Red Sox Journal
Season Opener, April 1, 2011
With snow still on the ground in Boston on April 1st, the Red Sox eagerly moved onward to greener pastures in Arlington Texas, where they faced off against the AL Champion Texas Rangers, on Opening Day 2011.
Jon Lester got the nod in this one, for his first ever Opening Day start for the Red Sox. The Rangers countered with C. J. Wilson, the de facto ace of the Rangers after the defection of Cliff Lee through free-agency to the Phillies.
The game started off oddly, with Jacoby Ellsbury, coming off his devastating rib injury in 2011, lofting a pitch out to right-fielder Nelson Cruz, but apparently nobody called for this one, as center fielder Julio Borbon ran into Cruz, and neither of them ended up catching the ball. Ellsbury rounded first but scurried back into first, content with reaching base, for now anyway.
Dustin Pedroia flied out to LF and Ellsbury took 3rd on the fly out. Then Carl Crawford, fresh off his shiny new contract signing, and in a position to start his gradual ascent to stardom in Boston, popped out to second base. Out with the new and in with the old, as 7-year veteran Kevin Youkilis doubled down the Right Field line, scoring Ellsbury.
Super Slugger Adrian Gonzalez put the Sox up 2-0 on the next at-bat, knocking a single through into Right Field, and to make sure that Youkilis would score the run, got into a rundown between first and second to end the inning.
Lester started off his 2011 campaign on a bad footing, tossing lead-off man Ian Kinsler a gopherball that he knocked into the LF stands to half the Red Sox lead at 2-1. Lester, not known for his outstanding performances early in the season, appeared to be rattled on the mound, slipping around and not getting a good grip in the dirt with his cleats. His velocity was noticeably down throughout, with his fastball in the 89-91 mph range, when he usually throws up to 93-95 mph Several times in the game, he, and now full-time catcher Jarrod Saltilamacchia appeared to be on a different page of the playbook.
The score stayed this way till the bottom of the 2nd, when Nelson Cruz crushed a Lester offering over (once again) the fence in left. That made the score tied at 2-2.
The Red Sox then struck right back in the top of the third inning, when with one out, Jacoby Ellsbury doubled to Right Field. Carl Crawford then struck out, and Kevin Youkilis now positioned at 3B and with an error already to his credit, walked to make it first and second with two out. Adrian Gonzalez then continued his great start to the season by singling to CF, thus driving in Ellsbury and Youkilis to make it 4-2 Red Sox. He also stole second while David Ortiz was batting, his first steal since April 9th 2009.
The score remained the same until the bottom of the 4th when with two men on base for the Rangers, Mike Napoli lined a Lester pitch over the left field wall near the foul pole, making the score 5-4 Rangers.
Besides his missteps, C. J. Wilson had pitched a decent game, and after walking Mike Cameron with two outs in the top of the 6th, Ron Washington (the manager of the Rangers) pulled him in favor of reliever Mark Lowe. Lowe easily got Salty to groundout to first base to end the inning, and made C. J. Wilson the pitcher of record to win it, if the Rangers could hold on the slim 5-4 lead with 3 Red Sox at-bats left.
Lester wouldn't last much longer, after a walk and one out single he was lifted in favor of bullpen newcomer Matt Albers. Albers was coming into a tough situation, with men on 1st and 2nd, and one out. He proceeded to retire catcher Yorvit Torrealba on a fielders choice at 2B, which was hit to slow to turn a double play on, even with his snail speed of a catcher. CF Julio Borbon then walked to load the bases, but Albers induced Ian Kinsler to ground out to shortstop Marco Scutaro to end the Rangers toughest threat of the day thus far, and keep the score 5-4 Rangers.
In the 7th, 19-year veteran reliever Arthur Rhodes came in the game to relieve Mark Lowe. Scutaro grounded out to shortstop, then Ellsbury, continuing his great day at-bat, where he reached base four times, walked and took second on a wild pitch by Rhodes. With a great chance to tie the game, Dustin Pedroia flew out to RF to make it two outs, then Carl Crawford continued his horrible debut with the Red Sox (0 for 4, 3Ks), striking out with a man in scoring position to end the inning.
The score stayed this way until the top of the 8th, when with one out, Big Papi David Ortiz smashed a Darren Oliver offering over the fence in deep left center, to knot the score at 5-5. In the bottom of the 8th manager Terry Francona brought in his best reliever, Daniel Bard. He started out well, getting Nelson Cruz to fly out to Mike Cameron in Right Field, but then Mike Napoli, a thorn in the side of the Red Sox, walked, and catcher Yorvit Torrealba singled to RF, to put two on with one out. Bard's velocity was present, as he hit 100 mph on the gun at least once, but his control on his off speed pitches were off, making him rely on just his fastball in counts where he was consistently behind, and with the offensive prowess of the Texas Rangers, this is a problem.
Outfielder David Murphy was then pinch hit for CF Julio Borbon. Some will remember that Murphy was once a number one draft pick for the Red Sox, and was sent along with pitcher Kason Gabbard in the terrible Eric Gagne trade in 2007. If the Red Sox didn't regret it then, they may now, as Murphy, batting left-handed, popped a perfectly placed outside pitch along the Left Field line, the ball appear to be heading foul, but as the chalk kicked up in a white cloud in front of the Left Field grandstands, the ball had willed it's way fair.
Murphy scampered to second, scoring Napoli and Torrealba behind him to make the score 7-5 Rangers. Bard was trying to regroup and escape the inning with minimal damage. He was well on his way striking out Ian Kinsler, but two consecutive two-out doubles to RF by Andrus and Hamilton made it 9-5. A site that Red Sox fans do not want to see much in 2011 happened next. Tim Wakefield, the longest tenured Red Sox, and several wins short of the Red Sox all-time mark of pitching wins shared by Cy Young and Roger Clemens at 192, entered the game to relieve Bard. He then walked 3B Adrian Beltre on four wide pitches, but got Michael Young to flyout to RF to end the slaughter.
Neftali Feliz, the all-star closer for the Rangers, made quick work of the Red Sox in the 9th striking out two.
Some positives to gleam from Opening Day: Adrian Gonzalez had 3 RBIs, and played excellent defense at 1B, pulling a couple of throws out of the dirt. The newly signed bullpen aces, Wheeler and Albers, performed well.
Some things to worry about going forward: Jarrod Saltilamacchia looked completely lost at the plate going 0-4 with two Ks, if this guy can bat his weight this season, I think things will be okay. We shall see how long this platoon arrangement of Varitek and Salty will last. Jon Lester, although known for his slow starts in April, never looked really comfortable or in his rhythm the whole start. Maybe he just needs to get used to working with Salty, as they both seemed crossed-up at times. Another reason to put Jed Lowrie in as the everyday shortstop, an 0-4 day for Marco Scutaro, in which he didn't hit the ball out of the infield. Kevin Youkilis also made an error in his first handle of 2011, not good considering the fact that he went almost two years without an error at 1B. Crawford in his debut in LF for the Red Sox was very impatient and hacking at pitches, and he has an 0-4 with 3 strikeouts to show for it. At this point in his career, I don't know how much more patience this guy is willing to learn. Bard's bad outing (I hope) was an aberration, he wasn't hit extremely hard and was the recipient of some bad luck. The bullpen is built around this guy shutting sluggers out in the 8th, if he can't, then this WILL be a long summer.
The ball hit by Murphy could have easily gone foul, and there are still 161 games left, so bring on the Red Sox and Spring.
— Roman Llimar