From the very first inning, the Boston Red Sox never looked back, as they took on the Washington Nationals in the home opener, this afternoon.
The winds were pushing out toward the Green Monster in left field, at about 16 mph during the game, where Red Sox starter Rick Porcello was dealing on the mound against the Nationals’ batting order. Washington countered with the righty Jordan Zimmermann.
The Nationals were looking to bounce back, after earning a 2-4 record in the first week of the season. However, they were likely expecting Zimmermann to last more than 70 pitches. He lasted just 2.1 innings, allowing 8 runs, 7 earned, on 9 hits, 2 walks, and no strikeouts.
Red Sox center fielder Mookie Betts would have a lot to say about Zimmermann’s day.
In the bottom of the first inning, designated hitter David Ortiz, who has been in a bit of a slump, himself, nailed a single to left field. The hit cashed in Betts to take the early lead. However, if it wasn’t for Betts’ aggressiveness, the hit may have been only a minor blip on the Nationals’ radar. Betts stole both second and third bases, while Ortiz was batting, that governed Washington to challenge the calls. Both times, the call was upheld, giving Betts two stolen bases in the same inning.
In the bottom of the second inning, Betts was the one who used his bat to make an impact. He drilled a line drive home run, on a 1-1 slider going 92 mph, to left center field, which scored shortstop Xander Bogaerts and catcher Sandy Leon.
In the bottom of the third inning, it just got worse and worse for Zimmermann. Bogaerts kept up his hot play, as of late, by singling on the first pitch with a fly ball to right field, scoring Hanley Ramirez. After working the Nationals’ starter for seven pitches, Leon hit a fly ball of his own to cash in Pablo Sandoval, loading the bases for Betts.
Considering that Betts is the leadoff hitter in the lineup, RBI production is often a bonus for the Red Sox with a strong player in the role. Betts must have wanted to make that bonus count today. After hitting the ball, it deflected off of Nationals third baseman Yunel Escobar, scoring Mike Napoli and loading the bases, once again.
That was the end of Zimmermann’s day, but not the end of the runs being scored. Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia finished the frame by hitting a sacrifice fly to center field, off of relief pitcher Tanner Roark, driving in Bogaerts. The score was 8-0 for Boston.
Apr 13, 2015; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Rick Porcello (22) throws a pitch against the Washington Nationals in the sixth inning at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
With all of this offense, you might have forgotten that there was another Red Sox player having success today. Porcello kept the Nationals off of the scoreboard all the way to the top of the fifth inning. Before that, there were a number of quick at-bats for the 6-foot-5, righty from New Jersey to dispose of, before he was finally touched.
On a 2-1 fastball, going a mere 89 mph, Washington’s first baseman Ryan Zimmerman, no relation, homered over the center field fence. A few batters later, second baseman Danny Espinosa grounded out to first base, scoring Clint Robinson.
Ortiz decided to respond to the Washington run irritation by smashing his second home run of the season, in the bottom of the sixth inning. Don’t make Big Papi angry.
The Nationals met that response with a set of hits, one being a groundout by Ian Desmond that scored Zimmerman, and the other being a solo home run by Espinosa, in the top of seventh and eighth innings, respectively.
All of these events were while Porcello was pitching for the Red Sox. His day ended, recording the win, as the scoring ended, too. It took 112 pitches, 75 strikes and 37 balls, for Porcello to give up 4 runs, 3 earned, on 4 hits, a walk, and 6 strikeouts. The Red Sox won the game 9-4, with Junichi Tazawa pitching the top of the ninth inning, striking out three batters with only a walk as a blemish of note.
- Betts finished with 4 RBIs and 2 runs, on 2 hits, a walk, and a strikeout. After being ineffective in the last few games, Betts showed today why he was entrusted with the leadoff job, this season. Especially after stealing a home run away from the brash Bryce Harper in the top of the first inning.
- Much of the Nationals’ defense was in shambles, judging by the lack control of Betts on the base paths and even a throwing error by Desmond. To be fair, Bogaerts and Sandoval both committed throwing errors of their own, but it rarely cost the Red Sox, today.
- The Red Sox were 6-for-15 with runners in scoring position. With so many chances to score and actually succeeding so many time, it was a good day for Boston’s bats. The Nationals were 0-for-6.
Sure, having a player like Betts snagging balls from leaving over outfield fences makes Porcello’s job much easier, but the fact remains that this was a much better start than in Philadelphia, last week.
Going eight strong innings, with only being responsible for three earned runs has got to make Porcello and Red Sox manager John Farrell very happy. It is exactly that strategy that Boston wants to employ. If their starters can outlast their opponents starters on the mound, then they will always be in games to the bitter end.
Except for today, when Porcello got more than enough run support to cruise into the eighth inning, without much to worry. Sorry Tazawa, but as much as your efforts helped seal the victory, it was Porcello and the bats that did the damage today; so, no game ball for the bullpen required, today.
Could it possibly go to anyone else? Offensively and defensively, the game was all Betts, as far as a position player goes. When he has all of the parts of his game going, Betts looks likes an absolute force of nature. It is hard to believe, after seeing today’s results, that he is only hitting .167 for the week. Still, there is a lot of baseball to be played. Red Sox Nation should be giddy with joy that they get to see Betts perform, as long as he plays like that. Can this day be the turning point for him to stay consistently half-man-half-amazing? If he does it again tomorrow, everyone should have all bets on for Mookie to be an All-Star, this July.
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