TOKYO - Home run hero Tuesday. Strikeout machine yesterday.
Tuesday night, Brandon Moss became the first player in big league history to hit his first career home run while playing in the Eastern hemisphere. Moss's ninth-inning, one-out blast off Oakland closer Huston Street sent the Red Sox and A's into extra innings and cleared the path for Manny Ramírez's game-winning double in the 10th.
Moss again filled in for J.D. Drew (back spasms) in right field yesterday and struck out three straight times before being lifted for a pinch hitter in the ninth inning of Boston's 5-1 loss.
Moss, who barring injury wasn't slated to be on the 25-man roster when the Red Sox start playing real games again, was optioned to Pawtucket after the game, though he'll stick with the big club for the exhibitions in Los Angeles this weekend. He was brought to Japan because Major League Baseball allowed temporary 28-man rosters for the two teams making the trek to the Far East. The 24-year-old prospect didn't learn he was making the trip until the day before the Red Sox left Florida. He didn't know he was in the Opening Night starting lineup until a few minutes before the first pitch, when Drew came up lame with back tightness. Moss responded with two hits, an RBI single in the sixth, and the game-saving clout in the ninth.
It got a lot harder yesterday against Rich Harden, who fanned nine in six dominant innings. Moss went down swinging twice against Harden, then whiffed again when Santiago Casilla came on to pitch the seventh. With one on and none out in the ninth, Terry Francona sent up lefthanded-hitting veteran Sean Casey to hit for Moss against lefthander Alan Embree. Casey grounded into a double play.
The Sox wanted him to work on his first base play in the Dominican, but Moss's team needed outfielders and he played first only once during the winter. He reported to spring training in Fort Myers early, worked on his first base defense, and hit .308 with two homers and seven RBIs in 18 exhibition games. Still, he's not ready to play first in the bigs yet, and there's no spot for him on the roster as long as the Sox have four healthy outfielders.
In center by designCoco Crisp started in center field in place of Jacoby Ellsbury yesterday, but Francona said it had nothing to do with Ellsbury suffering whiplash after running into the wall making a catch in Tuesday's opener. The plan, Francona said, was to mix and match as many players as he could to keep them fresh. Crisp doubled in three at-bats.
Francona said he is not ready to inform Crisp how he plans to deploy him this season, other than to all but rule out any type of strict platoon with Ellsbury.
"I don't know what the outline is, and [Crisp] knows that," Francona said. "I just told him to be patient during this trip because he hasn't really had his legs under him a whole lot. But he's shown to be pretty healthy. That's why we're playing him [yesterday]. I can't promise guys stuff that I don't know, but I know I'll promise him that I'll communicate with him and be honest with him.
"I'm not sure that I have all the answers to this one. I'm not sure I'm supposed to. I just know I want to win every game we can and put the right lineup out there, and when we do that, I owe guys conversations because that's part of my responsibility."
Striking performanceJason Varitek had a horrific two games at the plate here. Varitek, who hit into a double play and struck out three times in the opener, struck out three more times in going 0 for 4 in the second game . . . Hideki Okajima became only the second pitcher in big league history to win in his home country (excluding the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico). Okajima, who pitched a scoreless ninth inning and got credit for the decision when Ramírez broke a 4-all tie in the 10th, joins Fernando Valenzuela, then pitching for the Padres, who beat the Mets in Monterrey, Mexico, Aug. 16, 1996 . . . Varitek's run of starting nine straight openers is the longest by a Sox player since outfielder Mike Greenwell started nine in a row from 1988-96 . . . Mr. Personality: Ramírez, who for much of his time in Boston has skirted doing personal appearances, yesterday did a question-and-answer session and signed autographs for Red Sox Destinations, the fan group that traveled here as part of a tour package offered by the team. Ramírez did the event with Alex Cora, and his participation was another example of what has been a startling transformation of Ramírez's public persona.
Weekend plansFrancona said he expects Bartolo Colon to throw between 60 and 75 pitches when he faces the Dodgers in Dodger Stadium tomorrow night. In a best-case scenario, the Sox are targeting Josh Beckett to start next weekend in Toronto . . . Sean Casey had his first at-bat in a Sox uniform yesterday, pinch hitting for Moss, and grounded into a double play against Alan Embree in the ninth . . . David Aardsma, competing for the last spot in the Sox' bullpen, had an impressive outing, striking out three in 1 2/3 scoreless innings . . . The opener drew an 8.9 rating and 30 audience share on NESN . . . Opening Day, 1953: Ted Williams was in Japan for a week of R&R, baseball historian Bill Nowlin writes, in the midst of his combat tour in Korea. Just in time for the opener, he sent a telegram from Toyonaka addressed to Lou Boudreau. It was read to those assembled in the Red Sox clubhouse before the April 16 game: "Best of everything to you and all the boys - Ted Williams." Boston won that game, 11-6. Five days later, Williams returned to ready status. He was about to fly 10 missions in a seven-day span. It was a stretch that ended with another "brush with death."
Daigo Fujiwara of the Globe staff contributed to this report.