The first game of the Post-Papi Era was a satisfying Red Sox win in a rare visit to Boston by the Pirates for the start the 2017 campaign.
Amid the pomp and ceremony of a new Sox season there were Patriots and fireworks (thanks to an Andrew Benintendi blast over the right field wall), and even well wishes from David Ortiz himself, albeit through social media, not in person.
The Sox, held scoreless into the fifth inning, suddenly erupted for the entirety of their runs, all coming with two outs. After a triple by the club’s 2016 triples leader, Jackie Bradley Jr., a fleet-footed and highly motivated Pablo Sandoval beat out an infield single that put the Sox on the board. A surprising bunt against the shift by Sandy León put two men on in time for a 384-foot blast off the bat of Benintendi.
After the game, Manager John Farrell said the decision to bunt was León’s. “We want our guys to play the game,” Farrell said. “That’s an attack on Sandy’s part that he’s worked on, and it worked here today.”
At 22 years, 271 days old, Monday’s home run made Benintendi the youngest Sox player to homer on Opening Day since Mookie Betts two seasons ago. “For a guy of his stature,” Farrell noted of the latest rookie phenom, “there’s such great timing and fluidity to the swing, he creates easy power.”
The 2016 American League Cy Young Award winner, Rick Porcello, did not disappoint in his first ever Opening Day start. Porcello allowing three earned runs on six hits with a walk and five strikeouts. His 6.1 innings of work marked his 42nd consecutive start with at least 5.0+ IP, the longest such active streak in the league and, after 56 such starts by Luis Tiant, the second longest by a Red Sox pitcher since 1913.
Porcello had held the Pirates scoreless for 23.0 IP before allowing 3 ER in the seventh on Monday. With the win he improved to 3-0, 1.23 ERA in four career starts against the Bucs.
Hits Keep Coming
Even without the Large Father, the hits kept coming for the Red Sox.
In all, the Sox amassed 10 hits starting, one would hope, a new string of double-digit hit games. In 2016, fully half of Boston’s games featured 10+ hits, the most of all the major league clubs.
Dustin Pedroia, unquestionably now the leader of a large body of stats for active Red Sox, was 1-for-4 on Monday, his 11th straight Opening Day at second base for Boston. Pedroia’s is the 2nd-longest consecutive Opening Day start streak at any position in club history, trailing only Carl Yastrzemski’s 12-start streak in left field (1961-72). The game also marked Pedey’s 1,399th major league game, tying him with Dom DiMaggio for 11th on the club’s All-Time Games Played List. He’ll need 147 more to meet Jason Varitek at #10 on that list.