In 2018, the Boston Red Sox fired out to a blazing 17-2 to start off the season en route to a 108 win season. In 2019, after less than two weeks of action, the Red Sox have tied their worst starting record, which is also the worst start of the season by a defending champion since the 1998 Florida Marlins.

It all starts with pitching; Boston’s pitchers through nine games have a combined earned run average of 7.18, which puts them third to last in the MLB. Offensively the Red Sox have picked up where they left off last season, aside from being shut out in consecutive games on Monday, April 1, and Tuesday, April 2, against the Oakland Athletics, losing by scores of 7-0 and 1-0.

One of those games featured a great performance from stud pitcher Chris Sale, who pitched six frames of work, giving up only one run. Sale was still charged with the loss as the Red Sox were not able to give Sale any offensive support. The hope inside the minds of Boston fans is that the Red Sox will come to life and rifle off several wins in a row to get back to the top of the American League East. With the Red Sox retaining nearly the entire roster that won the World Series last year, outside of the significant bullpen losses, that may still happen.

The starting rotation is led by veterans who are all more than capable of giving the team consistent quality starts. Sale has finished top three in the voting for the Cy Young award six years running, and has shaken off the rust from the offseason, regardless of being charged with Tuesday’s loss. The Red Sox also have had the misfortune of starting off the season with an 11 game road trip.

After this past Sunday’s game against the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Red Sox will finally head home and play their first game at Fenway Park on Tuesday, April 9 against the Toronto Blue Jays, which will be the first of a two game set. Following the series against Toronto, the Red Sox will face the Baltimore Orioles in a four game series at home. With the Orioles struggling, it is crucial for the Red Sox to steal back those victories they’re missing.

The following week should give the Red Sox a great opportunity to gain some ground in their division, which they are quickly falling behind in due to their 2-8 start. But there is plenty of room for optimism for this ball club. Fortunately for the Red Sox, the New York Yankees (3-4) and the Houston Astros (4-5) have also been victims of a slow start to their seasons. Boston may have more competition than they’d like to see, though, with the Yankees picking up steam after an impressive two home run performance by slugger Aaron Judge.

New York and Houston kick off a three game series that spans from Monday, April 8, to Wednesday, April 10. These teams will likely be competing for the top spot in the American League, assuming they are able to break out of their respective slumps. Boston needs to work on its pitching if they have any hope of winning back-to-back pennants.