BOSTON -- The act of crossing home plate had been impossible for nearly four hours on Wednesday night at Fenway Park until Sandy Leon suddenly set off a late-night celebration.The catcher belted a three-run walk-off homer to left with one out in the bottom of the 12th inning against Pirates
BOSTON -- The act of crossing home plate had been impossible for nearly four hours on Wednesday night at Fenway Park until Sandy Leon suddenly set off a late-night celebration.
The catcher belted a three-run walk-off homer to left with one out in the bottom of the 12th inning against Pirates lefty Antonio Bastardo to give the Red Sox a thrilling 3-0 win.
It had been a game dominated by pitching, first with a compelling duel between new Red Sox ace Chris Sale (seven innings, three hits, one walk, seven strikeouts) and promising Pirates right-hander Jameson Taillon (seven innings, five hits, six strikeouts), and then by both bullpens.
"Classic pitchers' duel through seven innings between the two starters," said Red Sox manager John Farrell.
One swift flick of the wrists by Leon brought the first scoring play of the game, giving Boston a 2-0 start to open the season. It was the first walk-off hit of Leon's career.
"Awesome," said Leon. "A long game like that, you're just trying to get a win for the team. I'm not a home run hitter, so I was just trying to get a good pitch to hit. I was just trying to keep it simple and get a base hit so [Jackie Bradley Jr.] could score. The pitch was right in the middle, so I put a good swing on it and it was a homer."
Bradley started the winning rally by reaching base for the third time on the night with a one-out walk against Bastardo, and then stole second. Pablo Sandoval, who isn't known for his plate discipline, worked an eight-pitch walk.
Up stepped Leon, who smoked an 0-1 pitch over the Green Monster.
"I missed right in the middle," Bastardo said. "That was my mistake right there, and I paid for it."
The only thing Sale lacked in his debut for the Red Sox was run support. Sale walked one and struck out seven, throwing 104 pitches. He induced 14 swings and misses and left with the game scoreless.
Joe Kelly earned the win with two strong innings.
"The way this one was going, we were having conversations in the dugout, you could see this possibly 15, 16 innings," said Farrell. "Just on a cold night where the ball really wasn't traveling, fortunately Sandy had enough to get it out of here."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Nobody's on second: The Pirates didn't get a runner to second base all night, leaving six men on base but no one in scoring position. Their best chance might have been in the ninth inning, which Jordy Mercer led off by reaching safely when Sandoval booted a grounder. Up came Starling Marte, who decided to try to bunt over Mercer. The attempt was unsuccessful, with Marte popping out to Sandoval in foul territory, leaving Mercer at first.
Dustin Pedroia cut down Mercer at second on a hard-bouncing ball off the bat of Andrew McCutchen -- who is hitless through two games -- and Craig Kimbrel got Gregory Polanco to ground out to escape the inning unscathed.
"Marte felt it was the best move for him to try to win the game," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "I'm not going to second-guess my players publicly, ever. I know it's hard to bunt a guy that throws almost 100 mph, I would think. However, that's the initiative he took to try to help us win a game."
Glove work helps Red Sox win it: Pedroia helped keep the game at a stalemate with a brilliant snare of a McCutchen hot shot in the ninth. Just as the ball looked ready to take a high hop into a patch of outfield grass for a base hit, Pedroia dove and snagged it, throwing to second for a force. And what would a Red Sox game be without Bradley making a great play? To open the eighth, the center fielder swooped in and made a sliding catch to rob Polanco of a hit. According to Statcast™, it was a four-star catch with a 49 percent Catch Probability. Bradley traveled 81 feet on the play and took 4.6 seconds to do so.
"I saw he didn't get all of it so I just tucked my head and started running in," said Bradley. "I was able to pick it up at the last little bit."
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
The last time the Red Sox had a shutout at Fenway Park in a game 12 innings or more was on July 15, 1971, against the Twins. Remarkably, that one also ended with a 3-0 final score on a three-run walk-off homer, that one hit by Rico Petrocelli that scored Reggie Smith and Carl Yastrzemski in the 13th.
"I'm not going to overcook this thing offensively. They threw some good stuff at us. Chris Sale is a quality pitcher. The guys out of the bullpen had some power with some spin. We're up there battling. It's two games into the season. We've got work to do in front of us." -- Hurdle
"It's a long time to play. Obviously I didn't sign up for 12, but it was nice to get the win. All the better having your catcher go out there and walk it off. That's special." -- Sale
With offense at a premium, Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts tried to leg out an infield hit on a slow roller to third baseman David Freese. The throw to first arrived right around the time Bogaerts was crossing the bag. First-base umpire Chris Guccione called Bogaerts out, and Farrell issued his first challenge of the season, but the call stood.
Pirates: Right-hander Chad Kuhl will make his season debut Thursday in the Pirates' 1:35 p.m. ET series finale against the Red Sox at Fenway Park. Kuhl is coming off a solid rookie season in which he went 5-4 with a 4.20 ERA over 14 starts. Gregory Polanco is expected to be the Bucs' designated hitter, with Adam Frazier returning to left field.
Red Sox: Left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez makes his first start Thursday. The lefty will try to pitch better at Fenway than he did last year, when he went 0-4 with a 6.02 ERA in nine starts.
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Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.
Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry.