On a day where David Ortiz went deep, Xander Bogaerts reached base four times, and Rick Porcello threw eight strong innings, Mookie Betts was still able to steal the show in Boston's 9-4 victory over the Washington Nationals.
With such a large margin of victory, it might seem strange to suggest that Betts took over the game for the Red Sox. But if it hadn't been for him, it's easy to imagine a very differenth home opener for Fenway Park. In the top of the first, Rick Porcello found himself the victim of a bloop single that barely cleared the infield, bringing Bryce Harper to the plate with a man on first and one down. Harper jumped on the first pitch he saw, sending a long fly ball to right-center field where Mookie Betts headed back towards the wall and timed his leap just right, snagging the ball over the bullpen wall and coming down with what would have without a doubt been a two-run homer.
If Porcello finds himself down 2-0 with one out in the game, if the Red Sox find themselves dealing with another ugly first after Sunday night's train wreck, who knows where this ends up? Instead, they headed to the bottom of the first with the momentum of Betts' big play behind them, and immediately found themselves with a baserunner when he drew a walk off Jordan Zimmermann. When Dustin Pedroia was unable to move Betts along to second, Mookie took matters into his own hands, stealing second, then beating Jordan Zimmermann to the vacated third base to make it two swipes in one fell swoop. With David Ortiz singling him home, Betts had taken two runs from Washington and scored one for the Red Sox before the first was out.
He wasn't done, either. After Porcello recorded a scoreless second, Xander Bogaerts and Sandy Leon brought Betts to the plate with two men on and just one out. Zimmermann tried to sneak a 1-1 fastball over the inside of the plate, and did not succeed in the least. Betts drove the ball into the last row of Monster seats on a line, putting the Red Sox ahead 4-0. For those keeping tally, that's two runs saved, two bags stolen, two runs scored, and two more driven in.
Betts would add an RBI infield single in the third, but it was honestly as much a defensive gaffe as the latest in his list of feats, part of a four-run inning for the Red Sox which also saw the Nationals watch two lazy fly balls hit the ground as the defense fell completely to pieces behind Jordan Zimmermann, who was already showing he needed no help getting the Red Sox on the board. It wasn't quite the mirror image of Clay Buchholz' performance from Sunday night, but it was a fitting way to erase the terrible memories of the series finale against New York.
Rick Porcello, for his part, had a strange day on the mound. When he nearly allowed that first-inning homer, there was plenty of reason to worry that Mookie Betts would not be able to save him in the second. But Porcello tightened up, getting a series of easy outs to hold the Nationals scoreless through four.
He did come a bit undone in the fifth, allowing a solo shot to straight-away center to Ryan Zimmerman and nearly allowing Clint Robinson to replicate that on a triple to the same spot. His pitches were sailing on him, and when he tried to keep the ball low, he bounced it in to Sandy Leon. He would hold the Nationals to just those two runs in the frame, and got his control back going forward, but also served up a solo shot to Danny Espinosa in the ninth. He's never really had home run issues in the past, so this is something to keep an eye on as the year progresses, but taken as a whole Porcello went eight innings allowing just three earned runs. It's hard to call that anything but a success.
The Red Sox will have Justin Masterson on the mound against Stephen Strasburg Tuesday night as they try to make it three straight series wins to start the season.