Ortiz, Price lead Boston Red Sox to 6-2 win

Apr 5, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Boston Red Sox starting pitcher David Price (24) throws a pitch during the first inning against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 5, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Boston Red Sox starting pitcher David Price (24) throws a pitch during the first inning against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports /

David Price went six strong innings in his Boston Red Sox debut and David Ortiz and Mookie Betts each slammed  two-run home runs.

The Boston Red Sox bullpen and new ace David Price held the Cleveland Indians to five hits in a 6-2 win at Progressive Field. The Boston attack featured a pair of two-run home runs by Mookie Betts and David Ortiz (# 504) as part of an 11 hit attack to support the excellent pitching effort.

The weather conditions in Cleveland and Boston were quite similar at the start of the game with temperatures in the low 30s and wind chills – a term that is as innocuous as baseball WAR – pushing that weather geek metric even lower. As Ernie Banks would say: “Let’s play two” should now be “Let’s play none” unless the teams wished to engage snowboarding in the bleachers. But to the starved baseball fan, it is a serious time and a weather apocalypse will not hamper our first day of the real spring.

Price Era Begins

Mookie Betts opened the season with a strikeout on a 2-2 pitch by Indians ace Corey Kluber. Dustin Pedroia and Xander Bogaerts made quick outs against the efficient Kluber who had the third best American League BB/9 in 2015 at 1.82. For comparison, Price had a 1.92 BB/9.

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Price started his Boston career with strikeouts of Rajai Davis and Jason Kipnis before Francisco Lindor hit a weak grounder to Xander Bogaerts to make it a 1-2-3 inning for the fast working Price.

Betts Goes Deep

The first hit and baserunner for the Red Sox new season arrived in the top of the second inning when Travis Shaw singled to right field. Brock Holt – playing left field – then followed with the second hit when he shot a liner into left. The threat quickly evaporated with a nasty change that struck out Blake Swihart.

Price dug a hole in the last of the second via back-to-back walks with the recipients being Mike Napoli and Carlos Santana. Napoli easily went to third on a long fly out to Jackie Bradley to put runners on the corners with one out. What does an ace do? Marlon Byrd and Juan Uribe became strikeout victims and the self-induced threat ended.

In 2015, Betts had a home run in the opening game of the season and that was matched in the top of the third with Bradley on base via a single. Kluber settled down to get the next two before David Ortiz doubled only to be left at second after Gold Glove first baseman Hanley Ramirez grounded out to second.

Price Gives It Up

Lindor broke through on the hit ledger against Price with a lead-off single in the bottom of the fourth. Napoli then went 11 pitches before being called out on a questionable 3-2 pitch. Santana followed with a single and that was matched by a Yan Gomes single to put the Tribe on the scoreboard. On the 30th pitch of the inning, Byrd lined a shot to Holt for the sac fly and to tie the game up 2-2. Uribe hammered the first pitch for the fourth hit of the inning and pitching coach Carl Willis came out for a heart to heart discussion. Price responded by getting his eighth whiff of the day – this one on Collin Cowgill.

The Red Sox Go To Work

Ramirez led off the Sox sixth with a single and Shaw then golfed a rocket to right for a hit and Hanley decided to channel Usain Bolt and try for third. Fortunately for Ramirez, the throw was a bit off and it was first and third with no outs. Holt flared a 2-2 pitch to left for and RBI and the lead. After Swihart hit into a force, Kluber tossed a rare wild pitch for another run. Kluber then walked Bradley and out came Terry Francona and the pitching hook.

The Indians brought in veteran right-hander Jeff Manship to face Betts. Betts led the majors in fewest double plays with a mere two in 2015. Unfortunately with the runners on the move, Betts hit a fortuitous grounder to Uribe who was in position to cover third on the basepath movement and the end result was a DP and inning over with a Red Sox 4-2 lead.

