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Top Moments '10: No. 5 - Opening Night Comeback

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Opening Night in Major League Baseball; just one game on the schedule.

The defending champion New York Yankees entered Boston on April 4th (Easter) to play 2010’s first regular season contest. Airing nationally on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball, the game featured a prime-time pitching match up and two of the early favorites to reach postseason play in the American League.

With Josh Beckett on the hill for the Red Sox and C.C. Sabathia slated to start for the Yankees -- in addition to Boston’s new preventative defense-first lineup -- many expected a low scoring and hard-fought game between two of the game’s most storied franchises. That, they did not get.

Instead, what transpired was an emotionally charged back-and-forth affair with an ending that didn’t disappoint -- as if that were ever in doubt.

Everybody wants their team to win game one. For Red Sox fans, this particular opener was even more meaningful. Not only was it played against the Yankees who were fresh off a World Series title with the rest of the league watching, but it was also the first time fans would be introduced to the "bridge year" version of their Sox. For the first time in years, the Red Sox were defensively oriented. Needless to say, nobody knew exactly what to expect.

What followed was yet another Red Sox vs. Yankees classic, something fans should always expect when these two organizations get together.

OTM COVERAGE: Randy Booth’s recap of top moment number five of 2010 (April 4, 2010)

GAME RECAP (via Yahoo! Sports): 04/04/2010 - Boston Red Sox 9 New York Yankees 7


Inning number one for Josh Beckett went about as expected. If you’ve watched Josh pitch enough, you’re well aware that he tends to lean heavily on his fastball the first time through a lineup, assumedly in an attempt to establish a rhythm and avoid giving opposing hitters a look at his secondary stuff early, allowing him to utilize it later on in the game when the fastball may not have the same zip as it did early on.

The Yankees had likely established that same fact in their scouting report for Boston‘s starter. After all, they’ve seen enough of Beckett during his time with Florida and Boston to know what to expect.

With that in mind, Yankees leadoff hitter Derek Jeter jumped on the first pitch he saw -- a fastball -- but grounded out to Boston’s new shortstop, Marco Scutaro, for the game’s first out. Nick Johnson would follow by driving a fastball to deep center but right into the glove of Jacoby Ellsbury, thankfully, for out number two. Mark Teixeira ended the initial frame by grounding out to first baseman Kevin Youkilis. Not a pretty start for the Sox, but they got the job done.

A bit of foreshadowing, perhaps?

After Sabathia set down Ellsbury, Pedroia and Victor Martinez in succession during the home half of the first, it appeared as though those fans expecting a low-scoring game would not be let down. However, inning number two would alter that perception.

The frame began innocently enough; Alex Rodriguez grounded out to Beckett and Robinson Cano lined out to center for a quick two outs. Yankees catcher Jorge Posada stepped in with two outs and nobody on and proceeded to do something no other hitter had done against Beckett in any of his four career Opening Day starts -- hit a home run. The shot to right field deflated the hometown crowd and dug the Red Sox an early 1-0 hole. The Yankees’ offense, however, was not finished.

Unimpressed with Posada’s accomplishment, as well as Beckett’s fastball apparently, in stepped Curtis Granderson for his first official at-bat as a member of the Yankees -- and it was a memorable one, to say the least. Granderson blasted a Beckett offering into deep right-center field for back-to-back home runs.

After being just one out away from a second scoreless frame to start the game, Beckett and the Red Sox quickly found themselves down 2-0 in just the second inning. Visibly shaken, Beckett would surrender consecutive singles to the eight and nine hitters, Nick Swisher and Brett Gardner, before finally retiring Jeter to stop the bleeding.

On the to the bottom of the second, Yankees leading 2-0.

Kevin Youkilis led off with a double to left-center and would advance to third after a David Ortiz groundout. Like Granderson before him, Adrian Beltre would make an immediate impact in his first at-bat with his new team by scoring Youkilis by way of sacrifice fly. Despite an inning-ending strikeout by J.D. Drew, Youkilis’ run reenergized the hometown crowd and cut the Yankees’ lead in half.

Through two: Yankees 2, Red Sox 1.

After both teams broke out offensively in the second inning, the pressure was back on starters Beckett and Sabathia to regain composure in what was an electric atmosphere on this particular night. Aside from a leadoff walk to Boston’s Marco Scutaro, neither offense would manage anything in inning number three.

Pitcher’s duel back on track? Not so fast.

Robinson Cano led off the fourth with a double but would risk being stranded at third base after consecutive groundouts by Posada and Granderson. A two-out walk to Swisher put runners on the corners, and the Yankees would add on to their lead following back-to-back run-scoring singles by Brett Gardner and Derek Jeter. Leading 4-1 at that point, with Gardner on third and Jeter on first, New York scored after successfully completing a double steal. While Nick Johnson would end the inning by way of strikeout, the damage was done.

Needing an answer in the fourth, the Red Sox offense produced nothing of the sort. Three up [Pedroia, Martinez, Youkilis], three down.

After four: Yankees 5, Red Sox 1.

Back on the mound with a bad taste in his mouth and little time to recover from the previous inning’s troubles, Beckett would again quickly retire the first two hitters before running into more trouble. With two outs, Cano singled to deep right and advanced into scoring position following a walk to Posada.

