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Posts Tagged ‘Dennys Reyes’

There are so many puns to be made.  Lackey lacked his best stuff.  The team suffered from a lack of win.  Actually, the more accurate pun would be that the team suffered with a lack of everything.

I’ll make this simple because, quite frankly, I am not excited about reliving it.  We lost, 11-0.  So not only were we shut out, but they lit up one of our best pitchers.  That eleven-run lead is the largest in a shutout loss in franchise history.  Great.

So, yes, Lackey lacked in every sense of the word.  He only lasted four innings.  In that time, he managed to give up eight runs on ten hits, one of which was a two-run shot.  He allowed at least eight runs once already this year; he is now one of only two pitchers in the last ninety seasons to give up at least eight earned runs twice in the first thirty-one games.  He walked three.  He struck out one.  He threw ninety-seven pitches, fifty-nine of which were strikes.  He didn’t have command.  He didn’t have control.  As a result, he didn’t have efficiency or effectiveness.  His release point wasn’t as consistent as usual, and he had a hard time finding the strike zone.  He even started losing velocity substantially on his fastball as the game went on.  Basically, think of everything that could possibly go wrong for a pitcher, and Lackey was a textbook example of all of it.  Lackey claims he wasn’t tired; he looked pretty tired to me.  Salty claims his curveball was to blame since Lackey couldn’t locate it.  That is very true.  When you’re throwing tons of curveballs that keep missing and your fastball loses velocity, you know you’re in a heap of trouble.

That comment of Salty’s was probably the only insightful thing he did all night.  Not only was he 0 for 3 with no walks, but he also, despite catching one thief, he allowed four others to steal.  He has allowed twenty-five stolen bases so far this season.  That’s the most by any catcher in the Major Leagues.

Lackey started out fine, though.  He allowed a single and a walk in the first inning, but he got his three outs.  And the Angels went down in order in the second on just eleven pitches.  That was why it was pretty surprising when everything started to go wrong in the third.  Between a hit-by-pitch, a single, a steal, two groundouts, a walk, and a double, he allowed three runs before a third groundout ended the inning.  He threw thirty-one pitches in that inning alone.  The fourth was even uglier.  He opened with a walk that was quickly erased thanks to a great throw by Salty during an attempted steal.  Then he secured a strikeout on three pitches using his curveball and slider.  Then he allowed five consecutive singles that resulted in three more runs.  He allowed his homer in the fifth and failed to record any outs in the inning before he was replaced by Scott Atchison, who pitched the next three and two-thirds innings and allowed three runs on seven hits.  One of those runs scored on a play that appeared to cause injury to the wrists of both Lowrie and Youk.  That’s bad news.  Lowrie stayed in the game, which is a good sign; we do not want him injuring his wrist again, certainly not when he’s hitting this well.  As far as Youk is concerned, he already fouled a ball off his hand on Wednesday night, so he’s bruised, but he appears to be okay as well.  Rich Hill pitched the rest of the game after that and didn’t allow any runs, but by then it was too late.

To give you an idea of how stark a departure this is from our recent trend, consider the following: until yesterday’s game, our staff had given up at most five runs in each of our last eighteen games going back to April 16.  During those eighteen games, our staff posted an ERA of 2.45, the lowest in all of Major League Baseball.

They collected eighteen hits; we collected seven.  Five of their hits were for extra bases; we hit only one, a double by Lowrie.  They went seven for eighteen with runners in scoring position; we went 0 for 5.  Papi went three for three, and Crawford is now in the middle of a five-game hitting streak.

Some notes: Dennys Reyes is on the restricted list because he’s attending to a personal matter, Pedroia got the day off because he’s in a slump which explains why Crawford batted second, and Jenks and Wheeler are both on the fifteen-day DL, Jenks with a right bicep cramp and Wheeler with some issue with his left calf.  That’s why Atchison and Hill came in.  And finally, Dice-K will not in fact pitch today; Wake will make the spot start.

It was just terrible.  There literally was no offense and no pitching.  Scutaro even made a throwing error.  Something officially went wrong in every aspect of the game: pitching, hitting, and fielding.  We hit the trifecta.  Okay.  The team that lost today was not the team that handed Jered Weaver his first loss of the season.  We just need to play better.  That’s all there is to it.

Boston Globe Staff/John Tlumacki
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Turns out it wasn’t too much to ask after all.

Home.  Home is where the heart is.  Home is also where the wins are.  Yesterday was the first day of the rest of our 2011 baseball lives.

The Opening Ceremonies, as always, were very well done.  From the team introductions to the national anthem to the F16 flyover to paying respects to Lou Gorman to watching Yaz throw out the first pitch, it really gave you a sense of how far our storied team has come, and it reminded you of why we love this game and this team in the first place.  It really did feel like we started the season yesterday and every game we played before that was still part of Spring Training.  By the way, we have won every game before which Yaz has thrown out the first pitch.  So maybe that’s something to keep in mind if we have another losing streak.  Either way, before the game even started, you could smell the win in the air.

We completed the Year X Improvements project this winter.  Offseason additions to the park include expanded concessions and souvenir options, three Mitsubishi Electric Diamond Vision high definition LED screens, more concourse TVS, a new ticket booth at Gate D, and general repairs in the seating area.  All of the construction and repairs were green, using recycled materials and such.  The bad news? One of the LED screens, which is absolutely huge, replaced the John Hancock jumbotron in center field.  That jumbotron may have been old, but that’s where multiple generations of Red Sox fans looked when they couldn’t believe what they were seeing.  That jumbotron projected a world of badness and a world of greatness.  I guess the only solution is to inaugurate the new one with a World Series win.  I have to say that everything looks fantastic.  Major improvements have been made during the offseason for the last ten years, and yet every year it looks like nothing has changed at all.  They’ve done a brilliant job working with the park and integrating everything.  It looks awesome.

We entered the game after having made some changes.  Matt Albers is on the fifteen-day DL with a strained right lat muscle, so we recalled Alfredo Aceves.  We also designated Reyes for assignment and activated Felix Doubront.  We batted Crawford in leadoff, moved everyone up, and inserted Ellsbury into the eighth spot in the lineup.

So then the game starts.  Lackey’s first pitch was a strike to Brett Gardner in an at-bat that quickly turned into a leadoff walk.  And you could just tell that he wasn’t on.  Sure enough, with two out in the first, A-Rod walked, and when Cano doubled to center field, two runs were in.  The Evil Empire would score a run in each of the next four innings until Lackey was removed.  He failed to hold a single lead.

So he pitched five innings, gave up six runs on seven hits, walked two, and struck out two.  He gave up a home run to A-Rod of all people.  He threw ninety-one pitches, fifty-one for strikes.  He threw mostly curveballs and cutters, the former being more effective than the latter.  He threw all of his off-speed pitches for strikes at least fifty percent of the time.  His cut fastball was particularly nasty, topping out at ninety-four miles per hour.  But his straight-up fastballs were not effective.  Luckily, he got in on their hands and pitched inside, and he kept his per-inning pitch counts low, going up to twenty-two in the first and again in the fourth at the highest.  His last inning was also his best; he threw twelve pitches, eight for strikes.

Pedroia, as he is wont to do, got the entire team going.  He smacked a huge solo shot into the first two rows of the Monster about ten feet to the right of the Fisk pole in the first inning, cutting our deficit in half.  It was a curveball that didn’t curve.  He literally swung that bat with his entire body.  He did whatever it took to get that ball out, and Red Sox Nation sighed in relief as one.  After a losing streak like ours to begin the season, the longer you go without some sort of definitive offensive display, the harder it is to get one going.  I knew going into this game that if we didn’t do something, anything, early, it would be that much more difficult to do it in the later innings.  That home run was exactly what we needed.

After the Yankees tied it back up, we let loose with our best and biggest inning of the season to date.  Five runs in the second.  We tied our highest run total for an entire game so far in that single frame.  I was so unused to seeing hits being strung together, I almost felt like I was witnessing some sort of mythical feat.  Scutaro grounded into a fielder’s choice that scored one run.  Pedroia singled in two more and moved to second on a fielding error.  Gonzalez singled him in.  And Papi singled him in.  What you just witnessed was our first run manufacture of 2011.  And that, my friends, was the end of Phil Hughes.

