Hoping to get out fast, Sox instead take a fall
ARLINGTON, Texas — The Red Sox received a most unexpected gift in the eighth inning yesterday, an Opening Day home run off the bat of David Ortiz.
The slugger, who has started the last few seasons agonizingly slowly, tied the game with one swing against Texas pitcher Darren Oliver, a lefthander no less.
“David hits the home run and it kind of changes the whole feeling in the dugout,’’ said manager Terry Francona, who was “thrilled’’ to bring his most reliable relief pitcher, Daniel Bard, into the game at that point.
What followed was something Bard predicted everybody would look back on in a few months and laugh about. But there were no smiles in a solemn clubhouse after he allowed four runs and the Red Sox were beaten, 9-5.
After getting an out with his second pitch, Bard was battered. Mike Napoli drew a walk before Yorvit Torrealba grounded a single into right field. Pinch hitter David Murphy, a former Red Sox prospect, then took a desperate swing at a fastball low and on the outside corner. The ball looped down the left-field line, striking the line in a cloud of chalk dust.
As the ball ricocheted away, two runs scored.
“I made exactly the pitch I wanted to make,’’ Bard said. “We were going sinker down and away. It was a ball at the knees, outer black. He barely got the bat to it. Three inches to the left and it’s a foul ball and we’re having a different conversation.’’
With two outs, Elvis Andrus lined an RBI double into the right-field corner. When Josh Hamilton followed with an RBI double to right, Francona emerged from the dugout to rescue Bard. He had thrown 31 pitches.
“We battled all day to stay in that game. It sucks to be the one who gives it away,’’ Bard said.
It was only the second time in 123 career appearances that Bard allowed four runs, the previous time coming June 14, 2009, in Philadelphia. On only three occasions in 73 appearances last season did he give up more than one run.
“I thought there were a couple of pitches he got under a little bit. That probably happens all the time, but sometimes you get them out. His command wasn’t quite what it normally is,’’ Francona said.
Bard did not expect a sleepless night.
“Take out the walk and I think I threw the ball well,’’ he said. “I know it’s a cliché, but I’m happy with the pitches I made. They’re a really tough offense. They put together some good at-bats. I’m not overly upset with how I threw the ball.’’
Until the uncharacteristic meltdown, the game had the makings of a memorable one. New first baseman Adrian Gonzalez was 2 for 4 with three RBIs, his success overshadowing the dour debut of Carl Crawford, who was 0 for 4 and struck out three times, leaving five men on base.
A healthy and happy Jacoby Ellsbury got on base four times, stole his first base, and scored two runs. The Sox even managed some offense against tough Texas lefty C.J. Wilson.
Wilson dominated the Red Sox in three starts last season, allowing two runs and 11 hits over 21 innings. But he was ordinary yesterday, giving up four runs (two earned) on six hits and two walks over 5 2/3 innings.
Kevin Youkilis, who hit .175 in spring training, had an RBI double in the first inning and scored on a single by Gonzalez. In the third inning, Ellsbury doubled and took third on a single by Pedroia. With two outs, Wilson pitched carefully to Youkilis and walked him on five pitches. But Gonzalez lined a 3-and-2 slider into center field, driving in two runs.
Red Sox starter Jon Lester could not hold leads of 2-0 and 4-2. Ian Kinsler belted his second pitch of the game deep into the left-field stands. Nelson Cruz tied it with a solo shot in the second inning, the ball just clearing the fence.
After the Sox built another two-run lead, Lester allowed singles by former Red Sox third baseman Adrian Beltre and Cruz in the fourth before Napoli hammered a 2-and-2 changeup just inside the foul pole in left.
The three home runs were the most Lester has allowed in a game.
“Things didn’t go the way I wanted, obviously,’’ said Lester, who was pulled in the sixth inning.
It was another poor early-season start for Lester, who is 3-6 with a 4.95 ERA in 18 starts in March or April.
Wilson was in line to get the victory before Ortiz mashed an Oliver fastball over the fence in center field to tie the game at 5. It was the 350th home run of his career.
“We were right there,’’ Youkilis said. “That one swing turned the game around.’’
Then, nearly as quickly, Texas reversed that momentum. There is good news. The last time the Red Sox lost on Opening Day, in 2007, they went on to win the Word Series.
“One game doesn’t mean anything,’’ Gonzalez said. “It’s just one loss. We’ll get them tomorrow.’’