Former Florida Marlins Josh Beckett (7 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 4 Ks, 2 BB) and Mike Lowell (4 for 4, three doubles and an RBI) made great first impressions in front of the home crowd, as the Sox prevailed, 5-3, over the Toronto Blue Jays in the franchise’s 106th home opener. But it was another former Marlin — shortstop Alex Gonzalez — that left manager Terry Francona in awe.
Francona raved about Gonzalez’s impromptu double play to end the fourth inning. With Lyle Overbay on first, Toronto catcher Bengie Molina smoked a Beckett offering that a leaping Mark Loretta couldn’t snare. The ball bounced off Loretta’s glove and was scooped up by an alert Gonzalez, who turned a rather unusual 4-6-3 double play.
“I told Loretta that he had to work on his feeds,” joked Francona after the game. “That was a pretty spectacular play. [Alex] takes a lot of pride in what he does. That’s the good thing. He doesn’t take his at-bats out into the field with him. He understands the importance of what he brings. [Defense] is a big part of his game and he sure is good at it.”
Gonzalez, whose defense overshadowed and 0-for-4 effort at the plate, has already earned the confidence of his manager and pitching staff.
“I know that I feel — and I’m sure the pitchers feel the same way — that we’re always one pitch away from getting out of an inning. He’s proved that already.”
Trot Nixon said he expects to miss at least five to seven days after suffering a mild strain of his left groin. Nixon said he incurred the injury while attempting to catch Aaron Hill’s double in the second inning. Wily Mo Pena replaced him in the fourth inning. Nixon seemed to have problems tracking Hill’s ball before it landed in front of his last-second dive. Nixon batted in the bottom of the second, coming around to score on Mike Lowell’s double, and went to the plate again in the third, before asking Francona to remove him from the game. “We had the lead and I didn’t want the groin to turn into more than it should be,” said Nixon. “In that situation you end up hurting the team more than anything and you end up hurting yourself.”
Josh Beckett was not very demonstrative when talking about his own performance today, but his tone quickly changed when asked about Mike Lowell. Beckett gushed about the man who was considered an expensive throw-in in the deal that landed Beckett in Boston. “Mike Lowell is a great player. He is one of the smartest players I’ve ever played with, probably the smartest player that I’ve ever played with,” said Beckett. “All anybody talks about is last year, but what about the five years before that? Are you telling me those five years were a fluke and last year is what he really is? You’ll never convince me of that.”
After a 36-pitch first inning, Beckett seemed an unlikely candidate to go seven innings, but he dug deep and turned things around. “That’s what Schilling was saying … that’s what good pitchers do,” said Beckett. “People whenever they have an inning like that when they throw  pitches in an inning, I mean it’s tough and it also built some character for me having those two games in a row having those first innings. I don’t know if it’s a focus factor or kind of feeling things out or what. I was lucky that I made some pitches when I needed to and got great defense. The guys played awesome behind me and it was fun.”
With today’s win, the Red Sox improved to 61-45 all-time in home openers (52-43 at Fenway).
The victory also matched the club’s record for its best start through seven games. Boston is now 6-1, equaling the starts of the 1999, 1955, 1952, 1946, 1935, 1920, 1918 and 1904 editions. Fittingly, the 1946 team was honored before the game.
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