Bartolo Colon came on after that and shut us down until the seventh.  By that time, the Yankees had tied the game.  And who should come through but Salty, who doubled in Youk after Papi failed to be called out thanks to another fielding error, and that established a lead that would stand permanently.

After that, Girardi lifted Colon in favor of Boone Logan because Papi and Drew, back-to-back lefties, were coming up.  In a fine display of hitting and reassurance that our lefty-heavy lineup can’t be shut down by a simple call to the bullpen, it made absolutely no difference.  They both came through.  Drew ended up singling in Gonzalez and Papi.

Where Lackey failed, the bullpen didn’t.  Our relievers shut down the Yanks for the last four innings.  We had one effective shutout frame each, each worth a hold, from Aceves, Jenks, and even Bard.  Bard and Paps each threw eleven pitches, eight for strikes.  Paps registered his first save of the season in the ninth.  They mowed them down like grass, overgrown and overblown.

In total, we amassed twelve hits.  Double digits.  Five members of our lineup had multi-hit games; Salty, Drew, and Papi each went two for four while Gonzalez went two for five and Pedroia, the man of the hour, went three for five.  We left six on base and went six for ten with runners in scoring position, which means that we put runners in scoring position and then brought them home.  The best part? We scored nine runs.  Nine to their six.  That’s what it feels like to have the offense back the pitcher.  That’s what it feels like to score a sufficient amount of runs in order to deal with it if the pitcher has an off day.  Cue “Dirty Water.” Ladies and gentlemen, we are now one and six!

This was our hundredth home opener, and we have now won seven straight.  With the frustrating exception of Lackey, we were absolutely brilliant in every way.  The hitters were hitting.  The fielders were fielding.  (With the second frustrating exception being Crawford, who at one point looked just sad when he couldn’t have been in a worse position to play a ball off the Monster.  I can understand that; it’s his first season, and he has to get used to it.  It’s not an easy left field to play.  It’s just that historically, even as an opponent on a visiting team, he’s always played the wall well.  I was surprised.) And the relievers were relieving.  Hopefully tomorrow the starter will be starting.

Make no mistake, folks: you just witnessed one of the most satisfying wins we’re going to have this year.  I repeat: yesterday was the first day of the rest of our 2011 baseball lives.

One other thing.  Manny Ramirez announced his retirement today.  It came after he was told of “an issue” that came up under Major League Baseball’s drug policy.  This is not difficult to figure out.  He tested positive four years after testing went into effect, was suspended for fifty games, cleaned up, came back, and comparatively speaking he pretty much failed as a hitter.  Lately he’s been reduced to being happy with singles.  We’re talking a drop in average as well as on-base percentage of upwards of a hundred points.  Recently, he failed another drug test; the suspension for a second transgression doubles, so it would be a hundred games, which is two-thirds of a season.  Not wanting to deal with that suspension, he retired instead.  That’s why it’s always good when a baseball player knows when it’s time to call it quits in every sense.  He did wonderful things when he was here in Boston, but we were on the receiving end of some pretty bad ugliness from him as well.  He was often funny but never easy.  It’s just sad that rather than recognizing when his time was up, he felt so compelled to follow such a course of action.  When Curt Schilling started to age, he prolonged his career by converting power to finesse in an incredible show of integrity, strength, and discipline.  Manny Ramirez was known throughout baseball for his intense work ethic but inconsistent-at-best personality.  Since he first failed four years after testing went into effect, and during those years he still posted numbers worthy of the Hall of Fame, he probably eventually saw the beginnings of a decline due to age and wanted to try to avoid it the bad way.  He thought he could play the game by his own rules but got caught when those rules were at odds with everyone else’s.  For now that’s all we know, and we’ll just have to wait and see what else happens.  Thanks for good memories, good times, and good laughs, Manny.  We’ll remember you as you were.

Boston Globe Staff/Barry Chin

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We have now officially seen the first starts of all five of our starting pitchers.  And now we’re all going to have nightmares about them, because that’s how horrifying they all were.  They were so bad that debating which one was the best, as I said yesterday, is absolutely fruitless pursuit because it makes no difference whatsoever.  The bottom line is still the same: all of our pitchers are supposed to be amazing, and all of them were the opposite so far.  You can debate all you want, but a loss is still a loss.  And right now we have five of them staring us in the face.

