After a long winter, and a long day, for that matter, Red Sox Nation didn’t have much to cheer for by the second inning of Thursday’s season opener. The Sox scored in the top of the first and second innings but the Mariners pummeled starter Chris Sale with three in the bottom of the second and four more the next inning.
Sale was gone by the end of the third but not before allowing seven, including three home runs off the bats of Tim Beckham (twice) and Edwin Encarnación. To put that in greater perspective, Sale allowed just 11 HR in all of the 2018. The three blasts tied Sale with Jon Lester (2011), Dennis Eckersley (1980), Tom Sturdivant (1960) and Alex Ferguson (1925) for most home runs allowed by a Red Sox Opening Day starter since at least 1908.
Sale’s start, the fifth Opening Day nod of his career, was startling, to say the least. To this point, Seattle had been an easy target for him with quality starts in each of his 10 career starts against the Mariners, working into at least the seventh inning in each.
“He was very erratic with fastball location, the slider wasn’t great,” Manager Alex Cora noted of Sale after the game. “We’ll keep working, he’ll be ready for the next one, and we’ll go from there.”
Sale told the media he’s not in any way physically impaired, but admitted that his repertoire was substandard. “Fast ball’s in, leaking over the plate. Breaking ball is just kind of spinning in there, not doing a whole lot. Just bad…Throw this one in the trash can.”
The Sox bullpen, a concern throughout the winter for Red Sox Nation after the departures of Joe Kelly and Craig Kimbrel, allowed four more runs, two by Hector Velázquez and two from Tyler Thornburg. One of the two runs charged to Velazquez came on a bases loaded walk issued by Heath Hembree. It was just the second time in Hembree’s career (205 total appearances, 24 bases loaded opportunities) that he had walked a run in to score.
When the smoke cleared, the Mariners had pounded the Red Sox 12-4. The 12 runs tied for the second-most allowed by Red Sox pitchers since 1908 in an Opening Day game. The other such occurrences came in 2002 (in a game started by Pedro Martinez) and in 1926. The Sox allowed a club record 15 runs in the first game of 1950 facing the Yankees.
Despite some sloppy field play (both teams made two errors), Boston sluggers recorded 11 hits, including three off the bat of reigning American League MVP Mookie Betts and two from J.D. Martinez. Every Sox player had at least one hit save for Mitch Moreland.