The temperature then hit 34 degrees and Frank Loesser’s 1944 classic “Baby, it’s Cold Outside” was being sung on the field by a collection of frostbitten millionaires. However Price was providing the real breeze with his tenth strikeout in the last of a very utilitarian sixth inning and that represented the day for Price. A very nice Red Sox inaugural game.

Battle Of The Bullpens

Manship came out for the seventh and quickly got one out – there would have been a second out if a Bogaerts grounder to short was not launched somewhere near the second deck. Ortiz was then walked to fill the empty slot at first and Ramirez followed with another walk for a bases loaded situation. Francona went to lefty Ross Detwiler to face lefties Shaw and Holt. Shaw ripped lefties at a .329 clip in 2015 and was called out on strikes. Holt hit southpaws at .312 and lined out hard to third. Lost opportunity.

The formula for when the Red Sox have a late game lead was put into place with first out of the bullpen being Junichi Tazawa. Tazawa – who had been shaky this spring – apparently left that in Florida at least for this game with a 12 pitch and two strikeout inning. Impressive.

Koji Uehara – who had 25 saves in 2015 – is now set-up and his inning was a perfect 1-2-3 effort.

Trevor Bauer came in for Cleveland in the ninth and got to watch and inside fastball to Ortiz arc gracefully into the right field stands with Pedroia on first. That gave the Red Sox a 6-2 lead and Craig Kimbrel was warming up for his debut.

Kimbrel was less than perfect and actually gave up a walk which represented the lone bullpen flaw of the day. Kimbrel also finished off two batters with strikeouts.

Next: Red Sox Rankings: American League East Catchers

Game Notes

* Great play in RF by Betts in the fifth.
* Babe Ruth (1916-18) had three consecutive opening day starts for Boston.
* This is the first time Boston has ever opened the season in Cleveland.
* Dustin Pedroia has hit in nine consecutive opening day starts (2007-15).
* Win Kellum was the first ever Boston opening day starter. Kellum finished 1901 at 2-3.
* Boston has now opened on the road 18 times in the last 21 seasons.
* The Cleveland Indians were once called the “Naps” after their manager Napoleon Lajoie.
* The Indians name was to honor Louis Sockalexis – a Native American – who had played in Cleveland in the late 1890s.
* Bob Feller was 5-3 as a 17-year-old for the 1936 Indians. In the off season, he completed his senior year of high school.
* Francona has a .530 W/L% (1287-1142).
* Kluber led AL pitchers in wins (18) in 2014 and losses (16) in 2015.
* The Red Sox have 15 players on the active 25-man roster receiving in excess of $1 Million in salary. Price tops the list at 30 Million.
* Game time temp of 33 degrees.
* HP umpire John Hirschbeck had a mystifying strike zone.

David Price. STARTING PITCHING . A-. . Game Ball

Price ( 6 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 10 K, 103 pitches) had an 11 pitch first inning. The two walks in the second were a blimp as after a sac fly Price whiffed four in a row. An 11 pitch at bat against Napoli in the fourth resulted in a questionable called third strike. The fourth inning was a disaster for Price with 33 pitches and four hits for the two runs. Take away that big 33 pitch inning and Price could have gone eight innings.

A+. . Game Ball. Craig Kimbrel. RELIEF PITCHING

Tazawa (IP, 2 K) looked very sharp. Uehara (IP, K) was the old Koji and got a called third strike on Napoli. Napoli was called out three times in the game. Kimbrel ( IP, BB, 2 K) was in a non-save situation and his smoke after Koji’s slow stuff will certainly be an advantage.

B. . Game Ball. Davis Ortiz, Mookie Betts. OFFENSE

Betts had the big home run and a single. Ortiz the home run and a double. Shaw a pair of hits – no doubt

Pablo Sandoval

was impressed. The good news for Panda is Shaw also whiffed three times. Bradley chipped in with a walk and a hit from the ninth slot in the order. Holt a pair of hits. Ramirez a ground ball single up the middle and a single hammered off the RF wall. The LOB was 10 and that means lost opportunities. RISP was 1-7.