Dice-K was the last to fail.  But fail he did.  I was pretty hopeful he wouldn’t.  But he did.  His start was actually very similar to Beckett’s.  He pitched five innings, gave up three runs on six hits, walked three, struck out two, and took the loss.  He threw ninety-six pitches, fifty-four for strikes.  He threw mostly two-seams, curveballs, and cutters.  His curveball was his most successful pitch; seventy percent of them were strikes.  The rest of his pitches were all thrown for strikes about fifty percent of the time.

Unlike Beckett, there was no one inning during which his pitch count started to climb.  Dice-K was just his usual self.  He threw a lot of pitches because he got himself into jams and needed to get out.  Only this time he wasn’t so Houdini-esque about it; he failed to escape completely unscathed.

He threw twenty-eight pitches in the first and allowed two runs.  He threw sixteen in the second and allowed one more.  And that was it.  He wasn’t exactly economical during his remaining three innings, but he’s always been known to throw a lot of pitches.  He kept his release point together, and he varied his speeds, but he didn’t hit his spots often enough.  Since he throws a lot of off-speeds, that would explain why he gave up only one home run but three walks that mattered way too much and five singles that were way too effective.  That home run was their only extra-base hit.  Again, our lineup should have been able to bury that run total.

Unfortunately, it didn’t stop there.  Reyes came on in the sixth, hit his first two batters, and walked his third to load the bases with nobody out.  So Tito called for Wheeler.  And then we entered the Twilight Zone.

Michael Brantley lined to Youk at third.  Youk dropped the ball; believe it or not, that’s not the bizarre part.  Youk recovered in time, stepped on the bag for the force-out, and fired home to Tek.  Tek then made a mental error so huge that it opened the floodgates and runs just started pouring in.  He stepped on the plate instead of tagging the runner.  He forgot that Youk stepped on the bag, which removed the force at home.  So the run was safe, and Tek looked completely unseasoned.  That’s the bizarre part.  Where his years and years of tried and true experience went, I will never know, but they were not anywhere near Progressive Field at the time.  That is a fact.  So Salty gets the day off and Tek starts, and his starter still fails to locate his spots, and he makes a gargantuan fielding error.  I’m just saying.  It’s way too early to write anyone off, and the only thing the entire team can do now is improve.

And then after that there was a three-run homer.  Obviously.  And then Wake allowed another run for good measure.  Obviously.

It was also epically unhelpful that nobody really did anything of note at the plate.  We tied the game at two in the second, a tie that Dice-K obviously couldn’t hold.  Papi singled, Drew managed a checked-swing single, Tek walked to load the bases, and Scutaro, with this profound opportunity to make his mark on 2011, dribbled an infield hit just good enough to get a run home.  And then Ellsbury strode to the plate in the wonderful predicament of being able to make a dent in the score.  And he grounded hard to first.  He may have brought Drew home, but he established the theme of the day for pretty much everyone in the lineup: missed opportunities.  Our hitters squandered almost everything that could have possibly been squandered.  We left a grand total of seven men on base.  The proverbial “big hit” seemed mythical.  The Indians left six on base and still managed to score eight runs, which stands in pretty stark contrast to our four.  Drew, by the way, was among the top five AL batters against the changeup last year.  He saw some changeups tonight.  Didn’t do much with any of them.  No other Red Sox player was among the top five against any other pitch.  No other Red Sox player did much with any other pitch tonight either.

You can thank Gonzalez for our other two.  He hit his first homer in a Red Sox uniform, and he earned every bit of it.  He fouled off pitch after pitch until he pulled the twelfth one of his seventh-inning at bat into the right field bleachers for two runs.  It was a blast, both literally and figuratively.  Unfortunately, that was basically our offense’s last hurrah.

Gonzalez finished his night two for three with a double and a walk in addition to that homer.  Crawford went two for four with his first two steals in a Red Sox uniform.  By the way, our thieves had an eighty percent success rate last year, tied for highest in franchise history.

