THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING
Dan Shaughnessy

Opponent really got the best of them

By Dan Shaughnessy
Globe Columnist / April 4, 2011

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ARLINGTON, Texas — So far, this looks a little like the Charlie Sheen Torpedo of Truth tour. Is it possible to be mathematically eliminated before you play your home opener?

The Best Team Ever staggered through one of its worst opening weekends ever. When the carnage was complete, the Red Sox were 0-3, three games behind the Orioles, and had surrendered 21 extra-base hits and 11 homers to the defending American League champion Texas Rangers.

“They kicked our ass, that’s it,’’ said Dustin Pedroia.

Amen. Five months after playing in their first World Series, the Rangers had a homecoming, beating Boston in straight sets, 9-5, 12-5, and 5-1. Rangers Ballpark’s public address system played Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire’’ every time Terry Francona came out to make a pitching change during the series. It might as well have been “Folsom Prison Blues’’ with everyone Bostonian wearing black from head to toe.

“Just a real bad series,’’ said Theo Epstein, architect of a team that is (was?) the universal favorite to play in the World Series. “For this to happen in the first series of the year leaves a bad taste in your mouth. But we’ll be better than this. Maybe we crammed April of 2010 (11-12, six games out of first place) into three days. I hope so.’’

The good news for these Sox is that they are not coming home to hear the noise. The erstwhile Hub heroes today will be secure in their Cleveland hotel, a safe distance from the grenades exploding on the airwaves of Greater Boston.

Too bad they can’t play the pathetic Tribe tonight. A day off is just what the Red Sox don’t need. A day off only gives these guys more time to dwell on the Arlington annihilation. A day off also gives reactionaries an extra 24 hours to carp about the Texas Louisville Slugger Massacre.

Who needs to hear that you are ruining everyone’s summer when it’s still only the second week of spring?

Clay Buchholz (four homers) did the meatball honors in yesterday’s sun-splashed finale. Like Jon Lester, Daniel Bard, and John Lackey before him, Buchholz didn’t think he pitched that badly.

Commenting on the four gopher balls, Buchholz said, “I don’t think two of ’em were hit that well.’’

Yeesh. The Rangers hit 11 homers in three days and it seems that most of the majestic shots were either windblown or some miracle of mistake hitting by Rangers batters who were able to connect with balls out of the strike zone. It was like a looping NESN hakuna matata commentary. Sox pitchers sounded like guys who grew up in the “everybody gets a trophy’’ culture of the 1980s. It was rare to hear any admission that a pitch was . . . grooved. Josh Beckett gets the ball at Progressive Field tomorrow night. At least Beckett usually tells us when he’s brutal. Then again, maybe he’ll be the one to stop the bleeding this time. Before the season is, you know, over?

The hurlers aren’t the only BoSox in need of a boost. Carl Crawford, your new free agent left fielder, was moved to the No. 7 spot in the order yesterday and responded with the first two hits of his Sox career. We could make a point about the notion of paying a guy $142 million to bat seventh, but we don’t want to make things awkward.

At the other end of the pay scale we have Jarrod Saltalamacchia, a.k.a. “Salty.’’ The Sox have done everything they can to boost Salty. There is a club-wide mandate to say good things about Salty, no matter what. And since we are team players here at the 17 percent Daddy Globe, we will tell you that Salty has not been involved in any clubhouse brawls and he hasn’t committed an error. He’s 0 for 10 at the plate and skeptics might wonder about the game-calling (Texas batted .333 over the weekend), but a three-game sample isn’t much. All that said, I’m betting Jason Varitek is brought back to catch Beckett tomorrow.

“We’re not very happy with the series,’’ said Francona. “We didn’t play a very good series. They outplayed us all around.’’

Liverpool coach Roy Hodgson was sacked for less than what we saw this weekend, but Francona is seasoned, secure, and not likely to panic.

“We’ve played three games,’’ cautioned Buchholz. “We’ve got 159 left. I think everybody’s a little shocked, but I wouldn’t read too deep into it.’’

“We’ve still got 159 games,’’ added Adrian Gonzalez. “I’m fully confident that come September, we’ll either be in first place or in the middle of everything.’’

OK. We’ll take it on faith. The 2011 Sox are not going to fold. They’re going to be OK. They are everybody’s favorites to make it to the World Series and they still can win 100 if they go 100-59 the rest of the way.

But the Best Team Ever never had a weekend like this.

Dan Shaughnessy can be reached at dshaughnessy@globe.com.

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