With two Opening Days in the books, the Boston Red Sox returned home for one of their own. Rick Rowand summarizes what the comeback kids of 2016 couldn’t do on their Opening Day.
Opening Days always feature much pomp and circumstance, even when the home team finished in last place the previous season, and this day was no different. The gates opened two hours before the first pitch was scheduled and the ceremonies featured many Boston sports legends, as is fitting to celebrate the career of retiring legend David Ortiz.
Ortiz was the proudest, and the most surprised, father in Fenway when his daughter Alex came out to sing the national anthem. According to reports, Ortiz was unaware that she was going to sing in front of thousands in attendance and watching on TV.
Ortiz threw out the first pitch along with living legends Bobby Orr, Bill Russell, and Ty Law. Joining Ortiz to declare, “Play Ball” were some old friends and teammates: Jason Varitek, Tim Wakefield and Pedro Martinez.
This day would also mark the first home appearance on the mound for new Red Sox David Price, who would be facing the first-place Baltimore Orioles.
Baltimore opened up the game with a double by rookie Joey Rickard. Price retired the next three batters with no damage done.
The Sox started the scoring with four straight hits in the bottom of the first, and a sacrifice fly by Hanley Ramirez, resulting in a 3-0 lead.
Rickard walk. Price hit Manny Machado with a pitch to load the bases, then gave up a Chris Davis two-run single. Next up was Mark Trumbo, who promptly deposited a ball into the bleachers in right-center to give the O’s a 5-3 lead.
Boston tied the game in the fourth when Brock Holt! walked and moved to third on a single by Blake Swihart. Jackie Bradley Jr. hit a automatic double to left that scored Holt and advanced Swihart to third, who would soon score on a fielder’s choice by Mookie Betts. Game tied 5-5.
Was this the start of another comeback? The Sox came into this game with a 3-2 record including two comeback wins. And what better time for another comeback than on David Ortiz’s last home opener?
In the 6th, Manager John Farrell made one of those moves that are sometimes questioned by fans and analysts.
T.J. McFarland came on in relief to start the the inning. To counter that move, Farrell had right-handed Chris Young bat for lefty Travis Shaw. A defensible move because Young is on the team to face lefties. But the move would limit what Farrell could do later in the game with only Pablo Sandoval on the bench as a left-handed hitter. After Young popped out to first, Boston tied the game on a Holt walk, a Swihart single, and a fielder’s choice to second by JBJ. 6-6.
Baltimore started off the 7th with right-handed Mychal Givens on the mound. Pedroia and Bogaerts both struck out swinging. Ortiz followed up with a double and then Ramirez was intentionally walked to set up a force at any base, forcing Farrell to make the decision: leave Young in the game (.224 AVG. lifetime vs. RHP) or bring in Sandoval (.298 AVG. as a lefty vs RHP lifetime). In a choice that was caused by his move in the 6th inning, Farrell decided to leave Young in the game. Maybe he forgot that Sandoval is on the team for precisely this situation;barring an injury, you have to use Sandoval here unless your confidence in him is zero. If it is, he’s just dead weight (no pun intended) and needs to go. As it turned out, Young struck out swinging to end the inning. The game remained tied at 6-6 through the eighth as relief pitchers on both sides (Uehara and Brach) pitched well.
New closer Craig Kimbrel came into the game with the score tied in the ninth to “Welcome To The Jungle” blasting out of the Fenway soundsystem. He induced a groundout to first by Ryan Flaherty and then walked Joseph. After a swinging K by Rickard, Kimbrel walked Machado. Next up, the man you least want to face when the game is on the line, Chris Davis. Kimbrel learned a lesson that many before him had learned the hard way: do not groove a pitch over the heart of the plate to Chris Davis.The pitch ended up 449 feet from home onto the tarp covering the seats in the triangle. According to Statcast, the ball was traveling at 111-mph when it left his bat. This was the first time in his career that Kimbrel has given up a three-run homer. Welcome to the AL East, Craig. 9-6 Orioles.
In the bottom of the ninth, the Sox scored one run on a Betts homer over the Monster in left. 9-7. Pedroia singled and Xander Bogaerts walked to bring the winning run to the plate in the form of David Ortiz, the man with more clutch hits to tie a game or take a lead than any other Red Sox in history. But alas, today was not to be his day, as he grounded to second for a double play. The game ended on a Ramirez strikeout.
Next up, Clay Buchholz.
Rick Rowand has written about Boston’s young stars, David Ortiz’s career, Brock Holt’s aura, and Boston’s new starting third baseman.
Follow Rick on Twitter @rrowand.