It was a long night at Fenway Park on Wednesday, but Sandy Leon sent Boston Red Sox fans home happy.
Leon’s three-run, walk-off blast gave the Red Sox a 3-0 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates, earning Boston back-to-back victories to start the 2017 season. Boston’s win was its first walk-off victory in a season-opening series since 1990.
While Leon provided the exciting highlight, Chris Sale was the story for the Red Sox on Wednesday. In his highly anticipated Boston debut, the lefty shined on the mound, tossing seven scoreless innings in which he struck out seven batters and only walked one.
The best word to describe Sale’s debut would be “efficient.” The newly acquired pitcher demonstrated his tenacity on the mound, as he seemingly wasted no time in between pitches and showcased a very quick pace, which surely was much to the delight of those in favor of speeding up the game.
Sale recorded 104 pitches in his first start of the 2017 campaign, 69 of which went for strikes. He prevented the Pirates from getting anything going, as no Pittsburgh runner made it to second base during Sale’s seven innings of work.
Although it’s only one start, Red Sox fans have to be impressed with what they saw from Sale. Having a one-two punch of he and Rick Porcello should be a very imposing force for opponents moving forward.
Here are some more notes from Wednesday’s win.
–After a less-than-stellar showcase in Tuesday’s Opening Day, the Red Sox bullpen followed up in Game 2 with a much better performance. Matt Barnes, Craig Kimbrel, Heath Hembree, Robbie Scott and Joe Kelly combined for five scoreless innings in relief of Sale, and limited Pittsburgh to just two hits.
Kelly, in particular, was strong for Boston. In his season debut, he tossed two scoreless innings in the 11th and 12th to help the Sox earn the victory. He now has won 13 straight decisions dating back to August 2015.
–Offense was hard to come by Wednesday, but the Red Sox did have their chances. After Leon ripped a double in the third inning, Dustin Pedroia followed with a double to the opposite field. Despite being held by third base coach Brian Butterfield, Leon ran through the stop sign and was thrown out at the plate by Andrew McCutchen.
The Sox also would squander a golden opportunity in the fifth. With runners on first and third and no outs in the inning, Boston followed with strikeouts from Pablo Sandoval and Leon, and then a Pedroia groundout.
–After a terrific 2016 campaign at the dish, Leon already is off to hot start in 2017. Through the first two games of the young season, the Red Sox catcher is 5-for-8 at the plate. He fell a triple shy of hitting for the cycle Wednesday, but he logged the clutch hit that mattered in the 12th inning.
–Jackie Bradley Jr. provided the only other noteworthy stat line at the plate for the Red Sox. The center fielder recorded his 300th career hit in the third inning and finished the night 2-for-4.
–Mitch Moreland remains the only Red Sox player who has yet to record a hit this season. Moreland had a particularly tough night at the plate Wednesday, as he went 0-for-5 with three strikeouts. However, he did rip deep shots to center and the right-field warning track, but the gloomy April weather didn’t do him any favors.
Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images