Sox come roaring in
Full night at Fenway as Boston beats Yankees in opener
The Sox trotted out 2004 icon Pedro Martinez for the ceremonial first pitch. With no cornfield handy, Pedro emerged from a makeshift white tent in the left field corner, wearing his old No. 45. He milked the moment, then threw one last pitch to his old catcher, Jason Varitek.
There was more, much more.
Rapper Dr. Dre posed for photos around the cage during batting practice and ex-Sox Curt Schilling and Nomar Garciaparra came over to the dark side, appearing as analysts on ESPN’s “Baseball Tonight.’’ Mike Lowell, who was traded in December (the deal was voided) received the loudest pregame ovation, and 90-year-old Johnny Pesky celebrated his 68th anniversary with the club. A 5-year-old Herb Brooks clone delivered a pregame motivational speech and Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler sang “God Bless America’’ in the seventh. LeBron James and his entourage watched from John Henry’s box.
For good measure, Neil Diamond himself (wearing a Sox cap and a “Keep the Dodgers in Brooklyn’’ jacket) appeared in person to sing “Sweet Caroline’’ before the home half of the eighth.
Yeesh. What a circus. Thank goodness Tiger Woods and the Octomom declined their invitations.
Oh, there was baseball, too. The Sox came back from deficits of 5-1 and 7-5, scoring the winning run on a passed ball in the seventh to beat the world champs in front of 37,440 — the 551st consecutive Fenway sellout. The game featured 24 hits and nine pitching changes in a tidy 3:46.
There. After one day of baseball, the Red Sox are in first place and the Yankees are in the cellar with the worst record in the majors (OK, nobody else has played yet — it still sounds good).
“Guys are going to do a lot of good things on this team all year,’’ said Kevin Youkilis (two doubles and a triple).
The Sox did not make an error, which made it a good night for the Run Prevention Brigade.
The first pitch of the 2010 season yielded a routine grounder by Derek Jeter. New Sox shortstop Marco Scutaro handled the chance flawlessly. Nick Johnson was next and he hit a can of corn to Mike Cameron in center. It was as if the baseball gods wanted all the Sox’ new defenders to make a play right out of the gate. Alas, no play for third baseman Adrian Beltre; Mark Teixeira grounded to first to end the inning.
The second was much rougher for Sox starter Josh Beckett. With two out and nobody aboard, Jorge Posada and Curtis Granderson hit back-to-back homers. Posada’s shot was a liner off Pesky’s pole. Granderson’s blast cleared the Sox bullpen and almost hit the Jordan’s Furniture sign on the back wall. Not bad for the ex-Tiger’s first Yankee plate appearance.
It was at this moment that a press box wag said, “Francona should have left Pedro out there.’’
“Grady would have,’’ said another wag.
Beckett could not stop the bleeding. The Yanks kicked him around for three runs on three hits, a walk and a double steal in the fourth. He was lifted with two on and two outs in the fifth, trailing, 5-1. Not much run prevention there.
The Sox put a run on the board in the fifth, then tied it and KO’d CC Sabathia with three in the sixth. It just kept getting better for Boston in the late innings. As was the case early in 2009, when the Sox beat the Yankees eight straight times, Terry Francona had a better bullpen than Joe Girardi.
Dustin Pedroia’s two-run homer off Chan Ho Park tied it, 7-7, in the bottom of the seventh, then Youkilis scored on a passed ball to give the Sox their first lead. They added an insurance run in the eighth.
With the Sox leading, 9-7, Francona made the call to Jonathan Papelbon for the ninth. Pap gave the bullpen cop the traditional fist bump, then ran in from right field with “I’m Shipping Up to Boston’’ blaring from the loudspeakers. Amazingly, the Dropkick Murphys were not on hand to perform the song in person.
This was Papelbon’s first appearance since he blew up in the ninth inning against the Angels late last October. He spent the winter watching replays of the implosion.
Papelbon’s first batter was Alex Rodriguez and he got A-Rod to ground to Beltre at third. Robinson Cano was next and he went out on a routine fly to Jacoby Ellsbury in left. After Posada cracked a single to center, newbie Granderson grounded to third and it was over.
All in all, a great start for the Run Prevention Brothers. Beltre went 1 for 3 with two RBIs. Cameron and Scutaro were both 2 for 3. That’s five hits for the defensive specialists. And no errors. Of course.
“We put together some good at-bats and didn’t give up,’’ said Youkilis. “But we’ve still got 161 games to play.’’
Hope we all make it. This was exhausting.