One of the quirks of the unbalanced schedule is that interleague play takes place all season, so the Boston Red Sox opened up the 2017 season against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Tom Brady of the Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots tossed out the first pitch and 2016 Cy Young Award winner Rick Porcello took the mound before a packed house at Fenway. This was the first opening day start of Porcello’s career.
Life without David Ortiz began for the Red Sox with Dustin Pedroia leading off and grounding out to shortstop. American League Rookie of the Year favorite Andrew Benintendi (who is also in contention for “Best Hair in MLB” with the Atlanta Braves’ Dansby Swanson) struck out. Last season’s runner-up for the American League MVP award, Mookie Betts, ended the inning with a fly out to left center.
Gregory Polanco led off the second with a line drive single, but was promptly thrown out in a misguided attempt to steal second. David Freese reached base on a dink hit that Porcello fielded. Francisco Cervelli followed by drawing a walk, moving Freese up to second. Then Josh Bell flew out followed by Josh Harrison striking out on a weak looking swing, to end the Pittsburgh scoring threat.
Hanley Ramirez led off the home half of the second with a single followed by a Mitch Moreland strikeout. Pittsburgh starter Gerrit Cole induced a 4-6-3 double play from Xander Bogaerts by pitching to his weakness – low and away.
After an uneventful inning and a half, Harrison was knocked to the ground by the sheer power of a Pedroia grounder, but still managed to make a play and throw the Sox second baseman out. Benintendi, with a bit of bad luck, hit a fly ball to the fragment of foul ground by third for an out. Mookie reached on a walk, but was stranded as Ramirez hit a liner to center for the third out.
Moreland and Bogaerts began the Sox’ half of the fifth with two routine outs. Jackie Bradley Jr. then smashed a triple to deep right and Sandoval hit an infield single to short that scored JBJ, putting the Sox up 1-0. Sandy Leon reached on a hard-hit bunt single that Cole couldn’t handle near the third base line, moving Sandoval to second. Pedroia followed with a single to center, scoring Sandoval from second with his newfound speed and moving Leon to second. Benintendi then stepped up and cleared the bases with a three-run homerun to make the lead 5-0. Betts reached on an infield single and advanced to second on a throwing error by shortstop Jordy Mercer. The inning ended with Ramirez popping out to second.
Sandoval committed a throwing error, allowing Frazier to reach to lead off the sixth. After Porcello induced Marte into a flyout, the righty took matters into his own hands by striking out McCutchen and Polanco.
Juan Nicasio entered in relief of Cole and got Moreland to ground out to second. Bogaerts followed with a single and was moved over to second on a JBJ ground out. Bogaerts stole third for his first stolen base of the season, but stranded as Sandoval struck out to end the sixth..
Porcello came out to start the seventh and Freese greeted him with an infield single, his second hit of the day. Cervelli then smacked a double off the wall, moving Freese to third. After retiring Bell on a grounder back to the mound, Porcello gave up a single to left to score Freese and move Cervelli to third. 5-1 Sox.
Manager John Farrell had seen enough and brought in Matt Barnes to extricate the Sox from the jam. He immediately failed by giving up a base hit to Mercer to score Cervelli, making the score 5-2. Barnes then uncorked a wild pitch to Frazier, allowing both Harrison and Mercer to move up a base. He then walked Frazier to load the bases. Marte hit a sacrifice fly to left to score Harrison, drawing the Pirates within two runs at 5-3, but Barnes struck out McCutchen to end the inning. 5-3 Sox.
Pittsburgh brought in Felipe Rivero to face the Sox in the bottom of the seventh. Leon laced a hit to center, but Rivero settled down to get the next three outs with a strikeout, a fly out and a fielder’s choice to short.
Robby Scott came in for the eighth to face left-handed Gregory Polanco. He did his job, inducing Polanco to ground out to second. Farrell then called on Heath Hembree to face the righty Freese, who flew out to center, validating Farrell’s decision. Hembree stayed in to face Cervelli, who grounded out to short.
Daniel Hudson came on in relief and did his job with Ramirez and Moreland, who both go down on strikes. Bogaerts singled and stole his second base of the game and JBJ walked to put two runners on. Sandoval ended the chance of more scoring with another strikeout.
Craig Kimbrel entered in a save situation and promptly gave up a Josh Bell double high off the wall. Harrison and Mercer were both retired on strikes. Kimbrel then plunked Frazier to bring the go-ahead run to the plate, but the game ended as Marte hit a foul pop to first.
The Sox won 5-3 and the teams will meet again Wednesday night after a much needed day off to rest and reflect.