Baseball’s back! It feels so good to watch games that mean something, that count in the standings, that will matter for the playoff picture. I was getting through a particularly grueling day at work today, and I have to say, turning on my radio (or, fine, my MLB At Bat app) at 1:00 to listen to a real, live baseball game felt like a little bit of welcome magic.
It’s just too bad the game didn’t end the way we wanted it to. Jon Lester pitched a gem today, allowing one run and fanning four Detroit hitters during a seven-inning outing, but the Red Sox dropped their season opener at Comerica Park. Justin Verlander threw an amazing game, holding the Red Sox scoreless over eight innings, striking out seven and allowing only two hits.
Today’s game had two distinct story lines in it: first, the pitcher’s duel between Lester and Verlander, and second, the blown outings by closers Jose Valverde and Alfredo Aceves. Detroit scored runs off of Vicente Padilla and a Melancon/Aceves combo in the bottom of the ninth inning (Melancon let the runner on, Aceves let him score – Melancon took the loss for Boston). But, the Red Sox had scored two of their own in the top of the ninth inning off Valverde, care of David Ortiz scoring Dustin Pedroia on a sacrifice fly, and Ryan Sweeney smashing a two-out triple off the right field corner to tie the game.
In the bottom of the ninth, things went wrong. After Melancon let up one-out singles to Jhonny Peralta and Alex Avlia, Bobby Valentine brought in Aceves. Aceves hit Ramon Santiago with a pitch, which loaded the bases. Then, Detroit’s Austin Jackson poked a single past third base and a diving Nick Punto to seal the walk-off win for the Tigers.
Valentine focused on Lester’s strong work for the day, telling the Globe that “there was a lot I saw that I liked. Lester was terrific. He did just what he needed to do.” Similarly, Verlander – the reigning AL MVP and Cy Young winner – seemed happy with just another one of his days at the ballpark. “This was the best opening day I’ve had, and hopefully that goes toward all the hard work I’ve been putting in to get off to a better start,” he said. “Long way to go, but it’s good to get that first one under your belt and have it be a good one.” At one point, Verlander threw a breaking ball that caused Cody Ross to drop his bat and walk away from the batter’s box, even before the umpire had finished calling him out on strikes – so yeah, I’d say today was vintage Verlander.
Also, there’s this: When Jacoby Ellsbury, who came in second in last year’s MVP vote, led off the game (he hit a fly ball to left), that was the first time since 2000 that the top two MVP vote-getters from the previous season faced each other in a pitcher-batter matchup. The last time that happened, our own Pedro struck out Ivan Rodriguez, the 1999 winner.
Here’s a link to the box, courtesy of redsox.com. Boston has tomorrow off (mercifully, at least for yours truly, tomorrow appears to be a Friday), before Josh Beckett takes the mound against Doug Fister on Saturday at 4:05, again from Comerica Park.