Bauman: Perfect ending to perfect day
Red Sox kick off 2010 season with gritty win against rivals
BOSTON -- Barring a perfect game from a Boston pitcher or a tax cut for every citizen of Red Sox Nation, it would be difficult to imagine a better start to a Boston baseball season in New England than this.
The Red Sox came from behind twice Sunday night -- once from four runs down, once from two runs back -- to defeat their eternal antagonists, the New York Yankees, 9-7, at Fenway Park.
"That was a tough game to win," manager Terry Francona said. "I thought we were very resilient tonight."
The victory was doubly satisfying after the Yankees took a 5-1 lead, chasing Red Sox starter Josh Beckett in the fifth inning. It was a game that might have appeared beyond reach at that point, since Boston was facing the ace of New York's rotation, CC Sabathia.
But the Red Sox climbed that hill and took Sabathia out of the game in the sixth with a three-run rally, the centerpiece of which was a two-run triple by first baseman Kevin Youkilis.
"It's awesome," Beckett said of his team's ability to come back against this caliber of opposition. "They definitely picked me up. That speaks to the character of a lot of guys on this team."
A two-run deficit in the seventh also evaporated when second baseman Dustin Pedroia hit a two-run homer off reliever Chan Ho Park. After that, Youkilis hit his second double of the night and came around to score what would be the deciding run on a wild pitch from Damaso Marte, followed by a passed ball charged to Jorge Posada.
The Red Sox then received the necessary shutout innings of relief from Daniel Bard and closer Jonathan Papelbon, and presto, here it was; a big beginning and a happy ending on the very same April evening.
Any victory over the Yankees qualifies as uplifting for the Sox, but this one is in an inspirational category even above that, given the Opening Night circumstances and the necessity of forging two comebacks.
Afterward, Youkilis stressed repeatedly that this was only one game, with 161 remaining to be played. But for the heartening Opening Night victory, he said: "It's good for the city, it's good for the fans, it's good for everyone."
The competition between these two clubs continues to approach perpetual motion. The "pace of game" concerns present in the rest of the games probably do not need to apply here. These two teams are so competitive that they are fortunate to be able to settle one of their arguments in less than four hours. Sunday night's event checked in at three hours, 46 minutes, and it needed every second to accommodate each and every turn of the story line.
As for the outcome of this one game, the usual cautionary reminders can always apply. Remember last year when the Yankees started 0-8 against the Sox? What eventually happened? The two perpetual antagonists wound up 9-9 on the season series. And then New York, after the ignominious beginning against Boston, went on to win 103 regular-season games and eventually, of course, the World Series.
But what strikes you with these two teams, whether it's the very beginning of the season or an American League Championship Series, is the dogged nature of the competition. The years move along, the outcomes change, it's a night in early April or a night deep in October, but there is never a letup in the intensity.
So it was new and yet it was old at Fenway Park on this Easter Night and Opening Night. This was the first time the Boston Red Sox had opened with a night game at Fenway and the first time they had opened on Easter.
For the general population, what Boston received Sunday from the climate was a complete blessing, an absolutely beautiful day followed by a mild, pleasant evening.
"We probably caught a huge break," Francona said of the weather.
After that, the Red Sox made their own breaks. They stressed "run prevention" over the winter, but this game was about the run producers, not the run preventers. Plenty of other nights will offer Boston plenty of opportunities to win with pitching and defense. On this night, it could feel satisfied that its offense was good enough to score the necessary eight runs to win this game against the defending World Series champions.
As far as an encouraging, determined, steadfast performance against the best possible opposition, there is not much in the wide, wide world of sports that would be more suitable for the Red Sox than this victory. It was merely a start, but it was a terrific start.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.