Opening Day started with Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski making appearances at Fenway, celebrating their Super Bowl victory. It ended with Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley and Andrew Benintendi dancing for the first time in 2017. It wasn’t always easy, but the Red Sox have gotten their first win out of the way.
At first, things were flying by at a pace that must have made Rob Manfred’s smile a mile wide. Pirates starter Gerrit Cole was looking like the ace he’s always been projected to be for the first few innings. He was pumping his fastball in the high-90’s and the Red Sox were struggling to make solid contact. They connected a few times, but in the end they had only two base runners in the first four innings, with one of them being erased by a double play two batters later.
Then, the fifth inning happened. As it turns out, this was the only frame in which the Red Sox lineup was able to do any damage, but it was plenty. It didn’t seem like it was going to be that way, though. Cole continued to cruise to start the inning, getting Mitch Moreland to ground out to second in the first at bat and Xander Bogaerts to fly out to right field to get two quick outs on just four pitches.
It was at this point the rally would begin. Jackie Bradley came up next and ripped a ball off the right field wall in the corner. As we know, balls can get lost out there and McCutchen bobbled it off the carom and Bradley sped into third base with a triple. After that, Pablo Sandoval hit a grounder into the hole on the left side which Jordy Mercer was able to stop, but Boston’s third baseman hustled down the line for the RBI infield single. If you had an infield single from Sandoval for the season’s first RBI, let me borrow some cash. Next up was Sandy Leon, who was up against the shift and dropped a bunt towards third base for the hit. If you were watching the broadcast, you heard Jerry Remy rave about the decision for the rest of the inning. In fact, as I type this he’s discussing it on NESN’s postgame show. Pedroia would follow up that heady decision with an RBI single up the middle to put Boston up two. Finally, Andrew Benintendi broke it open with his first homer of the year to give the Red Sox a 5-0 lead.
Meanwhile, Rick Porcello was cruising for the Red Sox. He got into a little bit of trouble in the second inning when he threw 21 pitches and allowed three baserunners. However, the first — Gregory Polanco — was caught stealing. The second was an infield single that was tapped just past the mound towards Pedroia at second base. After a walk to Francisco Cervelli, Porcello bore down and induced a fly out before ending the inning on a strikeout of Josh Harrison. From there, he cruised until the seventh with a little help from his defense along the way.
JBJ getting a jumpstart on the 2017 reel. pic.twitter.com/GQcp4GkXLi— Julian Benbow (@julianbenbow) April 3, 2017
In the seventh, things took a turn. Porcello was noticeably fatigued, a forgivable offense given the fact that they just broke from spring training. He missed way inside on three pitches in the inning, and while he did record one out he allowed a run and left the game with two runners on. Matt Barnes came in for relief, and those worries about Boston’s bullpen were starting to look justified. It was not a banner day for Barnes, who would immediately allow an RBI single, followed by a wild pitch to move both runners into scoring position, followed by a walk to load the bases. Thankfully, Benintendi came through with the glove as well, as he snared a hard-hit line drive with the bases loaded that could have easily cleared the bases had it gone over his glove. One more run scored on the play, but Barnes got Andrew McCutchen on a breaking ball to end the inning and the damage was limited to three runs.
The bullpen was a little better after that. Robby Scott came on for one batter to start the eighth and induced a ground out against the left-handed Polanco. In a somewhat surprising move, Heath Hembree got the call over Joe Kelly to finish the eighth, and he was able to do so without a hiccup.
Moving on to the ninth, Craig Kimbrel filled us with a little bit of fear. He was wild at times, and he allowed a double off the very top of the Monster to the leadoff hitting Josh Bell. He came back with two straight strikeouts, though, and after hitting the next batter he induced a game-ending pop up to Starling Marte.
Besides all that, Xander Bogaerts and Pablo Sandoval looked strong. The former reached base twice and stole a couple bases. The latter had just one hit, but he put a few swings on the ball. He did make an error with a bad throw on a routine play, though. Mitch Moreland had a rough Red Sox debut, going 0-4 with two strikeouts and failing to pick a couple of balls in the dirt. He is just coming off a pretty serious bout with the flu, but bad first impressions can stick around here.
It wasn’t a perfect game by any means, but a win is a win is a win is a win. They’ve got the first one out of the way, now it’s time to win about 99 more.