The Boston Red Sox kicked off the post-David Ortiz era with a commanding 5-3 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates at Fenway Park on a beautiful fresh April afternoon. Last year’s Cy Young winner Rick Porcello picked up the win for the Sox, with Craig Kimbrel collecting his first save of the season with opener Gerrit Cole picking up the L.
Porcello pitched a beauty for the Sox going 6.1 innings, giving up 3 runs off of 6 hits with 5 ks and only 1 walk. Cole lasted 5 innings, getting lit up for 5 runs in the bottom of the 5th the Pirates ace gave up 7 hits and a walk, a homer and only 2 strikeouts.
Porcello had all his pitches working well for him, with his fastball, particularly on form. Behind the plate, Sandy Leon was having a fine day with excellent glovework, lightning fast feet and a cannon arm, which gunned down Gregory Polanco stealing second.
The Red Sox debuted free agent signing Mitch Moreland at first base and his performance will have encouraged the Fenway faithful as he demonstrated excellent defence at the position but went 0-4 at the plate striking out twice.
The star of the show for the Red Sox was Rookie outfielder Andrew Benintendi who went 1-4 at the plate with a monster 3 run home run in the 5th with two out to put the Sox up by 5. Before that Sandoval had hit in Betts with a grounder through the gap and a fantastic bunt by Sandy Leon set up the Pedroia to knock in Sandoval before Benintendi went yard.
The Red Sox defence was quality throughout with only one fielding error going to Pablo Sandoval who put a regulation throw over to first in the dirt to allow a runner on base. Jackie Bradley Jr made an excellent put out early in the game sprinting to make a grab right against the visiting dugout wall. Benintendi and Betts also defended their outfield corners well, Benintendi navigating some tricky bounces off the Monster like a seasoned veteran.
On the other hand, the Pirates had some struggles in the outfield, most notably superstar Andrew McCutchen found the dimensions in right a struggle all afternoon.
The Pirates made things interesting at the top of the 7th putting 3 runs on the board and running Porcello from the game. Freese, Cervelli and Harrison being battered in through some good small ball from the Pirates manufacturing runs through sharply hit singles and a sac fly for the Harrison run from Starling Marte. Matt Barnes inherited 2 runners and they both scored, but he was able to strike out McCutchen to get out of the jam.
Both sides would rely on their bullpens for the remainder of the game and the Sox pen did a fine job. Scott and Hembree held the eighth before Craig Kimbrel came in to close out the win with his 98 Mph fastball in the ninth. Kimbrel allowed a hit to Bell who had been jammed inside all day long, before burning past Harrison and Mercer with his red hot fastball. The Sox fans were on tender hooks as Kimbrel’s offspeed pitch got away from him, hitting Frazier, but in the end, a popup to Moreland in foul ground secured the win for the home side.
All in all a fantastic way to start the season in Boston, with some standout performances from Benintendi, Leon, JBJ and Betts. Pablo Sandoval put in a good shift and is looking noticeably leaner than at any other time in his Red Sox career, legging it out from second to cross for the second run in the 5th.
Both sides have an off day tomorrow before returning to Fenway Wednesday night where Sox fans will get to see Chris Sale going up against Jameson Taillon for his first start in his new home. The powerful lefty was treated to a fantastic reception when announced prior to Monday’s game and will be sure to receive much the same when he toes the rubber Wednesday.