Exit, Josh Beckett. Enter, Scott Schoeneweis. Exit, Fenway fans' enthusiasm.

After a wild pitch that advanced both runners into scoring position, Schoeneweis would strike Granderson out to avoid falling any further behind.

Sabathia, who had retired nine straight hitters and seemed to be finding his flow, entered the fifth with a 5-1 lead and all the momentum on his side.

However, using a little two-out magic of their own, Boston would ride back-to-back singles from Drew and Scutaro, as well as a fielding error by Brett Gardner, to plate their second run of the game and give the home fans a little more hope as they entered the final four innings down 5-2.

In the top of the sixth, Schoeneweis and Ramon Ramirez would maneuver around a two-out single by Jeter to put a much needed zero on the Green Monster scoreboard, giving the offense a chance to cut further into the New York lead in the home half.

After a Pedroia walk and Martinez double to start the sixth, Kevin Youkilis brought the home team within one run of the lead after tripling to right field despite the enormous piano he carried on his back around the bases. The tying run on third and with one out (a David Ortiz groundout), Sabathia was pulled from the game, giving way to reliever David Robertson. Beltre met Robertson with a game-tying RBI-single, plating Youkilis for the Red Sox first baseman’s second run of the game. Although J.D. Drew and Mike Cameron would go down quietly to end the inning, momentum was back on the home team’s side with the game knotted-up.

Six complete: Yankees 5, Red Sox 5.

Ramon Ramirez did his best to give that momentum right back to New York after walking Teixeira in front of Alex Rodriguez, who followed with a double, to start the seventh. Hideki Okajima was called on for damage control following Ramirez’s exit. New York had other plans as Cano produced the go-ahead run, grounding out to Dustin Pedroia. With Rodriguez standing on third, Okajima would surrender an RBI-single to Posada, who ended the night 3-4 with a pair of RBI. Okajima would go on to walk Granderson before getting a clutch double play ball off the bat of Nick Swisher to end any remaining threat.

Through 6 ½ innings: Yankees 7, Red Sox 5.

In the bottom of the seventh, Robertson would give way to reliever Chan Ho Park. Thankfully, the only relief Park provided would be in Boston’s favor.

Marco Scutaro, continuing what was an impressive Boston debut, led off the inning with a single to center -- part of a 2-3 (RBI, R, BB) night for the Sox’s new shortstop. After an Ellsbury strikeout for out number one, Dustin Pedroia crushed a Park offering Over the Monster (see what I did there?) to bring the game back to even at seven runs a piece. Later in the inning, Youkilis would double with two outs, knocking Chan Ho Park from the game after surrendering three runs in less than an inning of work.

Damaso Marte entered the game for what would be an interesting outing. After allowing Youkilis to advance to third on a wild pitch, Marte and catcher Jorge Posada combined for a run-scoring passed ball. Marte would walk Ortiz to finish his outing, giving way to Joba Chamberlain who ended the frame with a groundball off the bat of Adrian Beltre.

Nonetheless, the damage had been done and Boston had their first lead of the 2010 season, one that they would not relinquish.

Seven in the books: Yankees 7, Red Sox 8.

Daniel Bard was called on for the eighth inning and came through with a scoreless frame.

The Red Sox would add-on to the 8-7 lead in their half of the eighth after Dustin Pedroia singled home Mike Cameron with two outs for the ninth and final run of the game for Boston.

Jonathan Papelbon would close out the ninth, ending a rollercoaster game with playoff-like atmosphere that gave fans reason for optimism regarding the remaining 161 games. While that optimism, in retrospect, was unwarranted, this remains one of the most notable wins for Boston in 2010.

Final score: MFY 7, Red Sox 9.

Game Notes

- Boston’s new acquisitions -- Marco Scutaro, Mike Cameron and Adrian Beltre -- who were originally brought in for defensive purposes, combined to go 5-9, with 2 BB, 3 RBI and 2 runs scored in their first game with the Red Sox.

- This was the first night opener in Fenway Park’s then-98-year-old history.

- In what was supposed to be a pitcher’s duel, starters Josh Beckett and C.C. Sabathia’s combined stat line read: 10 IP, 14 H, 10 R (all earned), 5 BB, 2 HR.

- Pedro Martinez, who received an enormous ovation, was on hand to throw out the game’s first pitch.

- Boston’s Opening Day victory was their first of the sort against the Yankees since 1985.

- The Red Sox improved to 20-14 all-time when playing on Easter.

- Kevin Youkilis [2 2B, 3B] became the first Red Sox player to record three extra base hits on Opening Day since 1973 when Carlton Fisk had a double and a pair of home runs. Ironically, that game also occurred at Fenway Park against the visiting Yankees.

- Despite his rough outing, Beckett [4.2 IP, 8 H, 5 ER, 3 BB, 1 K] is still one of the better Opening Day starters in all of baseball. His career numbers, including this game, look like this: 5 GS, 27.1 IP, 9 ER, 2.96 ERA.

- Before Brett Gardner accomplished the feat as part of a double steal in the fourth inning of this game, the last time Boston allowed a theft of home to an opposing base runner was July 5, 2006, in the fourth inning of a game at Tampa Bay. The base runner? Everyone’s favorite former Tampa Bay Ray, Carl Crawford.