BOSTON — Between the unforgettable pregame festivities, Andrew Benintendi’s three-run bomb and a 5-3 win, the Red Sox gave fans pretty much all they could ask for on Opening Day.
But Game 1 of the 2017 campaign wasn’t without its blemishes.
An otherwise promising victory featured an ominous debut for Boston’s bullpen, which allowed the Pittsburgh Pirates back into the game after the Sox took a 5-0 lead at Fenway Park.
When starter Rick Porcello ran into trouble in the sixth inning, manager John Farrell called on Matt Barnes to get him out of the jam. Barnes did just the opposite, allowing two of Porcello’s inherited runners to score to trim Boston’s lead to two runs.
Robby Scott and Heath Hembree helped bridge the remaining gap to closer Craig Kimbrel, who allowed the go-ahead run to the plate before shutting the door. Yet Barnes’ rough outing was indicative of a bullpen that might struggle to find outs with relievers Tyler Thornburg and Carson Smith on the shelf due to injury.
“Without a lockdown eighth inning guy, we’re going to have to mix and match,” Farrell said after the game. “The guys that have been throwing the ball of late coming out of spring training were the three that were on the mound before Kimbrel (on Monday).”
Smith is expected to be out until June and Thornburg has yet to resume throwing, so the Red Sox likely will have to do more “mixing and matching” in the considerable future.
Boston’s relief unit ultimately got the job done Monday, but its successes or failures while undermanned this spring is a development worth monitoring.
Let’s hit a few other notes from the Red Sox’s Opening Day win:
— Porcello wasn’t dominant Monday, but he still managed to hit an impressive milestone. The right-hander pitched at least six full innings for the 19th consecutive time, which is the longest active streak in Major League Baseball. He’s made it through five innings in 42 straight outings, good for the longest streak in the American League.
“That’s my job,” Porcello said when informed of his streak. “That’s what I look to do every fifth day, is give us a chance to win. And that includes pitching deep in ballgames.”
— The Fenway crowd gave new ace Chris Sale a standing ovation when his name was called during pregame introductions.
Pablo Sandoval also got a nice round of applause, which admittedly brought a smile to the third baseman’s face after his rough 2016 campaign.
“It felt good, especially when you have the support from the fans and your teammates,” Sandoval said after the game. “… I was waiting for this moment (since) last year after the season ended. So, now is the time.”
— The slimmed-down Sandoval put his legs to use to score the first two runs. He beat out an infield single to tally Boston’s first RBI, then scored from second base on a Dustin Pedroia single in the fifth inning.
Sandoval committed the Red Sox’s only error, though, making a poor throw to first base in the sixth inning.
— Tom Brady and the New England Patriots stole the show during pregame ceremonies, but they weren’t the only luminaries in the house. Former Secretary of State and Massachusetts Senator John Kerry was spotted on the field before the game.
— Brady and Co. also presented Barnes with a special gift.
— We’ll just leave you with this.
Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images