Jonny Gomes’ Absence From Red Sox’s Opening Day Loss Sparks Debate

John FarrellLet the second-guessing begin.

The Boston Red Sox suffered an Opening Day loss to the Baltimore Orioles on Monday. The big story was the Red Sox’s inability to produce key hits, but a few curious decisions also highlighted Boston’s 2-1 defeat at Camden Yards.

Jonny Gomes never saw the field in Monday’s loss despite two separate instances in which the Red Sox probably should have turned to the veteran slugger. Manager John Farrell instead stuck with A.J. Pierzynski and Jackie Bradley Jr. in two key spots, and neither player was able to produce in the clutch.

The first interesting decision came in the eighth inning with the Red Sox trailing 2-1 with runners on first and second and two outs. Farrell stuck with Pierzynski — a left-handed hitter — against lefty Brian Matusz rather than call upon Gomes, and the Red Sox catcher was retired on a ground ball back to the mound to end Boston’s threat.

“A.J.’s going to put the bat on the ball,” Farrell explained after Monday’s loss. “He was I think 2-for-5 against Britton in previous at-bats against him. (Versus) left-handed (or) right-handed (pitchers), A.J.’s going to put up a good at-bat. Still, we had a number of opportunities. The two-out base hit was elusive.”

Another head-scratcher came in the ninth inning with the Red Sox still trailing 2-1 and the potential tying run standing on second base. Again, Gomes was an option — and more than willing to take his cuts, according to the outfielder — yet Farrell stuck with Bradley, who had entered the game as a pinch runner for Mike Napoli — also an interesting move — the inning prior. Bradley, who was recalled from Triple-A Pawtucket on Monday, struck out looking on a borderline pitch located near the top of the strike zone.

Bradley said after the game he thought two strikes during his ninth-inning at-bat were blown calls, but it was interesting to see Farrell stick with the 23-year-old in that spot. Granted, Bradley is a left-handed hitter facing Baltimore’s right-handed closer, Tommy Hunter, but the young outfielder endured major offensive struggles during spring training and Gomes repeatedly showed last season he has a certain flair for the dramatic.

Monday’s season-opening loss can’t be pinned on two decisions. After all, the Red Sox had chances throughout the game to manufacture runs but left 12 men on base and finished 0-for-10 as a team with runners in scoring position. You know baseball officially is back, however, when the second-guessing begins on Opening Day.

“Everyone’s going to focus on that final out made,” Farrell said. “But there were a number of opportunities that we did create but just didn’t cash in (on).”

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