Baltimore won the game 2-1 behind stellar pitching from the likes of Chris Tillman, Zach Britton, Evan Meek, Brian Matusz and Tommy Hunter and a game-winning home run from Nelson Cruz.
It was a pitcher’s duel throughout the early innings, but Cruz broke the 1-1 tie in the seventh inning with a home run off Red Sox starter Jon Lester. The loss dropped Boston to 4-4 on Opening Days following a World Series victory.
Let’s dig into a few key takeaways from Boston's first game of the 2014 MLB season.
Grady Sizemore Shows His Old Form
The Boston lineup may have only scored one run, but one positive sign was the performance of Grady Sizemore.
The former Cleveland Indian finished the day 2-for-4 with a home run and provided the only real offensive spark for the Red Sox in the opener. Sizemore used to be the leadoff hitter for Cleveland, but he appeared fairly comfortable in the six spot in the Boston lineup.
SportsCenter on Twitter alerted fans to just how long it has been since Sizemore participated in a major league game:
Grady Sizemore goes yard for Red Sox vs Orioles. The 3-time All-Star CF last played in 2011.— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) March 31, 2014
Looking forward, it is clearly dangerous to assume too much from one game in a schedule of 162. However, this has to be encouraging for the Boston faithful, considering Sizemore possessed the rare power and speed combination while with the Indians that is so coveted from impact outfielders.
From 2005 to 2008, he hit 107 home runs and stole 115 bases for the Indians all while providing stellar defense in center field.
Will the Red Sox win the AL East this year?
Whether he can produce at that level after missing so much time and playing under the scrutiny that Boston always does remains to be seen, but fans couldn’t ask for a better start. The Red Sox lineup would be much more formidable with Monday’s version of Sizemore.
Jon Lester Gets off on the Right Foot
Lester was the hard-luck loser in Boston’s first game after pitching seven innings and allowing only two runs on six hits. He also struck out eight batters.
The fact that the southpaw pitched seven innings with relative ease should come as no surprise because the innings-eater finished with 213.1 innings pitched last year.
Lester’s solid performance followed his career marks against the Orioles. He was 15-3 with a 2.94 ERA in 25 starts against the division rival before Monday’s start and was 8-1 with a 2.99 ERA in 13 starts at Camden Yards.
For his part, Lester appeared mentally ready for the challenge against Baltimore, according to the Associated Press, via Yahoo! Sports:
One through nine, obviously very powerful. A lot like the rest of the East. One of the biggest things with this club is you try to keep them in the ballpark as best you can. That's where they do a lot of their damage.
Ironically, it was Lester’s inability to keep Cruz inside the ballpark that ultimately cost him the game. Still, the fact that the ace appeared in midseason form already is more important than the one early loss for Boston.
Hitting with Runners in Scoring Position Will Have to Improve
While Cruz’s home run was the difference in the game, the Red Sox likely would have won had they come through in the clutch a single time.
Boston finished the game 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position and left 12 on base, which proved especially costly considering the 2-1 deficit.
Between David Ortiz, Mike Napoli, Dustin Pedroia, Sizemore and others, there are too many talented players in the Boston lineup to expect this trend to continue. Alas, for one day the lack of timely hitting proved costly for the defending world champs.
If the Red Sox hope to defend their crown and ultimately win the American League East, they will have to accompany solid pitching performances like Lester’s with better production on the offensive side.
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