LeBron James and Maverick Partner of LRMR Marketing and Branding are teaming up with Fenway Sports Management for sponsorships and such.  Great.  That won’t win us ballgames either.  To sum up, everything that could have gone wrong, went wrong.  This wasn’t the series with Texas where we at least could walk out with a little dignity because we know that lineup has its moments.  No, no.  This was the Cleveland Indians.  It was cold, it was empty (it looked like there were maybe three thousand people in that whole park, and that’s being generous), and it was just wrong in every way.  Our pitchers failed completely to locate anything.  Our hitters failed completely to locate anything and just stood there either swinging at air or watching prime pitches go by with men on base.  We are 0-5 for only the sixth time in our illustrious and often painful history.  Lester gets a second chance tomorrow, and if we don’t win, we’re going to be 0-6 for the first time since 1945.  1945 wasn’t a particularly red-letter year for us, so let’s not revisit that performance.

In other news, the Bruins beat the Islanders, and Tim Thomas’s thirty saves will definitely help him in his quest to set the record for save percentage.

Reuters Photo

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Wow.  Every time I think that we couldn’t be off to a start even more opposite than what I originally thought our start would be, it becomes even more opposite.  We just got swept by the Texas Rangers.  We haven’t been swept in our opening series since 1996, when we were swept by – you guessed it – the Texas Rangers.  Great.  Just great.

Everything we did, they did better.  They outpitched us.  They outscored us, 26-11.  They outslugged us with eleven home runs to our three.  It was the first time we’ve given up that many homers in a three-game opening series; the data supporting that statement only goes back to 1919, so it’s possible that, in the home run department, this was our worst start to a season ever.  Specifically in yesterday’s game, they outscored us, 5-1.  Everyone always says that the Rangers’ ballpark is a hitter’s ballpark.  From our perspective, I didn’t see it.  And I don’t even want to discuss the hugeness of Brian Runge’s strike zone.

Buchholz was the latest ace to fail.  Four runs on five hits with two walks and three strikeouts over six and a third innings.  He gave up four home runs.  That’s almost half his grand total for all of last season, which was nine.  As with Lackey, he was one home run shy of tying a career-high five given up to the Jays on September 29, 2009.  And guess what.  Kinsler hit one.  On a fastball that failed to locate.  Oh, yeah, like I didn’t see that one coming.

The only other hit he gave up was a single, so aside from the four homers, which represent four pitching mistakes, his outing actually wasn’t that bad.  To begin with, the pitch that David Murphy hit out wasn’t really all that bad of a pitch.  His highest inning pitch count was eighteen; his next-highest was sixteen, and below that fifteen.  The rest of his innings were reasonable, and he didn’t really find himself in any jams to speak of.  He threw eighty-six pitches, fifty-six for strikes and eight for swinging strikes.  He threw some curveballs and changeups but mostly about as many sliders as fastballs, and both were thrown well for strikes.  But that’s never the issue.  You could have a pitcher who throws ninety-nine of a hundred pitches for strikes, but if that hundredth pitch ends up in the stands, it could cost you the ballgame.  And there were way too many such pitches this afternoon.  Buchholz may have had the best outing of our three so far, but by our usual standards, I hope it’s one of the worst we’ll see from him all year.  Location, location, location.  Yesterday, comparatively speaking, he had none of it.  At one point, he just completely lost track of the strike zone.  It wasn’t pretty.  Although I quite enjoyed his two pickoffs as well as both of our double plays, which were stunning displays of defensive coordination.  Even Pedroia’s attempted tag of Hamilton when he stole second.  I couldn’t believe he was safe.

Reyes delivered two outs.  Paps pitched the eighth; he gave up a run on two hits but struck out three.  So the pitcher we were worried about, again comparatively speaking, did fine, and all the pitchers we weren’t worried about were horrible.

Unfortunately, bad pitching did not overshadow a strong performance by Adrian Gonzalez, being that he went 0 for 4 and struck out three times.  We notched a grand total of five hits in the game, all of them singles.  Papi and Crawford both went two for four, Crawford being credited with our lone RBI.  I was so relieved to finally see him get his first hit in a Red Sox uniform.  We’d had to drop him to seventh because he was trying too hard.  Hopefully now he’ll relax and find his groove.

