BOSTON -- Pitching on Opening Day for the first time in his career -- and the first time since high school -- Rick Porcello helped lead the Red Sox to a well-rounded 5-3 victory on Monday afternoon against the Pirates.The American League's Cy Young Award winner from last season, Porcello
BOSTON -- Pitching on Opening Day for the first time in his career -- and the first time since high school -- Rick Porcello helped lead the Red Sox to a well-rounded 5-3 victory on Monday afternoon against the Pirates.
The American League's Cy Young Award winner from last season, Porcello was vintage over his first six innings, holding the Pirates scoreless. The sinkerballer's overall line (6 1/3 innings, six hits, three earned runs, one walk, five strikeouts) was skewed by two inherited runners scoring after his exit.
"Everything leading up to it, the first time back out there, it's exciting," said Porcello. "Opening Day is a holiday for us in baseball. There's definitely those nerves you battle a little bit. When you get between the lines, it gets back to business."
Rookie Andrew Benintendi, who is ranked baseball's No. 1 prospect by MLBPipeline.com, capped a five-run rally for the Red Sox in the bottom of the fifth with a three-run homer into the Bucs' bullpen in right field.
"It's awesome," said Benintendi. "Something you dream about as a kid. For it to be here, it's awesome."
The drive came off of a 97.8-mph fastball on a 2-2 pitch by Pirates ace Gerrit Cole, who allowed seven hits and five runs over five innings.
"[The intent] was to throw the same one we threw 1-1, [which] kind of froze him," said Cole. "Obviously he was not going to let that one get by him again. Just kind of re-evaluate the sequence and see if we can be one step ahead next time. After we froze him on the one in, he was not going to get frozen again on it. He got the head out."
Red Sox reliever Matt Barnes worked out of traffic in the three-run seventh by the Pirates, striking out Andrew McCutchen on a curveball in the dirt to end the inning. Robby Scott and Richard Hembree got the Red Sox through the eighth. Closer Craig Kimbrel worked around a leadoff double by Josh Bell to earn the save.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Bradley flashes glove, bat:Jackie Bradley Jr. got Porcello out of the fourth with a fine running catch into the railing to the side of the bullpen in right-center to rob Francisco Cervelli of extra bases. The catch probability, according to Statcast™, was 55 percent, making it a three-star grab. But Bradley wasn't done there. With the bases empty and two outs in the fifth, Bradley ignited the game-turning rally with a triple off the short wall in right. The drive had an exit velocity of 110.6 mph, rating as Bradley's hardest hit during the Statcast™ era. Things went south for the Bucs from there.
"I think it gave us a little momentum," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "It was a little bit of a spark. Cole had thrown the ball outstanding and then he gets a fastball in the middle of the plate on a day he was dominant through the first four-plus innings. I think any time you see a triple, it's probably the most exciting play in the game and it further energized us." More >
Beating the shift: Cole had a chance to stop the Red Sox rally after one run, facing catcher Sandy Leon with two outs and Pablo Sandoval on first base. But with the Pirates' infield shifted against the switch-hitter, Leon dropped a bunt down the third-base line. With David Freese out in right field, Pittsburgh had no one there to field it. Cole stared into the dugout after Leon reached safely, and the inning fell apart. Dustin Pedroia singled home one run, then Benintendi's blast gave the Sox a five-run lead. Just like that, on a bunt that came off Leon's bat at 39.8 mph, according to Statcast™, Cole's brilliant first four innings went to waste.
"That's a well-placed bunt on his end," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "We're well-aware of the guys that bunt and when they bunt. It was a situation that he hadn't showed or he hadn't showed with two outs and a runner on first. They are an opportunistic team. They got the bunt down, which extended the inning." More >
"I'm expecting to do well. I'm expecting to compete. I'm expecting them to compete against me. That's it. It's game No. 1." -- McCutchen, who went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Cervelli, who doubled and walked and crushed an out to center, holds the highest average (.422) among active players at Fenway Park. He also leads the Majors with a .457 on-base percentage against the Red Sox since 2008.
It turns out that Bradley's triples are a good-luck charm for the Red Sox. Boston is 12-1 when Bradley gets a three-bagger.
A TROPHY PARTY
There was great excitement from the Fenway faithful when the Super Bowl champion Patriots came out of the Green Monster with all five of their trophies. Quarterback Tom Brady and tight end Rob Gronkowski led an impressive contingent that also included Pats owner Robert Kraft. Brady threw the ceremonial first pitch to Pedroia. More >
• Gronk wrestles away Brady's jersey
Pirates: Right-hander Jameson Taillon will begin his sophomore season against the Red Sox at 7:10 p.m. ET on Wednesday at Fenway Park. Taillon posted a 3.38 ERA as a rookie, and the Bucs are counting on him to take another step forward this season.
Red Sox: Left-hander Chris Sale makes his much-anticipated first start in a Red Sox uniform for Wednesday night's contest against the Pirates. Sale's performance in the early weeks of the season will be crucial for Boston with lefty David Price out indefinitely with a left elbow strain. Sale has made three career starts at Fenway, going 1-1 with a 4.12 ERA.
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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 and Facebook, read his blog and listen to his podcast.