Red Sox 5 – Pirates 3: Three final thoughts

Apr 3, 2017; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox left fielder Andrew Benintendi (16) celebrates with center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. (19) and right fielder Mookie Betts (50) during the ninth inning at Fenway Park. The Boston Red Sox won 5-3. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 3, 2017; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox left fielder Andrew Benintendi (16) celebrates with center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. (19) and right fielder Mookie Betts (50) during the ninth inning at Fenway Park. The Boston Red Sox won 5-3. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports /

Just like that, Opening Day has come and gone. The Boston Red Sox jumped out to a 5-run lead and never looked back, winning their season opener 5-3 over the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The lineup did their job and Porcello was excellent as the Red Sox took game one of the season. The bats were silent for the first four innings before exploding to put up a five spot in the fifth and chase Pirates ace, Gerrit Cole.

We’ll get to the game highlights in a little bit, but there were some interesting events in the pregame to cover. First of all, Chris Sale had the loudest ovation of any Red Sox player announced. That has to make him feel comfortable here, given the contentious reputation that the Boston market carries with it. Second, Pablo Sandoval was actually received well by the Fenway Faithful. I didn’t expect him to be booed on Opening Day, but I was impressed that he got the positive response he did.

If you’re into celebrating excellence, the New England Patriots stopped by to show off their five (!) Lombardi Trophies. Robert Kraft, Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, James White, and Dion Lewis were on hand to celebrate. Brady even showed off his Super Bowl LI game jersey, before Gronk made a half-hearted play at stealing it.

Brady also threw out the first pitch to fellow Boston champion Dustin Pedroia.

Rick Porcello gives the Red Sox six strong innings, one bad inning

All in all, he pitched much better than his final line suggests. He gave the Sox six scoreless innings, allowing just three hits and one walk while striking out five. Having thrown 81 pitches in a cold climate during his season debut, that should have been it for the Cy Young winner. Instead, John Farrell sent him out for the seventh inning where fatigue set in and he noticeably ran out of gas. Along with his first win of the year, his final line reads 6.1 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 5 Ks and 1BB.

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During the good innings, Porcello was spotting his off-speed pitches and commanding the corners of the strike zone with his two-seamer. In the seventh, he started to leave his fastball and changeup high and in on right-handed hitters, a tell-tale sign that his arm didn’t have the juice left to keep up with his body. He would give up a single to David Freese and double to Francisco Cervelli before a Josh Harrison single knocked him out of the game. Matt Barnes failed to strand the two inherited baserunners and Porcello’s final line was impacted accordingly.

He really did pitch better than his numbers suggest and put the Red Sox in a spot to win the game, which at the end of the day, is all we can ask for. In a larger sense, this performance should settle some of the anxiety surrounding the club’s pitching staff. I said it in my pregame notes and I’ll reiterate the point here, that if Porcello and Sale are effective at the top of the rotation, it will go a long way toward mitigating the loss of David Price. We’ll see Sale in his first official start with the Red Sox on Wednesday.

Andrew Benintendi stays hot, locks up the Rookie of the Year Award on day one

Okay, he hasn’t locked it up yet, but he showed why he’s the consensus favorite to walk home with the hardware at the end of the season. With Sandy Leon and Dustin Pedroia on base in the fifth, he launched a three-run bomb into the right field bullpens to give the Red Sox the 5-0 lead they carried into the seventh. MLB Advanced Media measured the homer at 405 ft with a 105mph exit velocity. Safe to say the offseason workouts have done their job.

In addition to his great day at the plate, Beni made a number of important plays in the outfield. In the top of the seventh, he faked out David Freese and pretended to camp under a fly ball that ended up rattling off the monster, freezing him on the basepaths. Freese had all day to round the diamond on the base hit and would have easily scored, were it not for Beni’s baseball IQ and situational awareness. Later in the inning, he made a great leaping grab to surely prevent multiple runs from scoring and preserve a sacrifice fly.

The 22-year old phenom ended finishing the day 1-for-4 with the homer and 3 runs batted in. If today’s performance on both sides of the ball is any indication, the kid’s more than capable of living up to the hype.

Farrell gives a potential sign of how he intends to use the bullpen

If you had asked me how the Red Sox bullpen projected to line up a month ago, I would’ve told you Craig Kimbrel in the ninth, Tyler Thornburg in the eighth, Joe Kelly or Matt Barnes in the seventh, and Robbie Ross Jr as the LOOGY. With the Thornburg on the DL to start the season, most of us expected everyone else to just move up in the order. Well, Farrell has other plans – Ross and Kelly seem to have been replaced by Robby Scott and Heath Hembree respectively.

I know it’s day one and we shouldn’t read into things too heavily, but this was an odd move. Ross was the primary lefty for the club last year and despite his struggles in the spring, there wasn’t much talk of him finding himself in any other role. Instead, feel-good story Robby Scott came into retire to Gregory Polanco in the of the eighth. More puzzling, is that Heath Hembree was called upon to finish the eighth inning over Joe Kelly in a two-run game, given how dominant he was as a full-time reliever last season.

As surprising as the moves were, they worked, and for the time being, Farrell won’t get any criticism for his bullpen usage. This might not be a true sign of how he intends to utilize his relievers long-term, but it’s certainly a situation worth paying attention to.

Next: Red Sox vs. Pirates Series Preview

Minor Notes

  • Xander Bogaerts went 2-for-4 with a pair of steals and looks motivated to prove that he’s better than the six-spot in the lineup
  • Pablo Sandoval was actually useful in a meaningful game! He went 1-for-4 with a RBI infield single
  • Craig Kimbrel was his usual self as he gave up a double, hit a batter on a 0-2 count, but ultimately struck out two and induced a pop-up to collect the save

#WinDanceRepeat number one is in the books.