It’s still cold outside, but the Red Sox warmed Bostonian hearts on Opening Day, beating the Cleveland Indians 6-2. Naturally, we shouldn’t get carried away, as this team still has more question marks than exclamation points, but it was pleasant to watch the Red Sox dominate once again. It was fun to see this new-look team coalesce as one, behind a game plan that worked to perfection.
Most notably, there was David Price, the genuine ace for which Red Sox Nation has yearned. The imposing southpaw pitched six solid innings of two-run ball, allowing just five hits while striking out ten. Yet, aside from the numbers, there was also tangible excellence to Price’s pitching and a palpable excitement among those watching him. With pinpoint control, he hammered the mitt of Blake Swihart. A succession of pitchers blistered over the outside edge in almost unhittable locations, and plenty of Indians were caught looking incredulously at strike three. In terms of debut performances, Price could hardly have scripted it better, given the freezing conditions in Cleveland.
There was also the continued emergence of Mookie Betts as a true superstar. Mookie launched a laser two-run homer and made a dazzling defensive play in right field, leaping high to snare a knuckling liner over his head. Betts brings a phenomenal dynamism to this Red Sox team, which makes for truly compelling viewing.
Elsewhere, David Ortiz celebrated his final Opening Day by clouting a long home run, reminding us all why we love him and that sweet swing so much. Meanwhile, Hanley Ramirez collected two hits and looked comfortable at first base, and Travis Shaw weighed in with an RBI. Every Red Sox batter except Dustin Pedroia and Swihart had at least one hit, with five guys tallying more than one. Then closer Craig Kimbrel came in to shut the door with two strikeouts in the ninth. It was just a very promising day all around.
Of course, it was just one game in a marathon season, a mere raindrop in the ocean. But, without doubt, there is a different buzz and energy to this Red Sox team. There is an excitement that has been missing for some considerable time. The fascination surrounding Price’s starts may be reminiscent of that enjoyed by Pedro Martinez in his prime. Similarly, there’s a chance Ortiz could make history every time he steps to the plate, while the young core is totally enthralling.
Yes, the bubble of optimism could burst with Clay Buchholz, Joe Kelly and Rick Porcello up next in the starting rotation, but Red Sox fans should accentuate the positive. After so many years of struggle, at least they have hope now. They have a dominant ace. They have an elite closer. They have a legendary slugger chasing records and a group of rising stars ready to inherit his mantle.
They have a chance to be really, really good. And after so long in the basement, that has to feel good.