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Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Garrett Whitlock throws against the Seattle Mariners during the first inning of a baseball game Sunday, March 31, 2024, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Lindsey Wasson)
Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Garrett Whitlock throws against the Seattle Mariners during the first inning of a baseball game Sunday, March 31, 2024, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Lindsey Wasson)

SEATTLE – “Best starting rotation in the big leagues. They showed it last year, and so far they’ve shown it again,” Alex Cora said before the Red Sox beat the Mariners 5-1 to split the series on Sunday afternoon.

Seattle’s arms dominated over the four-game set, to be sure. But throughout the series, the Red Sox rotation also looked like a force to be reckoned with. Alex Cora wanted each starter to cross the five-inning threshold, and they went 4-for-4; Brayan Bello, Nick Pivetta, Kutter Crawford, and Garrett Whitlock each pitched at least five innings without allowing more than two runs. According to the club’s media relations, this is the fourth time in franchise history the rotation has begun the season with four such performances. In the three prior instances – 1916, 1999, 2018 – they went to the postseason. Twice, they won the World Series.

Pitcher’s duels dominated the series, but less so in the finale. The first inning looked much like the previous two games, as both pitchers struck out three batters in the first, with Rafael Devers’ one-out single mixed in.

In the top of the second, Tyler O’Neill gave Boston a 1-0 lead with his second first-pitch home run of the series, but Whitlock got into a spot of trouble in the bottom of the frame. He allowed a leadoff double and single, and gave up the tying run on a two-out single.

But unlike Mariners starter Bryce Miller, who allowed four earned runs on six hits over five innings, Whitlock settled in as the game progressed. After needing 46 pitches to get through the first two frames, the Red Sox right-hander needed just 35 to complete the following three innings. He hit the leadoff man to begin the bottom of the third, then retired his remaining nine batters.

It required a mid-game change for the pitcher and his catcher, Reese McGuire. “Halfway through the game, we changed the script,” Cora said. “It seems like they were sitting on soft stuff and Whit was able to use his sinker. I think him and Reese did an outstanding job recognizing what was going on in front of them.”

“I think we just adjusted to what they were doing,” Whitlock explained. He also praised his catcher for guiding their tandem through the pivot. “I feel like they saw what my game plan was, they made their adjustment, so I started to see that and changed back. It was back and forth.”

Whitlock finished the afternoon charged with only one earned run on three hits, zero walks, and eight strikeouts over five. According to Sox media relations, Whitlock’s 5.40 strikeout-to-walk ratio ranks fourth in franchise history among pitchers with at least 200 innings, behind Koji Uehara (7.86), Chris Sale (6.06), and Pedro Martinez (5.45).

“Everybody has been throwing well so it was good to go out there and put up five good ones,” Whitlock said. “Wish I could have gone deeper but it was good.”

The Red Sox rotation departs Seattle with a 1.64 ERA and 0.68 WHIP through their first four games of the season. Since the Wild Card era began in 1995, only the ’99 and ’18 squad put up better numbers over that span. But according to, their WHIP is the club’s best to open a season since at least 1906.

“It’s really big, we build off of each other,” Whitlock said of the energy and momentum they’re building. “We’re all there competing with each other and cheering each other on so it was huge to rally together. Again, same thing, we’ll be behind Tanner (Houck on Monday). Just keep it going.”

The Boston bullpen compiled four strong innings, highlighted by rookie Justin Slaten, who debuted in extra innings on Saturday night. Slaten pitched 2 1/3 innings without allowing a baserunner to earn his first career save.

Overall, the Red Sox pitching staff combined for 35 1/3 innings, 45 strikeouts, and only issued six walks throughout the series. To call that a far cry from how last season begin would be the understatement of the year.

After two virtually silent nights at the plate, the Boston bats reawakened on Sunday. They drew three walks and collected 10 hits, including O’Neill’s solo blast – one of his two hits in the contest – and a three-run go-ahead homer by Enmanuel Valdez in the fourth.

Though it was a quiet day at the plate for several of the team’s most electric hitters – Jarren Duran and Triston Casas were a combined 0-for-8 – Trevor Story snapped an 0-for-11 skid with a pair of singles, and McGuire contributed two hits and a run batted in.

“It was good, but not what we came here for,” Cora said of splitting the series. “We had them (Saturday) and it just didn’t happen, but it was a good series for us. (The Mariners) have a good team. We talked about this road trip the whole offseason and we played with energy, we played good baseball, we pitched well, and we put some good swings. We’ll take it.”

At least one of his players was a bit happier with the result.

“It feels great to be able to split this series against their pitching staff,” Valdez said. “I think we started on the right foot.”