If any of us had forgotten where this rivalry left off, 2010 didn’t waste any time in reminding the baseball world that when it comes to the Red Sox and Yankees, anything can happen. In this season’s inaugural matchup– a game that stretched to nearly four hours before finally yielding the first final score of the year– it was business as usual for these two powerhouses.
More than 300 total pitches.
And a couple of key plays that helped turn a hard-fought battle in the home team’s favor, including a wild pitch and passed ball.
In honor of it being Opening Night, I’ll provide a nice play-by-play summary.
Things started well for Boston, with Opening Night starter Josh Beckett easing through the first on only 7 pitches. The vibe wouldn’t last. After a scoreless frame of their own, the Sox re-took the field and promptly got hammered. New York slugged back-to-back home runs courtesy of Jorge Posada and the newly-acquired Curtis Granderson. First, Posada ricocheted a pitch off of Pesky’s Pole. Next, Granderson drilled a Beckett offering deep into the centerfield bleachers, making an excellent first impression in his Yankees debut. Nick Swisher and Brett Gardner then proceeded to reach base as well, and it looked like the wheels might come off entirely. But Beckett was able to regroup enough to get out of the inning and put the game back in the hands of his offense.
To their credit, the Sox responded immediately. Kevin Youkilis doubled on a deep drive to the left field gap, then moved to third on a grounder by David Ortiz. Boston’s new third baseman Adrian Beltre drove Youk home with a towering sac fly that took Granderson back to the centerfield wall. It was a critical run against Yankees’ starter C.C. Sabathia, not only to get back in the game but also to preserve what was left of Beckett’s nerves. With the adrenaline pumping the season’s first game, things can get out of hand quickly.
A pair of double plays got the respective pitchers out of the third, though the Yankees benefitted from an apparent blown call at first. Mike Cameron was doubled off, but replays seemed to show he had gotten back to the bag in time. Regardless, play moved on to the fourth and to more runs.
From his new left field position Jacoby Ellsbury was unable to wrangle a Robinson Cano fly, which resulted in a wall-ball double. After a couple of grounders moved Cano to third, Beckett issued a two-out walk to Swisher and a single to Brett Gardner that made the score 3-1 New York. Derek Jeter added another single to score Swisher and move Gardner along. At 4-1, things got embarrassing when the Yanks’ 9-hole hitter swiped home plate to put the Bombers up 5-1. A Nick Johnson strikeout mercifully ended the inning, but the damage had been done.
The Sox followed with a three-up, three-down inning, and after a two-out single by Cano and a walk to Posada, Beckett’s night was finished:
4.2 innings pitched, 5 earned runs, 8 hits, 3 walks, and only 1 strikeout. Ouch.
Fortunately, Boston wasn’t done with Sabathia.
Three straight singles by J.D. Drew, Cameron, and new shortstop Marco Scutaro made the score 5-2 after five. And in the sixth, C.C. had his own meltdown. A Pedroia walk and a double by Victor Martinez preceded a bases-clearing triple by Youkilis that tightened the game to 5-4. Beltre then knocked Youk in for the second time with his first hit as a member of the Red Sox. The cheers were deafening as Beltre was embraced by the Fenway crowd, tying the game and completing Sabathia’s line for the night:
5 innings, 5 earned runs, 6 hits, 2 walks, 4 Ks.
The bullpens didn’t provide much relief for either side in the seventh. First New York posted a pair of runs on a Mark Teixeira walk, Alex Rodriguez double, Cano RBI groundout and Posada single. Then Boston struck back with a 2-run Dustin Pedroia homer. Kevin Youkilis drilled his second double of the night, took third on a wild pitch, and scored on a passed ball to give Boston the lead. The Red Sox would add an insurance run when Pedroia drove in Cameron in the eighth.
In a twist, the ninth went smoothly- Boston closer Jonathan Papelbon sandwiched three quick outs around a Posada single, ending the game on 10 pitches.
Overall, it was a big win for Boston, but didn’t come without some concerns.
Beckett wasn’t sharp in his first outing, missing his targets and throwing a curve without much snap. Unable to get the breaking ball over for a strike, he was at the mercy of the Yankees’ patient and powerful lineup. And he knew it. “I never established my curveball, at least not for strikes,” he admitted afterward. Boston will need better efforts from their ace if they expect to remain in contention in baseball’s toughest division.
But despite the disappointment, it’s important not to take too much from a single performance.
New York’s lineup will strike fear into the hearts of plenty of pitchers this season, and will no doubt generate plenty of ugly pitching lines as well. The important thing for the Red Sox is the
The victory came in an unexpected way for a team that spent its entire off-season building around pitching and defense. In the end, the piching failed, but big bats spoke loudly. Of course this is only one game and any team can have a good night. But it has to be encouraging for Sox fans to see that offense can still rule if necessary. Nine runs on twelve hits pounded out against baseball’s best team is a fantastic way to start the year, even if there were some significant struggles along the way.
The teams have Monday off to allow the rest of the leagues’ clubs to enjoy their own Opening Days. On Tuesday and Wednesday, Boston and New York will resume at Fenway. A.J. Burnett will face Jon lester on the 6th and Andy Pettitte will take on John Lackey on the 7th.
While every Sox-Yanks game carries weight, none are ever quite as magical as the Opening Night performance. At least, not until we get to September.
On April 4th, it was a night full of legends. Full of the essence of Boston. Pedro Martinez, perhaps the best starting pitcher in the history of baseball, threw out the first pitch. Steven Tyler of Aerosmith fame sang God Bless America during the stretch. And in the eighth inning, when the strains of Sweet Caroline traditionally pump through the Fenway sound system, Neil Diamond himself stepped onto the field to personally serenade the faithful with their adopted anthem.
In baseball, Opening Night is still special. The pomp and the pageantry serve as a reminder that this game, well over 100 years old, has entertained America across the decades. No matter how many things have changed, there are, at least, a few that have not.