ST. PETERSBURG -- The dominant and fully healthy David Price was back and strikingly efficient. The electric Craig Kimbrel was in vintage form despite pitching just twice in Spring Training. And Alex Cora had his first win as manager of the Red Sox, riding his No. 2 starter and elite
ST. PETERSBURG -- The dominant and fully healthy David Price was back and strikingly efficient. The electric Craig Kimbrel was in vintage form despite pitching just twice in Spring Training. And Alex Cora had his first win as manager of the Red Sox, riding his No. 2 starter and elite closer to a 1-0 victory over the Rays on Friday night at Tropicana Field.
Cora was doused in beer by his players after the game, and it was clear the bitter taste of losing a 4-0 lead on Opening Day had vanished.
"It's great," Cora said. "A lot of good thoughts. I think about my dad -- he passed away when I was 13 -- and how important he was. [My brother] Joey, plus the 25 people that are here. And my mom back home; I bet she's going nuts right now. For how bad it was yesterday, this is awesome. A 1-0 game. I've really had both ends of the spectrum. I'm happy, but more happy for those guys. David bouncing back, having a good outing. Kimbrel on the mound. It's great."
For Price, it was sweet to start the season with such an impressive performance after being limited to just 11 starts last season by elbow woes.
Pitching at the venue he called home for so many years, Price made himself at home in this one, carving up the Rays for seven dazzling innings in which he threw just 76 pitches.
"I felt good," Price said. "Getting that first win of the year, that was big. I felt like every five days dating back to March 5, I feel like I've gotten better. So, I felt good."
The Red Sox feel very good after watching their co-aces -- Chris Sale and Price -- put up zeros in 13 innings over the first two games.
"It's not easy to face those big names on the mound," Rays catcher Wilson Ramos said. "Those guys were throwing the ball really good. They've got experience, but you know, this season started yesterday, and we've got a lot of opportunity to face those guys again, and make an adjustment, and try and hit the ball better."
The eighth inning, which was so problematic on Opening Day, was handled by Matt Barnes on Friday, and he worked around a walk for a scoreless frame.
Throw in Kimbrel, who struck out all three batters he faced in the ninth for his first save, and there wasn't much the Rays could do in this one.
For Kimbrel, who spent three weeks of Spring Training back in Boston as his four-month-old daughter recovered from heart surgery, it was an impressive start to his season.
"It was a very tough offseason and an abbreviated Spring Training, but we made it work," Kimbrel said. "Every part of the organization and people outside of the organization did everything they could to help me get ready. I was just happy I was able to do it and my daughter was able to heal and do as well as she did. I am glad we got it out of the way. Hopefully there are many more to come."
As it turned out, the Sox needed just one run and it was provided by Rafael Devers, who laced an RBI single to bring home Xander Bogaerts in the top of the seventh.
"We definitely wanted it last night and weren't able to do it, but to win today, 1-0, that's a good ball game," Price said.
• Red Sox eyeing Kimbrel for non-traditional role
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Devers delivers: After falling behind 0-2 in the count against Rays lefty reliever Jose Alvarado, the left-handed-swinging Devers delivered the clutch hit that had eluded the Red Sox for the first six innings. With the count 1-2, Devers ripped a single up the middle on a 95.2-mph fastball to score Bogaerts from second to break the scoreless tie. Bogaerts set up Devers with a leadoff double and Price finally had a lead.
"The thing is, he's out of control with that swing [on 0-1], and then he gets back to that pitch. We wanted him to get that guy to third base in that situation," Cora said.
Cora's decision works: The Red Sox had a tough eighth inning on Opening Day, as the bullpen gave up six runs and squandered a 4-0 lead. For that reason, nobody would have blamed Cora for sticking with Price, who had been remarkably efficient over his seven innings. But Cora went to Barnes and the righty got the job done, working around a walk and holding the 1-0 lead for a clean ninth-inning handoff to Kimbrel.
"Baseball is still the same. It's life that is different. I think if anyone goes through anything, no matter what it is, your perspective is constantly changing in life. This game is still the same. I think my purpose away from this game has definitely changed." -- Kimbrel
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Kimbrel is a bad matchup for just about every team, but even moreso for the Rays. Since the start of last season, Kimbrel is 7-for-7 in saves against the Rays while allowing no hits and one walk. He has struck out 26 of the 31 Tampa Bay hitters he's faced in that span.
Red Sox:Rick Porcello, who is determined to have a bounce-back season, takes the ball on Saturday in Game 3 of this four-game series. The sinkerballer is 7-3 with a 2.47 ERA in 12 career starts at Tropicana Field. First baseman Mitch Moreland and catcher Sandy Leon are expected to make their first starts of the season. First pitch is scheduled for 6:10 p.m. ET.
Rays: The Rays will employ a "bullpen day" for the first time this season, with reliever Andrew Kittredge getting the start against the Red Sox. The plan had been to have four starters making regular starts with the fifth spot in the rotation occupied by the bullpen. Now that Nathan Eovaldi is out after having a procedure on his right elbow, the Rays have three starters and a nine-member bullpen.
Watch every out-of-market regular-season game live on MLB.TV.
Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.