A homecoming bash
Sox heat up Fenway opener with 14-3 win
There wasn't much drama on Opening Day at Fenway Park. By the end of the sixth inning, the Red Sox were clearing their bench (Doug Mirabelli batting for David Ortiz?) and led the Seattle Mariners 13-1. If not for the 40-degree temperatures and face-blistering winds, it could have been a spring training game in City of Palms Park.
This was a day when flurries flew at 11:30 a.m. and Captain Carl Yastrzemski and other New England gods of 1967 came back for a curtain call. It was a day when Julio Lugo reached base four times in the first four innings and Josh Beckett (seven innings, two hits) struck out the great Ichiro Suzuki three times in three tries. It was a day when newcomer J.D. Drew muscled a Fred Lynnesque homer to center, and a day when both benches emptied as Brendan Donnelly was ejected for settling an old score on Boston baseball's New Year's Day.
In the end, the big scoreboard on the Wall showed the Red Sox winning the 96th Fenway opener, 14-3, as 35,847 frozen fans filed into Back Bay taverns in search of 100-proof antifreeze.
"It was fun," said general manager Theo Epstein, the man who assembled this $143 million Sox edition. "To get out fast like that allows you to enjoy it. It was great to see Josh like that, and the offense broke out. It had a little bit of everything, and I'm glad the fans go home happy."
Oh, and for those of you who've perhaps been traveling abroad with no Internet/cellphone access, Daisuke Matsuzaka will make his first appearance on the Fenway mound tonight.
As home openers go, this was not your father's
The Sox also unveiled new seats upstairs down the right-field line. The metallic bleacher section is dedicated to Tony Conigliaro, and ticket-holders reportedly each get a personal Sherpa guide. There is, however, no truth to the rumor that the Sox may post a Fuji Film sign on the back of the new section and invite fans to "climb Mount Fuji."
There were no boos for the locals during pregame introductions. Coco Crisp's reception was tepid, but none of the cold fans were in much of a mood to be harsh. The loudest ovations were awarded to David Ortiz, Dice-K, Jonathan Papelbon (he's been awarded the coveted Yaz locker), and Johnny Pesky. Manny got the usual Lindbergh treatment and Dice-K's interpreter, Masa Hoshino, also got a nice hand.
After Harry Connick Jr. sang "America The Beautiful," Robert Goulet came out to sing "The Impossible Dream" while Yaz walked to his position in left field. (Some Mariners were still doing wind sprints, diluting the nostalgic effect.) The rest of the legends of '67 followed, and we will say again that this is the most important set of ballplayers in the 107-year history of the Red Sox. We saw Reggie Smith, Ken Harrelson, Mike Andrews, Rico Petrocelli, Dalton Jones, Jose Santiago, and others all wearing vintage uniforms -- nice heavy wool for this chilly day. The sun broke through when manager Dick Williams made his way to the mound.
When Ichiro fouled off the first pitch at 2:08 p.m., the temperature in the ballpark was 43 degrees with 16-mile-per-hour winds. Beckett's pitches were traveling somewhat faster, and he got the side in order in the first, hitting the mid-90s on the gun.
The Sox put it away early with four in the first and three more in the second against the too-rested, "why is it so cold here?" Jeff Weaver. When we last saw Weaver, he was winning the clinching game of the World Series for the Cardinals in October, but yesterday he threw 47 pitches in a dreadful first as the Sox batted around. Crisp hit a two-run double in the frame.
One inning later, Drew (seven-game hitting streak) crushed a two-run homer to center to cap a three-run inning that gave the frosty fans some thoughts about booking early to beat the traffic and find some heat.
A root canal would be more fun than trying to hit Beckett on such a day. The no-hitter suspense was erased in the third when Kenji Johjima led off with a single to left and the immortal Yuniesky Betancourt followed with a double to right. Jose Lopez knocked in Johjima with a grounder to second.
"I wouldn't want to be them," said Kevin Youkilis. "They had four days off and they've got to face a guy throwing 95 with a hook."
Youkilis had three of the Sox' 14 frozen ropes, and captain Jason Varitek broke out with three hits. Meanwhile, Boston fans got a look at Donnelly (before he was ejected for hitting Johjima after a shouting match with nemesis Jose Guillen), Hideki Okajima, and Mike Timlin (fresh off the disabled list) in the final two innings.
And tonight it's the Boston debut of Dice-K. Against Ichiro at 7:05.
"I hope he gets him out," said Sox manager Terry Francona. "There'll probably be some flashbulbs going."
Just a few.
Dan Shaughnessy's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.