Opposite dugout: Well-rounded Red Sox welcome Nats to Fenway for home opener

red-sox-square.jpgManager: John Farrell, third year
Record: 4-2
Last 10 games: 4-2
Who to watch: LF Hanley Ramirez (.320/.333/.680, 3 HR, 7 RBIs); SS Xander Bogaerts (.407/.467/.519, 2 XBH, 2 SB, 6 RBIs); RHP Rick Porcello (0-1, 4.50 ERA, 1.333 WHIP); RHP Justin Masterson (1-0, 3.00 ERA, 0.833 WHIP)
Season series vs. Nats (2014): DNP since 2012

Pitching probables
April 13: RHP Rick Porcello vs. RHP Jordan Zimmermann, 3 p.m., MASN
April 14: RHP Justin Masterson vs. RHP Stephen Strasburg, 6 p.m., MASN
April 15: LHP Wade Miley vs. LHP Gio Gonzalez, 1:30 p.m., MASN

Series breakdown
Rather than rebuilding with youth following their second last-place finish in three seasons, the Red Sox went the opposite route.

Boston doled out a combined $183 million to lure left fielder Hanley Ramirez from the Dodgers and third baseman Pablo Sandoval from the Giants, on top of making over its pitching staff after going 71-91 a year ago.

As the Nationals arrive to serve as the Red Sox's opponent for their home-opening series at Fenway Park, the early returns have been positive. Boston's 34 runs scored are sixth-most in the majors and its 3.92 team ERA ranks sixth in the American League. The Red Sox are off to a fine start, having taken two of three on the road from both the Phillies and Yankees, with the latter series including a 19-inning win in New York on Friday.

Offensively, Ramirez has been earning his lucrative contract early on, leading the Red Sox with three homers, seven RBIs and a 1.013 OPS through five games played.

Shortstop Xander Bogaerts, 22, has been the second-most productive player in the lineup. After a rough first two seasons in the majors, the former top prospect appears to have figured it out at the plate. Bogaerts batted .320/.324/.500 with six doubles, four homers and 16 RBIs over his last 25 games last season, and he has carried that over to a strong start in 2015. He's hitting .407/.467/.519 with a double, a triple, six RBIs and two steals over his first six games.

Second baseman Dustin Pedroia has added two homers and four RBIs while utility man Daniel Nava has also contributed four RBIs.

Sandoval is batting .300 with a .344 OBP and three RBIs, but hasn't shown any pop yet, failing to record an extra-base hit in his first six games with the Red Sox.

Designated hitter David Ortiz, 35, has struggled early, starting 3-for-23 with one homer. Outfielder Shane Victorino is also back for Boston after playing only 30 games last season because of injury.

After finishing 23rd in the majors with a 4.01 team ERA in 2014, the Red Sox put most of their focus on their pitching staff this offseason.

Only right-handers Clay Buchholz and Joe Kelly remain in the rotation from the end of last season. Boston acquired Rick Porcello from the Tigers in a four-player deal that included Yoenis Cespedes, and last week signed the veteran right-hander to a four-year, $82.5 million extension. The Red Sox also took two gambles, acquiring former All-Star lefty Wade Miley from the Diamondbacks, and signing former All-Star righty Justin Masterson to a one-year contract.

The Nationals will face all three newcomers in the upcoming series.

Porcello faces right-hander Jordan Zimmermann this afternoon after allowing three runs in six innings to take the loss in his Red Sox debut. The 26-year-old is coming off his best major league season, having gone 15-13 with a 3.43 ERA and his first three career shutouts in a career-high 204 2/3 innings with the Tigers last year. He entered 2014 with a 4.51 career ERA.

Masterson faces right-hander Stephen Strasburg on Tuesday night. The 30-year-old returns to the club that drafted him in the second round in 2006 coming off his worst season in the majors. Masterson went 7-9 with 5.88 ERA in 28 games (25 starts) with the Indians and Cardinals, but was an All-Star in 2013, when he went 14-10 with a 3.45 ERA pitching for Cleveland. Masterson had a strong first start back with Boston, allowing two runs on three hits while striking out seven in six innings for a win over the Phillies.

Miley was brought in also coming off his worst full season in the majors (8-12, 4.34 ERA in 33 starts with Arizona). But the 28-year-old left-hander was exceptional from 2012-13, going 26-21 with a 3.44 ERA in 65 games (62 starts) with the Diamondbacks. He will pitch against lefty Gio Gonzalez in the series finale on Wednesday afternoon.

The pitching overhaul wasn't limited to the rotation, as the Red Sox added former Rangers Robbie Ross and Alexi Ogando to the bullpen. Right-handers Koji Uehara and Junichi Tazawa are back serving late-inning roles, with Uehara expected to be activated from the disabled list today. Boston's relief corps has been solid, pitching to a 3.29 ERA so far without him.

The Nats get to experience the excitement of playing in one of baseball's most heralded home openers at one of the majors' classic ballparks this afternoon. The two teams haven't played since Washington swept the Red Sox in three in 2012. And now the Nats will be looking to get things moving in a positive direction on unfriendly turf after an ugly 2-4 start.

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