When he stroked that single and drove in that run, it brought us within two runs.  McDonald walked after that to load the bases.  There were two outs.  Ellsbury was at the plate.  And all three of his swings were misses, the last on an eighty-eight mile-per-hour cutter.  Nothing about that at-bat was relaxed.  And that was as close as we would get to a win.

I was half-wrong about Tek coming in, by the way.  Obviously Salty remained in.  Tito wanted to start Tek but decided to let Salty finish the series in the hopes of allowing him to settle in offensively; he spoke to Tek about it, and Tek was fine with it.  Salty did not, in fact, settle in offensively.

We have a much-needed day off today before we play Cleveland on Tuesday, when Beckett will debut, followed by Dice-K.  We have full reason to expect both Beckett and Dice-K to deliver truly solid outings for several reasons: we want to win, we need to win, and it would add to the general theme of irony since our original expectations for them, compared to the other three starters, were kind of low.  More importantly, though, we want to win and we need to win.  So let’s just win.

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So, again, that was the opposite of what I had in mind when I thought of what the outcome of last night’s game would be.  Same as Opening Day: I was expecting a win because Lackey was on the mound, we returned to our regular lineup for the righty, and our team is amazing.  Again, no big deal.  Right? Wrong.  So incredibly, totally wrong.

Lackey’s line was utterly abysmal.  It was literally one of the worst starts of his career; his current career high for runs given up is ten, and he gave up nine.  Those ten runs were also given up to the Texas Rangers, on September 26, 2008.  Aside from that start, the only other time Lackey took a similar beating was when he gave up nine runs to us on August 5, 2003.

Nine runs on ten hits.  Seven of those ten hits were extra-base hits.  Two of those seven extra-base hits were home runs.  One of those home runs was a leadoff shot by Ian Kinsler, who is now the first player in history to hit two leadoff homers to start a season.  The other was a grand slam by none other than Adrian Beltre after an intentional walk of Josh Hamilton.  So for this afternoon, I’d say intentionally walk Kinsler during his first at-bat, but if you do that, you might end up with a grand slam later.  Lackey walked two, struck out three, and never made it to the end of the fourth inning.

Every single time we tried to get back in it, Lackey would just give up more runs.  Papi tied it in the fourth with a fielder’s choice, and Lackey sent down his first two batters of the fourth.  And then there was the badness: a double, a triple, a walk, a double.

Lackey threw eighty-six pitches, fifty for strikes.  They were mostly cut fastballs and curveballs.  Like Lester’s outing, it’s easy to explain a cut fastball pitcher’s bad outing: the cut fastball doesn’t cut.  When a batter makes contact with a lame cut fastball that tops out somewhere around ninety-three miles per hour, you can pretty much bet you’re in trouble.  His curveball got up to eighty-five miles per hour.  Unlike Lester, Lackey’s cut fastball, his most frequently used pitch, actually was his most effective one, so he did get some strikeouts with it.  Seven of his fifty strike pitches resulted in swings.

His release point was not tight.  There were some pitches were released completely out of it.  And when he missed, he missed to the upper left and lower right corners of the zone.

As on Opening Day, the relief corps was not helpful.  Wheeler gave up two runs, and Wake gave up a run.  After that, things settled down; Reyes and Jenks both turned in very solid innings.  Bard was unavailable because he threw thirty-two pitches on Friday.  I don’t know if that was a good thing or a bad thing.

Bad pitching again detracted from a very strong performance by Adrian Gonzalez, who is currently earning his contract like nobody’s business.  It’s a great feeling when your general manager does everything possible during the offseason to field a championship team and it actually seems to be working.  Three for five with a double and two runs.  Youk doubled.  Ellsbury blasted a two-run shot in the seventh on a ninety-two mile-per-hour fastball down and in, which is exactly the place you don’t want a fastball to end up if you’re facing lefties because they do things like hit home runs if it does.  The best part was that his swing looked totally natural, like all he does is just hit home runs all day.  Hopefully we’ll get some more of those from him this year.

And last, but of course certainly not least, Papi followed the fourth Opening Day home run of his career with his second of the season in the second inning! An eighty-nine mile-per-hour high fastball ended up in the first few rows of right field seats, good for two runs.  By the time the night was over, he made history.  He both tied, with number 1,003, and surpassed, with number 1,004, Edgar Martinez for most RBIs ever hit by a DH.  And in just two days, he already is showing more offensive prowess than he did during this entire month for the last two years combined.  During his last two Aprils, he batted .169 with one home run.  He’s currently batting .250 with two.  The monster year has begun.

