|Jonathan Papelbon worked around a two-out hit to finish off the Yankees. (Bill Greene/Globe Staff)|
Pedroia, Sox outshine Yankees in night opener
After the pomp and pageantry, the celebrity sightings and pyrotechnics, all that was left was the baseball. Finally, the baseball.
The offseason had been long, longer than most of late for the Boston faithful. It had ended in such demoralizing fashion, with the blown save by Jonathan Papelbon in the ALDS ringing through the New England winter. But spring had come, bringing with it 70-degree temperatures and hope.
Hope seemed lost in the Red Sox’ opener last night at Fenway Park after Josh Beckett had allowed a dispiriting five runs, getting just 14 outs. Then hope returned with the Sox scoring four runs in the seventh and eighth innings to take down the Yankees in a topsy-turvy 9-7 win, the first of the Major League Baseball season.
“That’s too much drama,’’ Dustin Pedroia said, smiling. “We’re not used to that this early, especially playing the Yankees. On Opening Day you’re always amped up, but against those guys it’s times 100. I think after this series, you take a deep breath, kind of get the season going.’’
And judging from last night’s game — admittedly a rather small sample size — it’s going to be interesting.
Pedroia had played a big role, the ball lofting off his bat and over the Green Monster in the seventh inning, the second straight year the second baseman had taken one out to left on Opening Day. This one brought home Marco Scutaro, tied the game at 7, and recharged the crowd of 37,440 filling Fenway Park for the landmark’s first night season opener. Pedroia was simply making good on his early spring training promise to increase his home run total, helping the Sox and Yankees kick off the season in a fashion only they can provide.
“We’ll hear about that for the next couple days,’’ Mike Cameron joked of Pedroia’s homer.
Pedroia’s shot off Chan Ho Park was followed by Kevin Youkilis’s third extra-base hit, a double off the Wall. Youkilis moved to third on a wild pitch by Damaso Marte, then came home on a passed ball by Jorge Posada. The Sox led, 8-7, though there were no guarantees it would remain that way.
“We’re going to fight,’’ Pedroia said. “You look 1 through 9, we’re going to put good at-bats together. Everyone’s going to go up there and grind out at-bats. If we do that consistently, we’re going to be a really good offensive team.
“That’s why everyone was kind of shocked when they doubted our offense. I know we don’t have the guy hitting 40, 50 home runs. Not a lot of teams do. We’ll try to find ways to score runs other ways.’’
The much-discussed Sox offense already had come back once, handing a tie score to the bullpen in the top of the seventh. It didn’t stick, with Ramon Ramirez allowing the first two base runners and Hideki Okajima helping them home.
Youkilis already had figured prominently when his stand-up triple to right field in the sixth put CC Sabathia’s night in jeopardy, a shot aided by an interesting route to the ball by Nick Swisher. That strike brought home two runs to make it 5-4 and brought the crowd back into the game. There were no outs, Youkilis was on third, and Sabathia’s pitch count was nearing triple digits.
Youkilis came home on a one-out single by Adrian Beltre, who made his introduction to Boston a good one after a less-than-stellar spring. The score was tied at 5-5, and neither starter had performed as anticipated. Cameron said the Sox wore Sabathia down, making him throw more breaking balls than usual.
It was, in fact, a game seemingly designed to negate everything the Sox had built in the offseason. The starting pitching was not good, and the defense suffered a lapse that allowed a steal of home on a double steal — not what general manager Theo Epstein had planned for with his run prevention theme.
“That was a tough game to win,’’ manager Terry Francona said. “I thought we were very resilient tonight. We get down, then we tie it up and we get back down quick. We did some very good things offensively. We kept at them, and put some pressure on them.’’
The pressure was needed after Beckett had failed to get through the fifth. He gave up five runs on eight hits and three walks, with just a single strikeout. Not that Sabathia was much better, lasting just 5 1/3 innings and also giving up five runs.
And yet, the Sox were there at the end. They had the offense they weren’t thought to have. They had the comeback ability they weren’t thought to have.
“It’s certainly a lot more gratifying or enjoyable to come up here after a win to talk about things,’’ Francona said.
“There’s going to be nights when we play games like tonight that you don’t win ’cause those are hard games to win. But it does feel good when you win. And we all know everything will be magnified this first couple days. I guess I’d rather it be magnified that way.’’
Then, after all that had gone on, the long game and long day, the comebacks and the givebacks, Francona couldn’t help sticking in a quip. His team had won, after all.
“That was a very resilient game,’’ Francona said. “Kind of harken back to some of those Mayor’s Cup games. Dig deep.’’
Amalie Benjamin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.