The Red Sox mounted a late rally, but it was not enough to get past the Orioles on Thursday afternoon. Boston fell to Baltimore by a final score of 10-9 on Opening Day at Fenway Park.
Corey Kluber’s first start of the season did not go as planned. Making his Red Sox debut, the veteran right-hander surrendered five earned runs on six hits and four walks to go along with four strikeouts over just 3 1/3 innings of work.
The Orioles got to Kluber right away in their half of the first. After striking out leadoff man Cedric Mullins, Kluber served up a 402-foot solo shot to Adley Rutschman to give Baltimore an early 1-0 lead. He walked two batters in the inning as well, but escaped without giving anything else up.
Despite falling behind right out of the gate, the Red Sox regrouped rather quickly in the latter half of the first. With Kyle Gibson starting for the Orioles, Alex Verdugo led things off by lacing a 369-foot triple off the Green Monster. He scored the then-tying run moments later on an RBI groundout off the bat of Rafael Devers.
It then appeared as though Kluber was about to settle in, as he retired the side in order in the second and worked his way around two hits in the third. But the righty ran into more trouble in the fourth by first issuing a leadoff walk to Gunnar Henderson. Two pitches later, Kluber gave up a towering two-run home run to Ramon Urias that put Baltimore up, 3-1.
Kluber allowed three of the next four batters he faced to reach base. At that point, he was given the hook in favor of rookie Zack Kelly. Kelly, inheriting a bases-loaded jam, allowed two of the three runners he inherited to score on a wild pitch and bases-loaded walk of Ryan Mountcastle, thus closing the book on Kluber’s outing.
The 36-year-old hurler finished with a final pitch count of 80 (48 strikes). He averaged 87.7 mph with his sinker — his most frequently-used pitch — and induced six swings-and-misses in total. The four walks are the most he has given up in a single start since last Opening Day, when he was a member of the Rays.
After watching the Orioles put up a four-spot in the top half of the fourth, Devers led off the bottom half with a hard-hit ground-rule double to right field. He moved up to third on a Justin Turner groundout and remained there after Masataka Yoshida was hit by a pitch. With one out and runners on the corners, Adam Duvall laced a blistering 108.6 mph single off Gibson that allowed Devers to score from third, making it a 5-2 game. Triston Casas followed by drawing a four-pitch walk to load the bases for Christian Arroyo. Arroyo, however, grounded into an inning-ending, 4-6-3 double play to extinguish the threat.
Ryan Brasier took over for Kelly in the fifth and recorded the first two outs of the frame by inducing a twin killing of his own. He then issued a seven-pitch walk to Adam Frazier, who promptly stole second base and scored from there on a Jorge Mateo single. Mateo swiped second and took third while Mullins was in the process of drawing a walk. After Mullins stole second to put a pair of runners in scoring position, Rutschman came through with a two-run single to left field that gave the Orioles a commanding 8-2 lead.
The Red Sox managed to cut into that deficit in the sixth. Devers and Turner hit back-to-back singles to lead off the inning and knock Gibson out of the game. Yoshida then greeted new O’s reliever Keegan Akin by driving in Devers on a single through the right side of the infield for both his first hit and RBI as a major-leaguer. Turner, who went from first to third on the play, scored the second run of the inning on an RBI groundout from Casas.
Kaleb Ort, who put up a zero in the top of the sixth, came back out for the seventh. This time around, however, Ort gave up a leadoff double to Frazier, who quickly moved up to third on a successful sacrifice bunt laid down by Mateo. Mullins then plated Frazier with an RBI single before Rutschman followed suit with a run-scoring hit of his own.
Rutschman’s single was hit to Yoshida in left field. Yoshida made a quick throw towards home in an attempt to gun down Mullins at the plate. But Devers, the third baseman, elected to cut the throw off in order to snuff out Rutschman — who was trying to extend his single into a double — at second. Although Devers did get Rutschman out, the Orioles still increased their lead to six runs at 10-4.
Josh Winckowski kept the deficit at six runs in the top of the eighth by maneuvering his way around a leadoff double and Enrique Hernandez throwing error, paving the way for the Boston lineup to have its most productive inning of the afternoon.
With Bryan Baker on the mound for Baltimore, three straight hitters (Turner, Yoshida, and Duvall) all reached base after Devers struck out on a pitch clock violation for the first out. Casas then drove in Turner with a sacrifice fly before Arroyo ripped a two-run double over the head of left fielder Anthony Santander.
That sequence of events cut the Orioles’ lead down to three runs at 10-7. And it remained that way after Chris Martin tossed a scoreless ninth inning. Down to their final three outs now, the pinch-hitting Raimel Tapia drew a leadoff walk off Baltimore closer Felix Bautista. A hard-hit single from Verdugo that was accompanied by a fielding error put runners at second and third with no outs.
Devers struck out for the second time, but Turner delivered with an infield single that scored Tapia from third. It then appeared as though Yoshida was about to ground into a game-ending double play, but a poor throw to first allowed Yoshida to reach base safely while Verdugo crossed the plate for Boston’s ninth run.
Yoshida was able to advance to second as well, which put the tying run in scoring position for Duvall. Duvall, however, went down swinging on three straight strikes to end it there.
With Thursday’s loss, Red Sox manager Alex Cora falls to 0-5 all-time on Opening Day. The nine walks issued by Boston pitchers tied an Opening Day franchise record. It also happened in 1926 against the Orioles and in 1966 against the Yankees.
Yoshida’s MLB debut
After signing a five-year, $90 million contract with the Red Sox in December, Masataka Yoshida made his highly-anticipated big-league debut on Thursday. The 29-year-old out of Japan went 2-for-4 with an RBI and run scored out of the cleanup spot. He was also credited with an outfield assist when Adley Rutschman was thrown out at second base in the seventh inning.
Casas’ first Opening Day start
Triston Casas became the youngest first baseman to start on Opening Day for the Red Sox since George Scott in 1967. The left-handed hitting 23-year-old went 0-for-2 with a walk, a strikeout, and two RBIs.
Next up: First Sale Day of the season
At 0-1, the Red Sox will have Friday off before returning to action against the Orioles on Saturday. In the middle game of this three-game series, left-hander Chris Sale is slated to take the mound for Boston while right-hander Dean Kremer is expected to do the same for Baltimore.
First pitch from Fenway Park on Saturday is scheduled for 4:10 p.m. eastern time on NESN.
(Picture of Corey Kluber: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)