for the same average as he does, and he could hit for the same power as I do, I don't know how you could pick between us."
But scouts don't exactly agree how to do that now, even without Meadows and Frazier adopting each other's strengths. A poll of 21 scouting directors and cross-checkers gave the edge to Frazier, 13-8, but several responses came back with caveats that it was a split camp internally or that it was a very close call.
"I'm probably going to give Frazier the nod over Meadows because of that ability to win the game for you at any certain time," one scout said. "But it's a win-win situation to have either one of these young men in your organization."
There typically isn't an opportunity to evaluate top high school prospects together once the summer ends. But Meadows and Frazier played a regular-season high school game together in March, creating a frenzy not typically seen for such a contest. Frazier won the day, hitting two homers, but it's clear that both will remember the excitement of the matchup for a long time.
"It was amazing," Meadows said. "I think there were 100 scouts there. It was good to get accustomed to it over the summer at all the showcases. I was really used to the pressure, so I could just go out there, have fun and worry about the game and not about outside of the game."
"I was blown away by how many people were at that game," Frazier said. "I'll remember it for the rest of my life, just how much fun it was and the atmosphere. It's the biggest high school game I've ever played in. I don't think I'll ever be in a situation like that, when that many people came to see me and Austin, and only me and Austin. Whether I went 0-for-4 or 4-for-4, it was something I'd remember for the rest of my life."
So will Draft night, June 6, when both should hear their names called very early. There remains the chance that one could go higher than Buxton did a year ago, joining Tim Beckham as recent Georgia high schoolers to go No. 1 overall. Even if that doesn't happen, both know they will add their names to the ever-growing list of top prospects from their home state to come out of the Draft.
"I really hope I can [follow in someone like Buxton's footsteps]," Meadows said. "It's good to see someone have that type of success, especially from my hometown. Also, Matt Olson and Lucas Sims -- I've been playing with them since I was little. It's really good to see all my friends get the support they have and see what their future holds for them. I'm looking forward to it, and hopefully, this all will go well."
Years from now the debate might still be raging. Meadows or Frazier. Frazier or Meadows. Whoever the winner might be, rest assured the pair being linked has created a bond that isn't likely to break any time soon.
"Austin is always someone I'm going to stay in contact with," Frazier said. "Without him, I don't think I'd have gotten the exposure I've gotten. I'm glad there's someone who's going through the same experience as I am. To have him there to talk about how he's handling a situation, it's helped a lot.
"I want him to go up there [to the Draft] with me. We got to do everything together in the summer. Why not finish it off together?"
The Draft will be held June 6-8, beginning with the first two rounds on Thursday, June 6, at 7 p.m. ET. The first night of the event will be broadcast live on MLB Network and streamed live on MLB.com. Rounds 3-40 will be streamed live on MLB.com on June 7-8.
MLB.com's coverage will include Draft Central, the Top 100 Draft Prospects list, Draft Tracker, a live interactive application that includes a searchable database of every Draft-eligible player, and Draft Caster. You can also keep up to date at Draft Central and by following @MLBDraft on Twitter. And get into the Draft conversation by tagging your tweets with #mlbdraft.
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com and writes a blog, B3. Follow @JonathanMayoB3 on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
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