The Red Sox kicked off 2016 with a 6-2 win over the Indians on Opening Day in a game where everything went exactly the way they drew it up.
There's a lot to talk about here, but in the first game of the 2016 season, there's no question who was really center stage here. It was David Price's first (real) start as a member of the Red Sox, and all eyes were on the lefty ace.
And Price...delivered, mostly. It was an imperfect start, but appropriately flashy, with Price showing real dominance for prolonged stretches. Ten times the Indians stepped up to the plate and were sent back to the dugout with three strikes. Science doesn't really understand it yet, but Price's changeup apparently leaves opposing hitters temporarily drunk, because there's no other way to explain the oft-embarrassing swings it induced.
If Price had done in innings two and four what he did the rest of the game, we'd probably be talking about eight ridiculous innings from the ace into Kimbrel for the ninth--unless John Farrell chose to save his closer. But that wasn't what happened, and those two innings were both frightening and damaging. Price seemed to lose the plate entirely to start the second, only managing to get pitches over when he was clearly just running it down the pipe. It cost him two walks, and put the Red Sox in immediate danger. But after giving up a slightly loud fly ball to center, Price locked in with Mike Napoli now 90 feet away from giving the Indians the lead, and punched out both Marlon Byrd and Juan Uribe to end the threat.
Corey Kluber had run into second inning troubles as well, but his came with two outs, as John Farrell's chosen duo in Travis Shaw and Brock Holt managed a pair of singles to pose a two-out threat before Blake Swihart struck out. That left Jackie Bradley Jr. acting as the "second leadoff man", if you will, to start the third, and he did so with the hardest contact of the day off of Kluber to that point, ripping a single into right field. That record would not stand for long at all. A 1-1 fastball to Mookie Betts trailed over the plate, and Boston's right fielder established a new tradition, launching an Opening Day homer for the second straight year to put the Red Sox ahead 2-0.
David Price entered the fourth having struck out four of the last five batters he'd faced, but ran into a serious speed bump in the form of Mike Napoli. The former Red Sox first baseman had actually enjoyed a more successful plate appearance as one of the two walks in that second inning. This time, he would go down with a (contentious) strikeout, but only after fouling off pitch after pitch, making Price throw 11 to retire him.
Francisco Lindor had managed an 0-2 hit to leadoff the inning, but Napoli's at bat seemed to be what briefly derailed Price. Carlos Santana and Yan Gomes both managed solid contact, squaring up a pair of pitches and taking them up the middle and into center field for a pair of singles and a run. And this time, Price couldn't keep the runner at third, with Marlon Byrd popping a curveball into left field, where Holt didn't even try to keep Carlos Santana from scoring the tying run.
But that (and a Juan Uribe single) was it for Price's struggles. Collin Cowgill became yet another strikeout victim, and Price managed reasonably quick innings in the fifth and sixth before handing it off to Boston's revamped bullpen.
The lineup, meanwhile, went about getting him his two-run lead back. Kluber had worked around a couple baserunners between the fourth and fifth innings, but fell behind Hanley Ramirez, and ended up giving in with a fastball that Ramirez was able to shoot back into center for a leadoff single. Travis Shaw rapped a similar offering into right, and Ramirez went all-out hustling his way to third, getting in around a throw that came to the home side of third. Brock Holt made good on his extra effort, with a bloop single to left that likely wouldn't have scored Ramirez from second, and after a ground ball moved Shaw on to third, a wild pitch brought him home.
With both starters out, the game turned over to the bullpens with the Red Sox ahead. And this year, that figures to be a recipe for success for Boston. While the whole party isn't there yet thanks to Carson Smith's injury, our first look at the trio of Tazawa - Uehara - Kimbrel would suggest the plan will work just fine in the meantime. Tazawa looked completely refreshed with a pair of strikeouts in a perfect seventh, and Uehara got a couple lazy flyballs and a K of his own in the eighth, leaving only the closer.
Before that, though, there was still the ninth to go, and one big moment. If this team is on a mission, it's not simply to go from worst-to-first, or to win another World Series. It's a mission to send David Ortiz off with the sort of season he deserves. And today, Ortiz contributed to that effort with more than just an early double off of Kluber. Facing off against Trevor Bauer with Dustin Pedroia on first, Ortiz crushed his final first homer of the year over the wall in right, making it 6-2. By that point Kimbrel's services might not have been needed, exactly, but he put in an appearance for good measure anyways, striking out two to work around a walk and send the Red Sox off with a win.