Red Sox click in Bronx to make winner of Lester
Bradley's talent on display as pitching silences Yanks on Opening Day
NEW YORK -- They were timely at the plate, aggressive on the bases and clutch on the mound. In other words, the Red Sox looked very much like a new team on Monday while notching a satisfying 8-2 Opening Day victory over the rival Yankees in the Bronx.
Coming through when it counted -- be it at the plate or on the mound -- was a trait that seemed non-existent at times for Boston's 2012 squad.
But the Red Sox are looking for this year to be a marked improvement, and the first chapter offered glimpses of why it just might be. It was an auspicious start for John Farrell's tenure as Boston's manager.
In 2011, Boston came out of the gate 0-6. Last year? The club lost five out of six.
"It's big," said left-hander Jon Lester, who earned the win. "Obviously, it's a lot nicer than the last couple years to be on top at 1-0 instead of going through a whole road trip without a win again. It's big for us to come in here and get on a roll and set the tone early for us."
A strong start to the year could mean big things.
"I think whether you're talking about individuals or a team collectively, when you have success early in the year, certainly, the confidence is going to grow," said Farrell. "And particularly with this team -- a number of new faces, a number of guys who signed here in the offseason, wins -- there's a lot of talk about chemistry, but wins are certainly the biggest factor with chemistry and how we jell as a unit."
In this one, there were a lot of people who made the win possible.
Jackie Bradley Jr., making his Major League debut, was an on-base machine, drawing three of Boston's eight walks. He also hustled to second to beat out a key potential force and made a sensational catch in left field.
Then there was Jonny Gomes, hustling home from second on an infield single in the ninth. Boston's entire dugout erupted on that play -- the type of galvanizing moment that was so lacking in 2012.
"It was fun -- Jonny scoring in the ninth right there, you don't see that too often, with an infield single scoring two runs," said center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury. "It's just the type of style we're hoping to bring this year."
A four-run top of the second inning turned out to be the difference in the game. Shane Victorino (two-run single) and Dustin Pedroia (RBI single) accounted for three of the runs in that rally with two outs against Yankees ace CC Sabathia.
Lester had to work hard for the win, throwing 96 pitches over five innings, but he got the job done. The lefty scattered five hits and two runs, walking two and striking out seven.
"I felt good," said Lester. "I had good fastball command and a good cutter today and just really didn't have anything else. It took me until the fifth inning to get a feel for a curveball or a changeup, and I just really had to battle with my fastball and cutter. With that being said, I'm really pleased with the outcome with just those two pitches. It was good."
Aside from a laborious fourth inning, when Lester threw 34 pitches and gave up both of his runs, he looked dominant.
The bullpen got key contributions from just about everybody to close it out.
Lefty Andrew Miller walked the first two batters in the seventh, but he rallied back to strike out the next two, getting Robinson Cano to swing through a 97-mph heater. Then it was Andrew Bailey's turn, and he blew 95-mph heat by Kevin Youkilis to end the threat.
"You love coming in in that situation with the tying run at the plate and the game on the line in that inning," said Bailey. "I just wanted to attack the zone and go right after him."
The Red Sox aren't trying to improve just their record this season, but also their mentality. They want runners being relentless in the pursuit of an extra base and pitchers who come out of the bullpen in attack mode.
"I thought some of the things we established in camp were able to play out here today," said Farrell. "Everybody was looking forward to getting going, getting the season started. There's tremendous energy with this group. The way we ran the bases with some intensity, the one word we continue to talk about in here is to be relentless. I thought we demonstrated that up and down the lineup today."
The Red Sox started their first rally of the season in modest fashion. Jarrod Saltalamacchia drew a one-out walk. Gomes belted a single off the glove of third baseman Jayson Nix. Bradley, in his first Major League plate appearance, came back from an 0-2 count to draw a walk and load the bases against Sabathia.
"He was making some tough pitches," said Bradley. "I was able to lay off them and got it back in my favor. He elevated a two-seam fastball that I knew didn't have a chance to come back down. He had some good movement today."
Jose Iglesias stepped up next and hit one in the hole that shortstop Eduardo Nunez was able to get to. But Bradley roared into second safely, just beating the throw. A run scored -- the first of the season for the Red Sox -- and Iglesias had his first of three hits on the day.
With two outs, Victorino came through with the big hit of the inning, a two-run single to left. Pedroia lined an RBI single to make it a 4-0 game.
"It's always disappointing, not pitching well. This is no different. Opening Day, Game 1 of the playoffs, July 1 -- it doesn't matter," Sabathia said. "You always want to pitch well and try to give your team a chance to win, and I didn't do that today."
In the third, there would be another big contribution from Bradley, who raced back to deep left to snare a line drive off the bat of Cano, ending the inning and saving a run.
"I knew right off the bat it was going to be over my head," Bradley said. "It was one of those balls where you run back and pick a spot where you think it's going to land, and I work on that quite a bit often. I happened to look back up at the right time, and there it was, coming right to me."
Lester kept it a 4-0 game until the fourth, when he ran into a jam and gave up two runs.
The Red Sox added an insurance run in the seventh, when Bradley hit a chopper off the glove of reliever Boone Logan for a 1-4-3 fielder's choice that scored Will Middlebrooks to make it 5-2. It was the first career RBI for Bradley.
And in the ninth, the floodgates opened. With two outs, Ellsbury hit one to the grass beyond second base, and Cano bobbled it for an instant. That took away any chance Cano had at a play at first, and then Gomes sprinted around third and never stopped, making it a two-run single.
"Good win for us," said Pedroia. "Good way to start the season."