It’s sort of crazy that these games count. We get geeked for Opening Day and then the season lasts freaking forever. Players, huge ones, miss two weeks with a mere fraction of the fanfare attached to the fortnight absence of Kris Bryant from the Cubs’ lineup. But it counts! Even if it’s not normal.
Game one is a museum piece. There is baseball, and it is very real baseball, but every Opening Day is living history, in a way. Like much of history, Opening Day is apt to be forgotten, especially if your team loses, but if they win you might remember it forever.
You don’t remember Game 2. except in the cases of Derek Lowe and Hideo Nomo, both of whom threw no-hitters for the Red Sox in Game 2. But an Opening Day is basically bigger than a no-hitter. Fanfare wise, it’s a guaranteed no-hitter. The only question is whether it’s a perfect game. Monday’s game was close.
The only thing that could have made this game better is if it was at home. The most impressive part about Opening Day was the quality of the pitching. The strangest part was Clay Buchholz batting -- lefty! I must have known he hit lefty, but I kill brain cells on the regular, so I forgot. The stadium was in Philadelphia, which was a new one for this guy’s lifetime, at least. Maybe it’s good luck: We want our last game to be interleague too, after all.
There were two Buchholz vs. Chase Utley at-bats that were magical, from Clay’s perspective. The first at-bat was in the fourth inning and started with just about the nastiest inside curveball you’re going to see a right-hander throw a lefty. It missed, barely, and Clay wasn’t happy about it, because goddamn it was beautiful.
Maybe it was too pretty, so for the next pitch, Clay simply threw a dart on the lower outside corner, which is more or less the perfect pitch. Utley looked at it, and he looked at its twin brother on the third pitch, maybe an inch further outside but still licking some of the corner.
Then it was time for the changeup. It was outside and unhittable, in the sense that you likely couldn’t hit, physically, from the batters box. That didn’t stop Utley from flailing at it and skulking off. He was owned.
The second at-bat, Clay’s last, was in the seventh. Utley worked the count full. I thought Clay would throw a curve because of his amazing control of it and, you know, when a good hitter is faced with 3-2 and you can throw something other than a fastball, it’s time to do that. And maybe Utley thought, well, Clay got me with the change last time, now he’s gonna go fastball. But I didn’t think that (which doesn’t matter!) and I was right, Clay threw the curve, Utley swung over top of it and Clay was done for the day.
His batterymate was not. Ryan Hanigan, who probably should be driving a truck, closed out his first game as the Sox’ 2015 catcher-who’s-available having acquitted himself well enough to get bumped ahead of Xander Bogaerts in the batting order, at least for a day. For at least one day, even the Sox’ weakness wasn’t a weakness.
And their strength? Their strength was on full display. Eight runs, all on home runs. Two from the old guy, two from the new guy and one from the kid. Perfectly distributed to ensure maximum optimism. All of it thrown through the Opening Day amplifier, with an extra day to soak it in? It’s too much not to gush. As I write this, the Red Sox have gone 14.2 innings without giving up a run this year. Yeah, they’re getting owned by Aaron Harang, but he’s having a Bartolo Night, and all respect to The Spirit of Bartolo. It’s a big spirit.
Speaking of spirits, either I’m really drunk or Jeff Francouer just hit a three-run homer, and between that and the Harang performance, I think it might be 2008 again. BRB: I’m pulling my money out of the stock market. Just kidding! I’m a sportswriter. I don’t own stocks. Just some crazy ideas about the Red Sox that I’ll bore you with all season, now that, after Game 2, it has really started.