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Lester, Bard Knocked Around As Red Sox Drop Opener

It was a disappointing opening day for Red Sox fans, as Jon Lester allowed three home runs and Daniel Bard gave up the tie game with a four run eighth inning to send the Red Sox to their first defeat of the year.

It all started off promisingly enough for the Red Sox. After Julio Borbon and Nelson Cruz collided in the outfield letting Jacoby Ellsbury reach second base in the first at bat of the game, Sox fans got their first look at their potent 4-5 combo. Kevin Youkilis shrugged off a slow spring with a double to right field, before being driven in by Adrian Gonzalez in his first regular season at bat as a Red Sox. 

The 2-0 lead quickly shrunk to 2-1, however, as Jon Lester made it clear that he knew very well what month it was. Leaving a 1-0 fastball belt-high and right down the middle to Ian Kinsler was the first big mistake of the night, and he was punished for it with a home run. 

The scene would basically repeat itself in the second inning, albeit with a pitch a little higher, and a much less emphatic homer off the bat of Nelson Cruz that just seemed to drift on Carl Crawford in left field.

Stuck in a tie again, the top of the Red Sox' lineup went back to work. Jacoby Ellsbury's third inning double was all his doing this time, and Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis followed it up with a single and a walk to load the bases. Up came Adrian Gonzalez with another RBI opportunity, and again, he cashed in. A single up the middle scored another pair of runs, giving the Sox' newest slugger his first three RBI in his first three innings with the team.

But the Rangers weren't done with Jon Lester yet, and once again, he was victimized by the longball. For most of the game, Lester had been allowing two different types of outcomes: homers, and weak contact. Almost every single out for Lester had come on weak ground balls (many of which never got past the mound) and pop flies.

In the fourth inning, though, the balls started to be hit harder. A couple of them even ended up with singles from Adrian Beltre and Nelson Cruz. With two men on, Lester delivered a ball that cut down and in on Mike Napoli, out of the strike zone, and apparently exactly where Napoli wanted it. Going down to one knee, Napoli cleaned the pitch out and sent it down the line and out, just barely fair, and giving the Rangers a 5-4 lead. 

Lester would exit the game with five earned runs and just one out in the sixth inning. For the first time in three years, he did not record a strikeout.

Each side traded goose eggs in the fifth, sixth, and seventh innings, setting the Red Sox up for their last significant chance in the eighth against lefty Arthur Rhodes. First up was Kevin Youkilis, who grounded out to shortstop. Adrian Gonzalez came next, and sent the ball to the second baseman for another out. Last up was David Ortiz, to that point 0-for-2 with a strikeout and a weak grounder back to the pitcher. This time around, he did a bit better. After taking 11 games to pick up his first longball in 2010, Ortiz got it out of the way with on Opening Day in 2011, knocking one just over the wall in center field to tie it up at five.

And then came Daniel Bard, throwing junk. After a quick fly out to right field, Bard snuffed out the Red Sox' hopes for an Opening Day win, giving up a walk, a single, and a double to give the Rangers a 7-5 lead, and then two more doubles and runs before being pulled out of the inning with a 9-5 deficit and just two outs. The Sox could not mount any sort of rally in the ninth, and fell to 0-1.

Oh well. 161-1 isn't so bad, and the Sox did lose on Opening Day in both 2004 and 2007. So there's that.