Red Sox 3, Orioles 1: Daniel Nava comes up big as Boston takes home opener

USA TODAY Sports

Clay Buchholz tossed seven shutout innings, and Daniel Nava provided the game-winning homer in the seventh, leaving the Red Sox as victors in the home opener.

The Red Sox defeated the Orioles 3-1 in their home opener on the backs of a big homer from Daniel Nava and seven strong innings from Clay Buchholz

Getting the start on the mound for the Red Sox, Clay Buchholz did not have great control today. With a stingy zone for both sides it was enitrely possible for that to result in a train wreck. Instead, Buchholz just let his sheer stuff take over the game. With his curveball, changeup, and cutter all dancing about as well as they can, Buchholz did not need precise location.

Deep fly balls to right off the bats of Adam Jones and Matt Wieters in the first and second may have raised some early warning flags, but after that Buchholz mostly cruised. A pair of ground balls made it through the infield with two outs in the third, but David Ross came out, and Buchholz struck out Jones to end the inning. Buchholz would pick up eight strikeouts in his seven shutout innings, including one against Steve Pearce to finish things off after another visit from Ross.

The Red Sox, however, were not faring any better than the Orioles at the plate. Despite looking like a lefty-mashing lineup on paper, the Sox had already struggled against both Andy Pettitte and J.A. Happ, and Wei-Yin Chen looked to be no different, starting his day off with three no-hit innings. Shane Victorino would end that in the fourth, hitting a line drive single to center, but was gunned down trying to steal second by Matt Wieters, allowing Chen to keep on rolling through six shutout frames.

Finally, though, Boston's bats would wake in the seventh. The first hit, an infield single from Dustin Pedroia, hardly seemed to signal bad things to come. The second, however, was a blast from Mike Napoli that ricocheted off the center field wall. Pedroia would have to hold up at third, however, and after Will Middlebrooks struck out swinging at a changeup out of the zone, it looked like it might be the start of another wasted inning for the Red Sox.

Daniel Nava had something else in mind. Inserted into the lineup in place of Jackie Bradley Jr. despite a history of difficulties against left-handed pitching, Nava had been one of the few Sox players with any success against Chen. He had given the Sox their first baserunner by drawing a two-out walk in the second, and then singled up the middle in the fifth. This time Chen challenged him middle-in, and Nava responded with a big swing that sent his offering up and over everything in left, giving the Sox the 3-0 lead.

All that was left from there was for the pen to do its job. Andrew Bailey was first up, looking filthy in picking up a pair of strikeouts before getting some help from Jacoby Ellsbury, who ranged far to his right to grab a line drive off the bat of Nick Markakis for out number three.

With just the ninth to go, Joel Hanrahan took the ball, and the initial results were not good, with Adam Jones launching a solo shot into the Monster seats. Mike Napoli provided an important out by smothering a hot shot to first and tossing to Hanrahan for the first out. Boston's new closer did his own work for the second, striking out Matt Wieters with 99 MPH heat. J.J. Hardy would give Boston fans reason for panic with a double off the Monster, bringing the tying run to the plate in Ryan Flaherty, but ultimately a 2-0 fastball earned Hanrahan a pop-up, Will Middlebrooks a putout, and the Red Sox a win in their home opener.

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