Ex-Red Sox roundup includes Mookie vs. Bard, Pablo bomb, JBJ debut originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
Opening Day is in the books, and even if the Red Sox didn't play, a number of players with Boston ties took the field. Let's take a quick look around the league to see how they performed.
1. Mookie Betts vs. Daniel Bard
How's this for a save? Former Red Sox reliever Daniel Bard, who was such an inspirational story last year when he returned to the mound for the first time since 2013, found himself protecting Colorado's three-run lead over the Dodgers in the most tenuous possible fashion.
A triple, walk, and hit batter loaded the bases with two outs for none other than former Red Sox MVP Mookie Betts. Bard immediately put Betts in an 0-2 hole with a pair of swinging strikes before Betts fouled off fastballs of 99 and 100 mph.
Barnes tried to put Betts away with a slider that caught too much of the plate, but Betts softly lined it to second to end the game and give Bard his first save of the season (watch at 8:54 in the video below). From a player who couldn't throw strikes for years to one closing games for the Rockies, Bard's journey remains awe-inspiring.
2. Pablo goes yard
Remember Pablo Sandoval? Five years removed from the end of his disastrous stint in Boston, the Kung Fu Panda is now a pinch hitter/corner infielder for the Braves. He wasted no time making his presence felt on Thursday vs. the division rival Phillies.
Called upon to pinch hit in the seventh of a 2-0 game with the tying run on second, Sandoval promptly drove everyone home by unloading on an Aaron Nola fastball and launching it 417 feet to right field for a majestic two-run bomb. Statcast had the exit velocity at a little over 111 mph.
Sandoval may be round, but the 34-year-old brings a particularly useful skill to the National League, since he's now batting .313 lifetime as a pinch hitter, with four homers and 24 RBIs.
That swing represented the 14-year veteran's entire day of work, by the way. He made it count.
3. Royals get the full Benintendi experience
We've already caught you up on Andrew Benintendi's stellar catch along the left field wall in his Royals debut, but it was preceded by a less inspiring effort.
In fact, the very first ball hit Benintendi's way in his very first inning in a new uniform quickly turned into a disaster, as he failed to corral Nate Lowe's bases-loaded drive while diving at the line (watch at 1:25 in the video below). The ball rolled towards the wall and cleared the bases as part of a five-run first for the Rangers, but Benintendi and the Royals got the last laugh in a wild 14-10 victory.
Benintendi went 1 for 5 with a walk and two runs, and his tremendous catch later in the first helped limit the damage before the offense came alive.
It should also be noted that former Red Sox fan favorite Brock Holt started at third and batted sixth for the Rangers, reaching base four times in five plate appearances on a single and three walks.
4. Short day for Jackie Bradley Jr., big one for Travis Shaw
Bradley's first action in a Brewers uniform was of the blink-and-you-missed-it variety. He pinch hit leading off the sixth, lofting a lazy fly ball to right on the first pitch he saw. He did not play in the field.
Bradley signed with the Brewers late in the offseason, eventually agreeing to a two-year, $24 million contract. He's joining a crowded outfield, with former MVP Christian Yelich penciled into left and the trio of Bradley, Lorenzo Cain, and Avisail Garcia rotating between center and right.
Cain has spent his entire Brewers career in center, where he won a Gold Glove in 2019. On Thursday, he raced home with the winning run to walk off the Twins in 10 innings.
The Brewers were only in a position to win the game because another former Red Sox player, third baseman Travis Shaw, stroked a two-out, two-run double in the ninth to tie the game. Shaw is back in Milwaukee after spending last year in Toronto, where he hit just .239. He went 2 for 4 with a walk and three RBIs on Thursday.