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Eric Wilbur's Sports Blog

A Pretty Much Perfect Way to Kick Off the Baseball Season in Boston


COMMENTARY

Of course it wasn’t all perfect.

But a lot of it was.

Perfect weather. Perfect pregame. Perfect result.

Perfectly ugly for the Washington Nationals.

The Boston Red Sox kicked off the 2015 home season at Fenway Park by trouncing the underwhelming darlings of the National League. Oh, what a train wreck for the Nationals, who entered the 2015 season as World Series favorites, but have gone 2-5 to start the season. On Monday, it was easy to see why.

Nationals starter Jordan Zimmerman allowed nine “hits” and eight runs over only 2 1/3 innings. He watched the fielders behind him play as if they missed the last six weeks of spring training. Meanwhile, the Red Sox rolled to a 9-4 victory that never in doubt despite Rick Porcello’s propensity to give up a few long balls here and there along the way before a sellout crowd of 37,023 at Fenway Park which included Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, Bob and Jonathan Kraft, and Pete Frates in a stirring pregame ceremony.

If anything, that pomp and circumstance is usually what we remember from Opening Day at Fenway. On Monday, it was but a bit part of the perfection.

On the stat-sheet, Porcello wasn’t much better than in his Red Sox debut last week in Philadelphia (six innings, six hits, three earned runs), which is to say good, but not, “Whoa, that’s what $82.5 million will get ya” good. But after Clay Buchholz left the Red Sox bullpen in dire straits Sunday night in the Bronx, it was the best four-run outing Boston could have asked from its new…are we still doing the whole “ace” thing or not?

Porcello mowed down the Nationals with efficiency over the first four innings, before allowing his first two scores of the game in the fifth. But by then it was already 8-0, with Mookie Betts (robbing Bryce Harper of a home run in the first, stealing two bags in the bottom of the inning, then adding a three-run home run in the second inning) having done most of the damage.

Brady Frates.jpg


Ryan Zimmerman touched Porcello for a solo shot in the fifth. Danny Espinoza followed in the eighth with one of his own.

By then, this Opening Day was in the bag. Hell, that had been the case pretty much from the moment Betts electrified the crowd with his stunning catch in the bottom of the first.

“Dirty Water” was already cued to be played, which was an inevitability the way this day went.

David Ortiz homered. Pablo Sandoval added two hits in his Fenway debut. And Mookie. Mookie, Mookie, Mookie.

Perfect, right?

No banner was raised, no rings were handed out, and no World Series trophies graced the Fenway infield (that was reserved for the four Lombardi Trophies that the Krafts, Belichick, and Brady brought along with them). And yet, it was one of the most memorable Opening Days in memory. How could it not have been?

We had to expect this day would deliver as soon as waking up, when bright sunshine broke into our blinds, and announced that yes, you had officially made it to baseball season, even after the snowiest winter in Boston history. It sounds cliche to say that the sight of the grass was the most welcome sight on Opening Day, but for a town that could barely find pavement this spring, you take it. A perfect — I mean truly perfect — Opening Day isn’t something of the norm in these parts. Bostonians like to welcome spring on March 20, then complain that it isn’t 85 degrees and sunny by the end of the month.

It was reason alone to celebrate, a mere sidebar to the sight of watching Brady throw out ceremonial first pitch (in the dirt, low and away) to Ortiz, Frates signing a deal with the Red Sox, and the sight of the Richard family play such a pivotal pregame role in the beginning of another season.

As for the Red Sox, they just didn’t look like the team that finished 2014 in last place. They’re 5-2 through seven games, leading the American League East with a mere 155 to go. But they feel different, in no small part to the additions of Sandoval, Ramirez, and Porcello, who all contributed in some small part on Monday. If Porcello took the mound for last year’s Red Sox, he’d be 0-2 and Boston would be scrambling to find offensive answers once again.

Instead, they’ve scored at least six runs in five of their seven games. Last season, Boston scored six runs in five…of its first 19 games.

In 2015, the Fenway season has already seen a lot more offensive promise than that, not to mention Brady bringing the Lombardi Trophy, taking a selfie with Ortiz in the tunnel (before taking batting practice with Pedro Martinez), and causing a stir with the large No. 5 plastered on his choice of T-shirt.

Is that a message from the Patriots quarterback to the rest of the NFL, that he’s seeking Super Bowl win No. 5? Probably. Yeah.

But hey, we’re a long way from that, not to mention October, when these Red Sox hope to prove the fixes they made in the offseason were indeed dramatic enough to put them over the top.

That would be the perfect ending, but for now, we’ll take this.

Because it was one hell of an Opening Day.

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