Tomase: Bad only slightly outweighs the good in non-disastrous Sox opener originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
Opening Day arrived with its typical pomp and circumstance. Flyovers! Giant American flags! Umm . . . Dana Barros? (Yeah, Dana Barros! Don't you dare diss the pride of Mattapan, Xaverian, BC, and now Stoughton).
But something started feeling amiss right around pregame introductions, when long-retired catcher Jason Varitek earned the loudest ovation, and a Red Sox hype man desperately embellished the starting lineup. Rafael Devers is gonna be in Boston for the next 10 years! Masataka Yoshida just won the World Baseball Classic! Corey Kluber is a two-time Cy Young Award winner!
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Red Sox overreactions: Poor pitching spoils Opening Day vs. O's
It all felt forced, befitting an endeavor that has lost its luster at roughly the same speed the Red Sox have shed homegrown All-Stars. Opening Day once marked the unofficial arrival of spring around here, but now it's merely what happens between Lamar Jackson trade rumors. ("T-Pain told Mr. Kraft that Lamar loves picking up Le Creuset at the Wrentham Outlets!")
But give the Red Sox this much – just when it appeared they'd be blown out of their own building to set a horrible tone on a 2023 season that already borders on buzzless, they showed enough fight, especially offensively, to forestall their obituary.
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I can't really crush them today, because the ratio of negatives to positives basically mirrored the 10-9 final vs. the Orioles. The Red Sox spent the winter carefully constructing a pitching staff that would absolutely, positively throw strikes, and then promptly tied a franchise record for an opener with nine walks. All of those extra baserunners contributed to five of the easiest steals the Orioles will ever record while running wild.
But after falling behind 5-1, 7-2, and 10-4, the Red Sox still made a game of it, aided in part by some sloppy Baltimore defense. New left fielder Masataka Yoshida looked like the real deal, going 2 for 4 with an RBI and easily turning around a 95 mph fastball over the inside corner. Rafael Devers hit rockets from pole to pole. Justin Turner and Alex Verdugo recorded two hits apiece. The offense had some juice.
The Red Sox outscored the Orioles 5-0 over the final two innings and nearly completed the comeback in the ninth before Adam Duvall struck out with the tying run on second to end it.
So while no one's suggesting we should feel good about yet another 0-1 start, at least the Red Sox avoided an unmitigated disaster.
"You want to win the first one. We'll try it again next year," said manager Alex Cora. "It's just the way we played, too. You'd rather play a crisp 3-2 game, 1-0 game, but that wasn't the case. But you take the positive at the end. We battled and had traffic. Offensively we did a lot of good things."
If Opening Day is a time for grand proclamations, how about this one: The Red Sox and Orioles looked like two teams playing for last place in baseball's best division. That doesn't mean either of them are terrible, just that they should prepare to be outclassed by the Yankees, Jays, and Rays, who all won on Thursday.
"We played with good fight today," Turner said. "The guys kept taking punches and kept going and kept punching back and gave ourselves a chance to win a game in the ninth inning. I'm proud of what we did. We just fell a little short."
The Red Sox get back at it on Saturday, with ace Chris Sale on the mound, where he should hopefully outperform the three innings Corey Kluber provided against the O's.
The Red Sox can ill afford a slow start and they've already dug themselves a hole. That it wasn't as calamitous as it could've been buys them another day, but that's it. The baseball season is long. We can only hope it's not lonnnnnnnng.