The final score was a completely pathetic 12-5.  We are now 0-2 to begin the season for the first time since 2005.  Not exactly the auspicious start any of us were expecting or hoping for.  All I’m saying is that Lackey is pitching our home opener on Friday against the Yankees, and we better not have a repeat performance, because that would just be unacceptable.  Meanwhile, we’re getting our first look at Buchholz and Tek this afternoon; Salty will probably get the day off.  Maybe Buchholz should stay away from cut fastballs.

In other news, the Bruins beat the Thrashers by a goal.

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I’ll be honest.  I had a pretty clear vision of what I expected our first game of the season to be like, and that was definitely not it.  First of all, I was expecting a win.  Plain and simple.  Lester was on the mound, we tweaked the lineup to suit a lefty, and our team is amazing.  No big deal, right?

Instead, we were saddled with three hours and twenty-eight minutes of mediocrity.  Not from everyone, but from enough of the right players to secure a 9-5 loss to the Rangers.

Let’s deal with Lester first.  His line, at best, was not good.  He only lasted five and a third innings and gave up five runs on six hits.  He walked one.  And the most surprising stat of all was his zero strikeouts.  For the second time in his career, he did not strike out anybody.  Not a single batter.  And for the first time in his entire career, he gave up three home runs in one game.

In total, forty-nine of his eighty-eight pitches were strikes.  His fastest fastball topped out at ninety-four miles per hour, and he threw mostly four-seams.  A little over half of them were thrown for strikes.  His most effective pitch was actually the one he threw least frequently: his changeup.  He threw nine of them, eight for strikes.  From the very beginning, he struggled.  He finally retired the side in the third but it wasn’t a turning point, as he failed to carry that momentum into the fourth.  Well, whenever Lester has an off day, it usually comes down to one thing: his cut fastball wasn’t cutting.  And that was the case yesterday.  It breeds home run situations, and it allows for contact that’s way too solid for comfort.  I guess we couldn’t escape the April badness after all.  Lester’s first Opening Day start was officially a dud.

Naturally, at that point, Tito started rolling out the bullpen.  Not great to exhaust the relievers on the first game of the season, but he had no choice.  We saw Albers first, who allowed all of his inherited runners to score and walked one.  Reyes came on and walked one but failed to secure his out, so he was replaced by Wheeler, who secured two outs before being replaced by Bard, who took the loss.

Bard got banged around, literally.  He got two outs, including one strikeout, but it took four runs on four hits with a walk.  Obviously very unusual for someone whose fastball usually clocks somewhere around a hundred miles per hour.  But the theme of the day was “when good pitchers go bad,” and he was no exception.  He should have been lights out; he was totally lights on.  By the time Wake came on for our final out, we were done.

He started with a flyout; pretty routine.  But then there was a walk, a single, and a double.  The four hits he allowed is a new career high, and the four runs ties an old one.  For Bard, that’s like a season’s worth of runs given up in one night.  He just didn’t locate well at all.

Bard, not Lester, took the loss thanks to none other than Big Papi.  He launched a game-tying solo shot in the eighth, equaling his grand total of home runs hit last year against lefties.  He had that ball’s number.  And I could think of no better scenario in which to have him hit his first homer of 2011, undoubtedly the first of many.  That is what I would call the opposite of a slow start.  And just like that, the game was tied, we were back in it, and we felt like we were going to win.  Apparently not.

The other bright spot was Adrian Gonzalez.  What a debut! Two for four with three RBIs and his first stolen base since 2009.  He was great.  He looked comfortable, confident, and ready to just demolish all kinds of opposing pitching.  It’s going to be a fantastic year.

Ellsbury went two for four with a double, a walk, and a steal for the only other multi-hit game.  And Youk doubled in a run and made an error.  Yup.  And Crawford just struck out three times and didn’t do much of anything else.

