ST. PETERSBURG -- The Red Sox expect to increase their home run total this season, and the first one didn't even have to leave the yard.In the top of the second inning, Eduardo Nunez hit a seemingly routine fly ball against Rays righty Chris Archer that left fielder Denard Span
ST. PETERSBURG -- The Red Sox expect to increase their home run total this season, and the first one didn't even have to leave the yard.
In the top of the second inning, Eduardo Nunez hit a seemingly routine fly ball against Rays righty Chris Archer that left fielder Denard Span and center fielder Kevin Kiermaier converged on, only to both fall down. Kiermaier tripped over Span, and the ball kept going behind them.
By the time Kiermaier chased it down short of the warning track, Nunez had worked up a full head of steam. He came roaring all the way around for an inside-the-park, two-run homer that was punctuated by a headfirst dive.
Span would rebound for the Rays with a bases-clearing triple in Tampa Bay's six-run eighth inning en route to a 6-4 victory over the Red Sox.
Nunez motored from home to home in 15.87 seconds, the fastest by a Red Sox player since Statcast™ started in 2015. His sprint speed was 27.8 feet/per second. The exit velocity on the hit was just 80.5 mph, and the hit probability was 39 percent.
"He got the first home run on our team. I know not a lot of people probably expected an inside-the-parker, but he definitely did," said Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts. "He plays all out. We know he has something going on with his knee, but he's giving 100 percent. Even if it is 90, he's giving the whole 90. That is all we can ask for from him, that every day he comes to the park just to give us his all. That is what he's doing. We know he's not completely ready yet, but he's going to be real good for us."
It was the second inside-the-park homer of Nunez's career, and both have come against the Rays. While with the Twins, he hit his first inside-the-park homer against Matt Moore on June 2, 2016, at Target Field.
Nunez's sprint around the bases was a pretty good indication that he is over the right knee woes that hindered him down the stretch last season and into the offseason.
It was the first inside-the-park home run hit on Opening Day since Stephen Drew in 2010 with the D-backs and the first for the Red Sox since Carl Yastrzemski did so in 1968.
Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.