In the immediate moments after his ball club’s first victory seven games into the new season, Terry Francona succinctly summed up the overwhelming sense of relief.
“I’ve never seen a team so happy to be 1-6,” the manager said after a 9-6 victory over the Yankees gave the Red Sox a victory in their home opener after 0-6 road trip that tempered the high expectations of this team.
“You’ve got to start somewhere, and we did some good things today.”
The good things began with the offense, which woke upon arriving home at Fenway, scoring nine runs on 12 hits. The Sox scored six runs in the first two innings off beleaguered Yankees starter Phil Hughes, the same number of runs the Sox had scored combined over their previous four losses.
Dustin Pedroia homered in the first inning — the third straight home opener in which he’s homered — en route to a three-hit game.
David Ortiz, J.D. Drew, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia, the 5-6-7 hitters, each had two hits. Saltalamacchia, who entered the game batting .077, broke a 6-6 tie with an RBI double in the fifth inning. Drew added a pair of insurance runs with a two-run double in the seventh.
“The way the season began was frustrating for everyone,” Saltalamacchia said. “But we never got down on ourselves.”
That exact message was delivered in what players said was an impassioned speech after batting practice by general manager Theo Epstein. It apparently had an impact. David Ortiz, who has been with the Red Sox since 2003, Epstein’s first season as the GM, said he’d never heard him talk that way.
“It was exactly what we needed to hear,” said reliever Daniel Bard. “It was awesome.”
Such a high rating could not be applied to starter John Lackey, who got the victory despite a performance that was less than encouraging (5 innings, 7 hits, 6 earned runs, 2 BBs, 2 Ks, and a homer allowed to Alex Rodriguez). On the plus side, he did lower his ERA to 15.58.
“I didn’t talk to him between innings because that’s the last thing he needs,” Francona said. “But he didn’t locate like he needs to. His pitches, he didn’t looked like he finished them, left them in the middle [of the plate]. Two walks, a hit batsmen, all three scored . . . against that lineup, you’ve got to make them earn everything they get because they’re that good anyway.”
He was picked up by the bullpen, which delivered a sense of relief of its own, providing four shutout innings from Alfredo Aceves, Bobby Jenks, Daniel Bard, and closer Jonathan Papelbon, who struck out two in earning his first save.
“Fortunately, we swung the bats well enough and the bullpen did an outstanding job holding on [to pick up Lackey],” Francona said.
The victory wrapped up an idyllic day for the 100th home opener at Fenway Park. It began with pregame festivities topped off by Sox legend Carl Yastrzemski throwing out the first pitch.
The identity of who would deliver the pitch was a secret right up until the famously private Yaz strolled in from the outfield to a rousing ovation.
“I told Francona that I’m undefeated throwing out the first pitch,” Yastrzemski said during an interview with reporters during the game. “Both games of the World Series, they won. So they’ll win today. He wants me to come back tomorrow if they win.”
When asked in the postgame if Yaz would be back, Francona said, “If he’ll come.”
It won’t happen, of course — legends don’t work on zero days’ rest. Besides, Francona would be perfectly satisfied with having today’s offense back tomorrow instead.