In short, the whole thing was like one giant April Fool’s joke, except not, because it was actually happening.  Our three-game winning streak of Opening Days has been snapped.  If you think about it, we had a lot riding on this game.  We had Lester with his first Opening Day start wanting to earn it.  We had Gonzalez and Crawford anxious to make good debuts.  We had Papi feeling his usual pressure. We had Ellsbury out with something to prove.  There were nerves.  As Jerry Remy said, if anybody told you they weren’t nervous, they were lying.  Both the fans and the team were heaping expectation on this game like no other, which is why it’s pretty important to remember that it’s only the first one.  We still have 161 to go.  An Opening Day win doth not necessarily a championship make.  Besides, we have Lackey tonight, and I’m sure we’ll see some different results from him.

I would also like to extend my condolences to the family of Lou Gorman, our general manager from 1984 to 1993, who passed away yesterday morning.  He was a great man, and he will be missed by Red Sox Nation.  And he was at the game in spirit.  Lou Gorman, we salute you.

Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis

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Opening Day is today! We made it! Finally! These next few hours of waiting are going to be tough, but after that long, cold, hard winter, baseball is finally here! Too bad we have to spend Opening Day in Texas, though.  We’ll be waiting another week for our home opener against the Yanks on April 8.  Meanwhile, we’ve got some decimating to do.  This season is going to be epic; I can feel it.  So we should start it on an appropriately epic note.  Lester has the ball.  Hopefully the start of his April badness will be sufficiently delayed so as to win us this one.  We’re facing Wilson.  Wilson is a southpaw, so Drew is sitting in favor of Cameron, and Youk and Gonzalez are switching places in the order.  So it’ll be Ellsbury, Pedroia, Crawford, Youk, Gonzalez, Papi, Cameron, Salty, and Scutaro.  That’s not the lineup we’ll be using for most of our games, but it’s one that’ll give us a good indication already of what we can expect.

Here’s the last of Spring Training.  The Orioles beat us on Sunday, 4-3.  Drew hit a two-run shot, Matt Albers allowed a run, and Papi was hit in the foot but appears to be fine.  Meanwhile, Lester made his final start of spring in a game against our minor leaguers.  He gave up five runs, four earned, on nine hits while walking none and striking out five over five innings.  Fifty of his seventy-seven pitches were strikes.  And that is absolutely no indication whatsoever of how this afternoon will go.

Lackey pitched a simulated game of sorts on Monday with Salty; the weather was iffy, so Tito didn’t bring him along to play the Jays.  The game was played, though, and we won, 3-2.

Our last game ever at City of Palms Park was totally anticlimactic.  We tied the Rays, 1-1, on Tuesday courtesy of Adrian Gonzalez’s solo shot.  Buchholz allowed one run on one hit over four innings with two walks and three strikeouts.  Forty-four of his seventy-eight pitches were strikes.  It was our fifteenth sellout in sixteen games this spring and the conclusion of our nineteenth Spring Training in that park.  You could say that many of our future stars and both of our championships were made there.  So here’s to City of Palms Park, the Fenway of spring.

The bullpen competition is officially over: Matt Albers and Dennys Reyes are in, and Alfredo Aceves and Okajima are out.  They’ve been optioned to Pawtucket.  Interestingly, that wouldn’t have been an option for Albers or Reyes; they don’t have options and would have had to clear waivers, which probably would have meant that we wouldn’t have been able to keep them.  Either way, it’ll be strange having Okajima in the organization but not on the roster.  Although of the other two are better, the other two are better, and that’s that.  So the twenty-five-man roster is officially set.  Lowrie is our infield utility man, and Cameron is our outfield utility man; those were really the only other question marks, and I don’t think the answers are that surprising.  Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve got ourselves a ball club!

So that’s it.  There’s nothing more we can do to prepare.  We’re ready.  We’re set.  And we’re going all the way to Soxtober this year.  It’s going to be epic.  Other than that, there’s nothing more to say.  I repeat: Opening Day has finally arrived! I’m so psyched, I can’t even believe it.  For all intents and purposes, we are about to witness the start of a championship season.  I am so ready.

In other news, the Bruins beat the Flyers, shut out the Blackhawks, and lost to the Leafs in overtime.  Oh, and we clinched a playoff spot.  No big deal.  All in a day’s work for us this year.

Boston Globe Staff/Bill Greene

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