March 29, 2018

G1: Rays 6, Red Sox 4

Red Sox - 030 000 100 - 4  8  0
Rays    - 000 000 06x - 6  4  0 
The Red Sox outfield for Opening Day in both 2017 and 2018 was Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley, and Mookie Betts. The last time Boston had the same outfield for consecutive Opening Days was way back in 2002-03, when Manny Ramirez, Johnny Damon, and Trot Nixon patrolled the outer garden.

I well remember Opening Day in 2003. It was late March and the Red Sox were at Tropicana Field. They were cruising 4-0 behind their ace (Pedro) at the seventh-inning stretch. Things fell apart, however, and the bullpen coughed up the game. Boston lost 6-4.

Zip ahead 15 years - and pretty much the same thing happened. Chris Sale was dominant (6-1-0-3-9, 92) and the Red Sox held a comfortable 4-0 lead in the middle of the eighth, thanks (in part) to an inside-the-park, two-run homer from Eduardo Nunez. But things fell apart, and the bullpen coughed up the game. Boston lost 6-4. (The 2017 Red Sox did not have a blown lead of more than three runs all season, but the 2018 team blew a four-run cushion in its first game.)

NESN's Jerry Remy said the collapse had happened in the "blink of an eye", but the exact opposite was true. This was a slow-motion train wreck, drawn out for maximum anger and frustration. Joe Kelly began the bottom of the eighth by walking Daniel Robertson. Home plate umpire Jeff Nelson's strike zone suddenly shrunk and Kelly was getting squeezed. He managed to strike out Rob Refsnyder on a 2-2 pitch that was worse than some of the pitches Nelson had called balls. Matt Duffy promptly doubled to right center and the shutout was gone. Kelly then issued two full-count walks, loading the bases. Kelly threw 29 pitches and he works so slow, he makes Clay Buchholz look like Sale in a rush, so this was apparently the longest eye-blink in human history. (And - don't open your eyes - it wasn't done yet.)

Carson Smith took over and walked in a run. Boston still led 4-2. He struck out Wilson Ramos for the second out. His 0-1 pitch to Denard Span went to the backstop; however, in a strike of good luck, the runners could not advance. But it did not matter. Smith got ahead 1-2, but threw two balls - and after Span fouled off a full-count pitch, he drilled a three-run triple to the wall in right. The Rays led 5-4. An infield single made it 6-4.

Nunez doubled with two outs in the ninth against Crooked Hat Colome, but Jackie Bradley grounded to second and the game was over, in an even three hours.

The first seven innings belonged to Boston. Betts crushed Chris Archer's first pitch to deep center, but Kevin Kiermaier made a fantastic catch. Archer (6-6-4-1-6, 81) walked J.D. Martinez to open the second. Xander Bogaerts (3-for-4) doubled and Rafael Devers's groundout scored JDM with the season's first run.

Nunez lofted a fly ball to left-center. Span and Kiermaier converged, but it fell between them and rolled towards the outfield wall. Both Rays fielders had tumbled to the turf, and they were both slow to get up. Nunez lost some steam around third, but he scored without a throw, diving in head first. He was helped to his feet by Bogaerts. Boston added a run in the seventh on back-to-back doubles from Bogaerts and Devers.

Sale struck out the first two batters he faced and three of the first four. He walked Span with two down in the second and Hechavarria grounded a single to right. The runners moved up to second and third on a passed ball, but Sale got Robertson looking. The only baserunner Sale allowed over the next four innings was Refsnyder, who walked in the third and fifth.

Matt Barnes pitched a perfect seventh. When Kelly struck out Refsnyder with a man on first in the eighth, Boston led by four runs with only five outs to go. An easy victory should have been securely in the team's back pocket, but ...
Chris Sale / Chris Archer

And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves
growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies,
I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.
― F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

The Red Sox begin their 118th season this afternoon in Florida. Seven months from now, they hoping to be celebrating the franchise's ninth World Series championship. Boston finished in first place in the AL East in 2016 and 2017 (winning 93 games in each season). However, the team was quickly ousted from the postseason both times, 0-3 and 1-3, respectively.

March 29 is the earliest Opening Day in major league history. This is also the first time in half a century (since 1968) that every major league team is scheduled to begin its season on the same day.

Sale has averaged 13.5 K/9 against the Rays in his career, the highest ratio of any pitcher against a single opponent since 1920.

Dustin Pedroia, who had cartilage-restoration surgery on his left knee in late October, is not in the Red Sox's Opening Day lineup for the time since 2006. ... The managers in this series - Alex Cora and Kevin Cash - were teammates on the 2007 World Champion Red Sox.

Red Sox Lineup
Mookie Betts, RF 
Andrew Benintendi, LF
Hanley Ramirez, 1B
J.D. Martinez, DH
Xander Bogaerts, SS
Rafael Devers, 3B
Eduardo Nunez, 2B
Jackie Bradley, CF
Christian Vazquez, C
The sparsely-populated gamethreads are still here.


allan said...

Roster stuff:
2B Dustin Pedroia, RHP Austin Maddox, and RHP Tyler Thornburg placed on 10-day DL.
INF Marco Hernandez placed on 60-day DL.
LHP Bobby Poyner will wear #66. RHP Marcus Walden will wear #64.

allan said...

Alex Speier tweet: "Sale says his first ever big league game he attended was the Rays’ first-ever game."

Paul Hickman said...

About the only good thing is ....... that game is behind us !

Put out all the rubbish on Day 1 .........

Any more "walking misery" like that & I shall be making a booking in The Rubber Room !!!!!!!!

Maxwell Horse said...

Yikes. Looks like I was wise (lucky) to have missed the tail end of the game.