I can’t even believe that this day has finally arrived. Out of the interminable slog that was all of last year, out of the rounds and rounds of speculation that was this offseason, we have finally emerged to welcome baseball back to Boston with open arms! I don’t know about you, but I really feel like I’ve earned this one. It’s been rough, man. With the way last season went, I felt like it was winter before the season was even over. It was a long and cold one. We’ve done without for way too long. And then, suddenly, April arrived, and we enjoyed the glorious first opportunity of kicking back, relaxing, and taking in three hours and thirty-seven minutes of pure, unadulterated glory. Man, it’s good to be back.
Where do I even start? I don’t even know. It was all so divinely inspired. I can’t even talk about it.
Lester. I’ll start with Lester. Wow. What can I even say? Pretty much the whole staff got it together at camp, and Lester most definitely did not disappoint. His start lasted only five innings, but this is so epically not the time to be picky. Five solid innings on the first day of the season is fine as far as I’m concerned; he’ll pick it up as time goes on. Besides, those five innings were pretty impressive. Two runs, five hits. Two walks. Seven strikeouts.
There was a four-pitch strikeout of his first batter of the season on four pitches, ending with what was technically a cutter, but at ninety miles per hour with his movement, whether it was a cutter or cut fastball is a question that will probably not be answered anytime soon. Then there was the seven-pitch strikeout that ended with a cutter, and the six-pitch strikeout that ended the second with a cutter, and the seven-pitch called strike in the third that ended with a cutter. Lester had himself another seven-pitch strikeout in the fourth, this one ending with a fastball, but like I said, whether it’s really a fastball or a cut fastball is hard to answer. And irrelevant, since a strike is a strike. Lester bookended his fifth with strikeouts, the first five pitches ending with a changeup and the second his only one comprising three pitches: a sinker clocked at ninety-one miles per hour, a changeup at eighty-four, and a fastball at ninety-three, which wasn’t even his fastest of the day; he got up to ninety-four.
Ninety-six pitches, about sixty-six percent of which were strikes. He was on with the cut fastball. The overwhelming majority of his pitches were cut fastballs, as we’d expect. And he put that fabulous Lester-esque bite on them, too. They were moving exactly the way he wanted them to. And he mixed in some nasty sinkers, changes, and curves in there as well. He stood up there and he was a master. I almost felt bad for the hitters until I remembered that we were squaring off against the Evil Empire. And then I felt better.
Anyway, Lester threw seventeen pitches each in the first two innings, sixteen in the third, and twelve in the fifth. The fourth was the big one; Lester threw thirty-four pitches. He loaded the bases that inning and couldn’t completely escape without allowing a two-run single. Other than that, Lester was solid gold.
Farrell then rolled out five relievers. Uehara, Miller, Bailey, Tazawa, and Hanrahan combined to shut out the Yanks for the rest of the game. All told, the Yanks were limited to six hits.
Alright, here we go. Offense. Let’s get down to it, because our hitters were as hot as our pitchers. The starters stayed in for the whole nine, and they were great. Great patience and eyes all around. Great baserunning, too. Ellsbury led off, followed by Victorino, Pedroia, Napoli in cleanup, Middlebrooks, Salty, Gomes, Bradley, and Iglesias. Look for Farrell to change the lineup around pretty frequently, but this one worked out just fine. Iglesias went three for five, Ellsbury went three for six, Gomes went two for four, and Pedroia and Victorino both went two for six. Salty doubled, and Ellsbury tripled, and that was it for extra-base hits. This was Bradley’s debut in the big show, and he certainly made the most of it. Of our four total walks, Bradley accounted for three, not to mention his obvious speed on the basepaths as well as his run-saving, inning-ending, outstanding haul in left in the third.
Pedroia singled in the first, but we didn’t score. Our big inning was the second. Middlebrooks grounded out, and then Salty walked in five pitches, Gomes singled, and Bradley walked to load the bases. Then Iglesias singled on the first pitch of his at-bat, bringing home one and reloading the bases. Then Ellsbury grounded into a force out, causing Gomes to be out at home. But then Victorino and Pedroia hit back-to-back singles, bringing in three before Napoli flied out to end it.
We went down in order in the third and put two on but didn’t deliver in the fourth. A double and two walks, one intentional, loaded the bases again with two out in the fifth, but we didn’t deliver on that either. Ellsbury tripled to lead off the sixth, but still nothing. Then, in the seventh, Middlebrooks and Salty fought hard for back-to-back walks on eight pitches each. Middlebrooks moved to third on a flyout by Gomes and scored on a groundout by Bradley. We went down in order again in the eighth but closed it out with a bang in the ninth. Middlebrooks was called out on strikes before Salty walked, Gomes singled, and Bradley walked to load the bases. Iglesias struck out and then Ellsbury and Victorino singled back-to-back to bring in three. Gomes accounted for the second of those runs, rocketing home all the way from second base. The dugout and everyone else went appropriately insane.
And that, my friends, is the story of how we cleaned the field with the Yanks, 8-2, on their soil. To me, this is much bigger than just winning the first game of the season. We’ve had just abysmal starts out of the gate for the last two seasons. This game means a lot to the team, and it means a lot to us. We’re a new team now, and it shows. There’s nothing like a more-than-auspicious start to the year to provide a good feeling about what’s to come. Let’s get it!
I’ll say one last thing. Seeing Kevin Youkilis in an enemy uniform was downright bizarre and torturous. It’s a shame. It’s a real shame. And I guess that’s that.
In other news, the B’s lost to and beat the Leafs and lost to the Habs in a shootout; it was painful, but at least we get a point out of it. We beat the Sens, lost to the Leafs, and beat the Sabres.