Boston Red Sox leftfielder Manny Ramirez watches the flight of his a two-run double off Oakland Athletics' Huston Street in the 10th inning of their Major League Baseball regular season opener at Tokyo Dome in Tokyo, Japan, Tuesday, March 25, 2008. Red Sox won the game 6-5 (via d.yimg.com).
The storyline coming into Opening Day was about Daisuke Matsuzaka's monumental return to his home country of Japan. The storyline after 10 innings of back-and-forth baseball was about a "pencil into the lineup at the last minute" rookie that gave the Red Sox a victory on Opening Day 2008.
Outfielder Brandon Moss wasn't scheduled to start today's game against the Oakland Athletics. Odds are, he wasn't even going to play. But a late scratch from the lineup to right fielder JD Drew left manager Terry Francona with a decision to make.
Francona had two choices to replace Drew:
- Coco Crisp - gold glove calibur outfielder that lost his center field job and is itching to play.
- Moss - a rookie with only 25 career Major League at-bats
Deciding between a Major League veteran with a amazing glove and an unproven rookie seems like a trick question. Francona, however, decided to be the green Moss out in right field and bat him 6th in the lineup, squeezed between Mike Lowell and Jason Varitek.
I thought to myself: "Are you sure, Terry?"
And, after an edge-of-your-sit (or, better yet, edge-of-your-BED) 6-5 victory in 10 innings, Francona replied: "Don't second guess me, son."
Moss, the Pawtucket (AAA) MVP last season, earned the title of "Mr. Clutch" by hitting a game-tieing solo home run in the top of the 9th inning against A's closer Huston Street, allowing the Sox extra life. The Red Sox took the lead for good in the 10th after Manny Ramirez doubled to score both David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia, giving the Sox a 6-4 edge.
A shaky 10th inning by All-Star closer Jonathan Papelbon brought the score tighter 6-5. An RBI double by Emil Brown put pressure on the Sox, but Brown's baserunner blunder cost the A's a baserunner. Brown was caught in a pickle trying to stretch the double into a trip. Papelbon was able close out the game from their and notch his first save of the season, albeit a rough one.
Moss finished the game 2 for 5 with a run and 2 RBI. Ramirez did even more damage by going 2 for 5 with a run and 4 RBI in the opener. Ramirez put the nail in the coffin after the A's intentionally walked Ortiz to face Ramirez in the 10th. After that, Ramirez found his pitch, hit it hard and watched it 'till it almost dropped over the fence.
I was really impressed with Moss at the plate today. He seemed confident and ready to find his pitch and hit a gap with it. Unlike some rookies, it didn't look like Moss just wanted to hit the ball over the wall. He was looking for opportunities to get on the basepaths and put the Sox back into the game.
As far as our clean-up hitter, that's just Manny being Manny, baby. He's a bad, bad man. This is Manny at his best and I have a feeling we're going to be seeing a lot of this all season long. He wants his options picked up and he will with more games like this one.
Matsuzaka, the big story to start the day, was interesting to watch. His line really didn't tell the story though: 5 IP, 2 ER, 2 H, 5 BB, 6 SO. That's a really mixed line. He kept his hits and runs down, but the walks were up. And his strikeouts were high, but he still only pitched 5 innings.
If you saw all of Dice-K's work today, you noticed he looked very bad in the first two innings. It was all about location -- he couldn't hit the plate and half his pitches were hitting the dirt. I'm going to attribute his struggles to nerves, though. He's back in his homecountry where the hype surrounding him is huge. He wants to live up to all the expecations and not let anyone down so he pushes too hard.
After the second inning I think Dice-K realized what was going on. He settled down and started to hit the corners of the plate. Although home plate umpire Rick Reed was a stickler for the strike zone, Dice-K was able to get the necessary outs and, more importantly, keep the Sox in the game.
Overall, I would say this was a good outing for Dice-K. Obviously you don't want to have a pitcher commit five walks, but I classify it as I did because of how well he rebounded. He bent, but never broke, giving the Sox enough daylight to snag the win.
What else is there to say about this game? The Red Sox kept the game close despite a few bad innings and were able to put it away thanks to some clutch hitting.
I know one thing: I never want to be this stressed at 9 a.m. ever again.