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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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To put it simply, we won! On Opening Day! Against the Evil Empire! The first of many, folks.  The first of many.

The opening ceremonies were un-announced and very nicely done, complete with fireworks, Don Orsillo, and Joe Castiglione, with special guests Steve Tyler, Keri Hilson, LeBron James, Dr. Dre, and Neil Diamond.  You read right.  Neil Diamond finally sang “Sweet Caroline” live.  And it was so good to see Ryan Westmoreland in attendance.

The highlight? Pedro Martinez threw out the first pitch! That really takes you back, doesn’t it? They unfurled the American flag over the Green Monster and who should step out from behind it.  Papi was pretty psyched.

I feel compelled to mention that YES didn’t show any footage of Pedro.  Apparently, they previewed the season like they’d been doing every day for the past half-year because every moment must revolve around the New York Yankees.  Ugh.  Just another occurrence that reveals why they’re, well, the Yankees.

And I would like to take this opportunity to point out to all of the naysayers that it was the offense, not the defense, that carried the day.  You really don’t get much more proof that the offense packs a powerful punch than a final score of 9-7.

We were down by three heading into the sixth.  That was when our bats pretty much exploded.  Youk smacked a triple that scored two, and Beltre hit a sac fly to score Youk.  Tie game.  The Yanks scored two more runs in the top of the seventh.  Then Dustin Pedroia hit one of those home runs everyone told him he couldn’t hit while he was growing up because there’s no way someone of his size should have that kind of power.  A two-runner into the Monster.  Huge.  After that, Youk scored again on a passed ball.  Pedroia added another RBI in the eighth.  And there you have the nine runs in all their glory.

The best part of it is that those nine runs were scored due to many different kinds of offense.  You had big ball, and you had small ball.  There were manufactured runs, and there were opportunistic runs.  What that shows is that the offense can get it done in any situation; we know we can always score when we need to.

The only bad part of the game was the only part of the game everyone was sure would be great heading into it: Josh Beckett, our supposed ace in the hole.  Yeah, not so much.  He got rocked.  Five runs on eight hits with three walks and back-to-back jacks in less than five innings is not what we wanted to see from him during the first game of the year.  I mean, they were all over his fastball, and he wasn’t locating his off-speeds.  That’s a terrible combination.  Thankfully, we’ve got a day off tomorrow so the bullpen can rest up.  But I feel pretty safe in saying that nobody saw that coming.  There was absolutely nothing that occurred during Spring Training to even remotely suggest that he would have any sort of issue.  If this were any other pitcher, I’d chalk it up to nerves.  But this is Josh Beckett: not only has he been in Boston for years, but he thrives on pressure situations.  He should have owned.  He didn’t.  I won’t worry about it unless he bombs his next start, but all I’m saying is that it was really unsettling.

Schoeneweis relieved him and did work; a scoreless, spotless frame.  Ramirez came on and allowed the sixth and seventh New York runs.  Okajima got the win, Bard got the hold, and Paps got the save.  He allowed a hit and threw ten pitches, seven for strikes.

We have a day off tomorrow, as I said, and then we’re back to the usual start time of 7:00PM for the remaining two games of this series.  Then another off day, then a road trip to the Midwest.  We’ll be the first to break in Target Field.  Hey, anything is better than the Metrodome.  So, to emphasize: we beat the Yankees to win Opening Day.  We took advantage of two rallies to bounce back twice.  Resilience.  Dominance.  Awesomeness.  Doesn’t get much better than that.  That was the first regular season ballgame we’ve seen in a good, long time, and with the exception of Beckett, it didn’t disappoint.  Just drink it in, folks.  Baseball is back!

Digital Sports Daily

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