A TEAM THAT COULDN'T
GET THE JOB DONE ...
Andrew Benintendi leads the Sox on Opening Day
April 3, 2017 ...
Even with the bunting hanging from the Fenway
Park facades and the mayor of Boston, the owner of the Red Sox, and
the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots on the field, Andrew
Benintendi was also aware of the expectations and attention that have
been attached to him.
But he was pressure-free in the Sox 5-3 win
over the Pirates, smooth in the field and clutch at the plate, going 1 for 4
with a three-run homer that helped the Sox start their season on the right foot.
When the Sox were trying to string hits together and put runs on the board with
two outs in the fifth, Benintendi was the anchor.
Jackie Bradley Jr. sparked the inning with a two-out single
into the right-field corner, and Pablo Sandoval kept it going by beating out an
infield single to push Bradley across and give the Sox a 1-0 lead. Sandy Leon
kept the inning alive, seeing the left side of the infield unattended and
dropping down a bunt that caught the Pirates by surprise. After Pedroia shot an
RBI single up the middle to give the Sox a 2-0 lead, the table was set for
Cole, still rattled by Leon’s bunt, was
having trouble finding the strike zone, and Benintendi waited him out. When Cole
tried to pump a 98-mile-per-hour fastball by him, up and in, Benintendi turned
on it and launched it deep to right field. The ball dropped into the Pirates
Benintendi found himself in another pivot
point in the seventh, when the Sox were trying to fend off a Pirates rally,
their lead trimmed to 5-2 with the bases loaded and one out and Starling Marte
at the plate. Marte shot a liner toward the scoreboard on the Green Monster. Had
the ball gotten over Benintendi’s head, the complexion of the game would’ve
shifted dramatically. But Benintendi tracked backward, stretched high to make
the grab, and held Marte to a sacrifice fly.
As openers go, this one
checked all the boxes. The Sox got a serviceable effort (6
1/3 innings, three runs, five strikeouts, one walk) from reigning Cy Young
winner Rick Porcello, Pablo Sandoval established that he is again the nifty,
nimble Pablo of his days with San Francisco (2008-14), and the prematurely
beleaguered Boston bullpen did what it needed to do to hold a comfortable lead
that was established when the Sox put up five runs after starting the bottom of
the fifth with two outs and nobody aboard in a 0-0 game.
There was a big pregame
hit. The Patriots, each carrying a Lombardi Trophy, Tom Brady, Bob Kraft, Rob
Gronkowski, Dion Lewis, and James White emerged from the cornfield in left,
walked across the Fenway lawn and gathered at the mound. Brady produced his
recently recovered (by the FBI) game jersey, only to have it snatched away by
Gronk. In a cornball scene, Brady chased Gronk toward right field, tackled his
tight end, and reclaimed the jersey. Brady then lobbed a strike to
catcher Dustin Pedroia and it was “game on” for the 2017 Red Sox.
The Sox did what they needed to do. Porcello
was strong, the bullpen bridge guys kept the lid on, and Craig Kimbrel notched a
boilerplate save. And so the first one is in the books. The first-place Red Sox