Close But No Cigar in Red Sox Opening Day Loss
By John Green
Since the Opening Day starters for the Red Sox and Tigers were announced, I’ve been waiting patiently for what promised to be one of the better match-ups of the season. Thursday’s season opener didn’t fail to disappoint as the aces of two playoff hungry teams dueled unrelentlessly in what turned out a 3-2 walk off win for the Tigers.
Our big horse in Jon Lester showcased his ability to work out of jams from the first inning-allowing leadoff runners in four of the first five innings-but the ace that he is he finished 7 strong innings in which he allowed 6H, 1ER, 3BB, and 4K.
The first run of the game came on consecutive doubles from Jhonny Peralta and Alex Avila in the bottom of the 7th but Lester came right back to strike out Ramon Santiago to end the inning.
The second Tigers run came in the eighth when Vicente Padilla came on in relief of Lester. Padilla allowed a leadoff triple to Austin Jackson, got Brennan Boesch to ground out and then intentionally walked Miguel Cabrera before giving way for lefty Franklin Morales to face Prince Fielder. After working the count, Fielder hit a fly ball just deep enough to score A-Jax from third. Delmon Young flew out to right field to end the inning and give way for the Red Sox.
Very encouraging start from Jon Lester but the reigning Cy Young was a bit better.
From the start you could see that Justin Verlander brought his A-game for this one- Should we expect any less? Verlander allowed just 3 base runners in 8 innings, putting together this line.
8IP, 2H, 0ER, 1BB, 7K
The excitement wouldn’t come until the ninth though. With a 2 run lead the Tigers turned to their closer Jose Valverde. “Papa Grande” as you may recall was 49/49 in save opportunities in 2011.
Dustin Pedroia opened the inning with a sharply hit double into center field which was followed by a line drive single into left off the bat of Adrian Gonzalez. Bobby Valentine elected to put Darnell McDonald on first in favor of Adrian Gonzalez.
A sac fly from David Ortiz would score Pedroia from third and make it 2-1, and then things got interesting.
D-Mac appeared ready to go during Kevin Youkilis’ at-bat but never took off, Youk struck out and Ryan Sweeney came to the plate with a runner on first and 2 out. Encouraged yet?
Not the ideal situation for the Red Sox but it paid off nonetheless. With Ryan Sweeney battling at the plate Darnell McDonald broke on the first move by Valverde, stealing second base by a fair margin and putting the tying run in scoring position with 2 out.
Ryan Sweeney made the most of his first game in a Red Sox uniform when he roped an 83 mph slider over the head of Tigers’ right fielder Don Kelly. The ball kicked around the outfield allowing Sweeney to make it all the way to third and Darnell McDonald to score the tying run. The Tigers weren’t done though-they wouldn’t let Justin Verlander’s gem go to waste.
Former Houston Astros closer and present Red Sox reliever Mark Melancon came on in the ninth to try to halt the Tigers offense and send the game to extra frames.
Melancon quickly got Ryan Raburn to fly out but after that things went south for the revamped Red Sox bullpen. Jhonny Peralta and Alex Avila hit consecutive singles-putting runners on first and second with just 1 out-ending Mark Melancon’s outing in favor of recently named closer Alfredo Aceves.
Aceves quickly got into trouble when he hit Ramon Santiago in the foot, loading the bases with still just one out. The next hitter would be the last. Austin Jackson hit a hard grounder down the left field line that got by Nick Punto at third, pinch runner Danny Worth easily came around from third to give the Tigers an exciting 3-2 win on Opening Day.
Jon Lester looks primed for a big year.
The bullpen needs help.
Justin Verlander will be dominant once again.
Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera will be a force.
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