For the first time since 1976, the Red Sox were held scoreless on Opening Day, as the club fell to the Orioles by a final score of 3-0 on Friday afternoon to kick off the 2021 regular season at Fenway Park.
Nathan Eovaldi made his first start of the season and second consecutive Opening Day start for Boston in this one, and he picked up where he left off last year in terms of performing well against Baltimore.
That being the case because on Friday, the veteran right-hander limited the O’s to just one run on four hits and one walk to go along with four strikeouts over 5 1/3 innings of work.
Eovaldi was not on the mound at the time he was charged with that one run. He had retired nine of the last 10 hitters he faced leading up to the one-out mark in the top half of the sixth, at which point he got the hook in favor of fellow righty Matt Andriese on account of a relatively high pitch count.
Finishing with a final pitch count of 89 (54 strikes), the 31-year-old hurler turned to his four-seam fastball 52% of the time he was on the mound Friday, inducing five swings-and-misses while topping out at 98.6 mph with the pitch.
Ultimately hit with his first losing decision of the year, Eovaldi will look to rebound in his next time out, which should come back at Fenway Park against the reigning American League champion Tampa Bay Rays next Wednesday.
In relief of Eovaldi, Andriese came on in relief with a runner on and two outs to get in the top half of the sixth inning.
Making his Red Sox debut in this one, the 31-year-old walked the first man he saw in Trey Mancini on six pitches to put runners at first and second with still just only one out in the frame.
Andriese nearly got out of the jam on one of the very next pitches he threw following that free pass, as he got Anthony Santander to rip a hard-hit groundball to second baseman Enrique Hernandez — playing in a shift — for what looked to be the start of an inning-ending, 4-6-3 double play. Just what the doctor ordered.
Instead, Hernandez, also making his Red Sox debut, had a difficult time corralling Santander’s groundball on a hop that allowed all Orioles runners to reach base safely. Hernandez was charged with a fielding error as a result.
That mishap allowed the top of half of the sixth to continue, and the Baltimore bats took full advantage of that when rookie sensation Ryan Mountcastle laced a two-run double off the Green Monster on a 3-2, 93.2 mph inside fastball from Andriese to give his side a 2-0 advantage.
Andriese managed to escape the sixth without yielding anything else and even worked a 1-2-3 seventh , but the damage had already been done.
From there, left-hander Josh Taylor managed to record just one out while surrendering another run on three hits to begin the top of the eighth before Austin Brice came on to clean up after Taylor by retiring the only two hitters he faced in order.
Japanese right-hander Hirokazu Sawamura, another Red Sox making their team debut on Friday, got the call for the ninth, looking to keep Boston’s deficit at a reachable three runs.
Making his major-league debut as well in this one after spending the first 10 years of his professional career overseas, Sawamura looked sharp with his four-seamer, splitter, and slider and allowed just one Oriole to reach base — a two-out double from Freddy Galvis — before getting Pedro Severino to ground out to second to retire the side and wrap up what was a solid 2021 debut.
On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against a familiar foe in Orioles left-hander John Means, who was supposed to get the Opening Day nod for Baltimore last year but was held out of that start due to a “dead arm.”
Fast forward to Opening Day 2021, and Means was clearly on a mission on Friday.
The 27-year-old southpaw served up a leadoff single to the very first hitter he faced in Hernandez, but nullified that by picking off the Sox second baseman at first after he had slipped off the bag while retreating towards it on Means’ throw to first.
As simple as a play as it was, Means picking off Hernandez may have played a pivotal role in the way the rest of Friday’s contest played out.
From that point on, the O’s starter was dealt another leadoff base runner when Xander Bogaerts reached safely on a fielding error to begin the second, but then proceeded to mow down the next 18 Red Sox hitters he faced.
From the bottom of the second through the end of the seventh, Means did not allow a single man to reach base against him. There were certainly some close calls, like when Bobby Dalbec nearly barreled what would turn out to be a flyball out to left field in the sixth, but the All-Star hurler got through seven clean innings unscathed. Quite the way to kick off the new season.
In the eighth, with Means out and lefty reliever Tanner Scott in, the Sox did show some signs of life with Rafael Devers and Christian Vazquez reaching base on a pair of walks.
Vazquez’s free pass came with two outs in the frame, and it brought the tying run to the plate in the form of Dalbec, ever the home run threat.
Rather than put the ball in the air, though, the 25-year-old slugger watched a first-pitch called strike whizz by, then whiffed at a 96 mph fastball on the inner half of the plate, and was caught looking on an 0-2, 97 mph heater on the outer edge of the strike zone to extinguish said threat.
In the ninth, J.D. Martinez collected his first hit of the season on a two-out double off Orioles reliever Cesar Valdez, but it went for naught as Bogaerts followed by lining out to right field to put an end to things on Friday with a final score of 3-0 in favor of Baltimore.
Some notes from this loss:
Alex Cora is now 0-3 on Opening Day as a big-league manager.
From Red Sox Notes:
Next up for the Red Sox, it’s the middle game of what is now a three-game weekend series following Thursday’s rainout.
Saturday’s pitching matchup will feature a pair of right-handers seemingly on the opposite ends of their careers, with Tanner Houck getting the start for Boston and veteran righty Matt Harvey doing the same for Baltimore.
Houck, 24, was not originally going to make the Sox’ Opening Day starting rotation out of spring training, but Eduardo Rodriguez being placed on the injured list resulted in the rookie righty getting called up from the alternate training site on Thursday.
Houck impressed upon getting called up to the majors for the first time last September, posting a 0.53 ERA and .443 OPS against over three starts spanning 17 innings of work. Neither of those three outings were against the Orioles.
Harvey, meanwhile, made the Orioles’ starting rotation out of camp after signing a minor-league deal with the club back in February.
The 32-year-old Connecticut native was once a star in the making with the Mets, but he has since regressed to the point where he is coming off a 2020 campaign in which he surrendered 15 runs over 11 2/3 innings pitched for the Royals.
First pitch Saturday is scheduled for 1:10 p.m. eastern time on NESN. Red Sox will be going for their first win of the season.
(Picture of Nathan Eovaldi: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)