A Look Back at Recent Red Sox Home Openers at Fenway Park

Thursday was supposed to be Opening Day at Fenway Park for the Red Sox. They were scheduled to take on the Chicago White Sox in the first of a three-game series at approximately 2:05 PM EDT.

Instead, the COVID-19 pandemic that has affected millions across the country and the globe has pushed back the start of the 2020 Major League Baseball season for the foreseeable future.

In these times, baseball should take a backseat to more pressing issues we are all facing, but not having the comfort and distraction sports can provide over these past few weeks has certainly been odd.

So, since Thursday was supposed to be the first game played at Fenway Park this year, I thought it would be interesting to look back at some memorable Fenway Opening Day moments in recent years starting with the 2013 home opener. Let’s get to it.

April 8th, 2013: Red Sox 3, Orioles 1

Daniel Nava provided the only offense the Sox needed in this one to secure their fifth win of the year.

Going into their half of the seventh inning having yet to really muster anything offensively, Nava came through big time in his third trip to the plate against Orioles starter Wei-Yin Chen, as he took the left-hander deep to left off a 1-1, 91 MPH heater on the inner half of the plate to drive in both Dustin Pedroia and Mike Napoli to make it a three-run contest.

Former Sox closer Joel Hanrahan wound up giving one of those runs back on an Adam Jones leadoff homer in the ninth, but the right-hander held on to notch his third save of the season in what would turn out to be a 3-1 victory for Boston.

This took place exactly one week before the Boston Marathon bombings, and as we already know, the 2013 season that ended in a World Series title was a very emotional one for the Red Sox.

April 4th, 2014: Brewers 6, Red Sox 2

Speaking of World Series titles, the Red Sox received their 2013 World Series rings on this day in 2014.

Will Middlebrooks also homered in this contest, although Boston would eventually be swept by Milwaukee in their first three home games of the year in what would turn out to be a mostly forgettable title defense.

April 13th, 2015: Red Sox 9, Nationals 4

Coming off a solid 4-2 road trip in Philadelphia and New York to begin the season, the new-look Red Sox got the home portion of their 2015 schedule off with a bang against Bryce Harper and the Washington Nationals.

In his first home start as a member of the Red Sox, right-hander Rick Porcello provided Boston with eight solid innings of work while Mookie Betts and David Ortiz both went deep.

Speaking of Betts, the now-four-time All-Star was just getting his career started at this point in time.

Fresh off making his first career big-league Opening Day roster, the 22-year-old swiped second and third base in consecutive order against Nationals starter Jordan Zimmermann right away in the bottom half of the first inning. He also collected four RBI in addition to mashing his second homer of the season.

The Red Sox improved to 5-2 with the five-run victory over the Nats, and they looked like a team poised to bounce back from a last-place finish in 2014. That did not happen though, and come October, the Sox finished in the basement of the American League East for the third time in the past four seasons.

April 11th, 2016: Orioles 9, Red Sox 7

The sixth game of the Red Sox’ 2016 campaign marked David Price’s first start at Fenway Park since inking a then-record-setting seven-year, $217 million deal with Boston the previous December.

Unlike his Red Sox debut in Cleveland, where he fanned 10 over six two-run innings, Price struggled in his first start home, as he yielded five runs, all of which came in the top half of the third for Baltimore, over five innings of work.

Betts did impress once again though, as the 23-year-old plated a pair of runs on a solo homer and RBI single.

Ortiz, meanwhile, also shined in what was his final Opening Day as a member of the Red Sox, which was commemorated with a special pregame ceremony and his daughter, Alex, singing the National Anthem.

 

April 3rd, 2017: Red Sox 5, Pirates 3

While many expected the newly-acquired Chris Sale to get the Opening Day nod, ex-Sox manager John Farrell went with Rick Porcello, who was coming off winning his first Cy Young Award the year before.

Porcello was solid, racking up five strikeouts while surrendering three runs over 6 1/3 quality innings of work.

Offensively, all five of Boston’s runs came in their half of the fifth inning, with Pablo Sandoval and Dustin Pedroia plating a pair of runs on a pair of RBI singles and rookie outfielder Andrew Benintendi, fresh off making his first Opening Day roster, driving in three on a three-run blast to right off Pirates ace Gerrit Cole.

Benintendi would wind up finishing second in American League Rookie of the Year voting behind Yankees slugger Aaron Judge in 2017.

April 5th, 2018: Red Sox 3, Rays 2 in 12 innings

The only extra-innings game on here wound up in a one-run win for the Red Sox to open up the home portion of their 2018 schedule.

David Price contributed to the cause by hurling seven scoreless frames against his former team, while Hanley Ramirez and Xander Bogaerts came through with a pair of run-scoring knocks off Alex Colome in the ninth to make extra innings possible in the first place.

Fast forward all the way to the 12th, and Ramirez delivered in the clutch once more, this time coming to the plate with one out and the bases loaded against Ryan Yarbrough and plating Jackie Bradley Jr. from third on an RBI single to right field.

The Red Sox’ first walk-off victory of the season improved their record to 6-1 and they really wouldn’t have to look back en route to capturing their ninth World Series title that October.

April 9th, 2019: Blue Jays 7, Red Sox 5

Finally, we arrive at the most recent home opener. Another one in which the Red Sox received their World Series rings on what was an otherwise dreary day at Fenway Park.

Things did not get much better after the ceremony though, as Chris Sale surrendered five runs over four innings to eventually fall to 0-3 through his first three starts of the season.

Mitch Moreland and Mookie Betts did both homer, but at the end of the day, the Red Sox fell to 3-9 on the season and they never really were able to recover from that sluggish start despite finishing with a winning record.

So, there you have it. A nice look back at the last seven Opening Days at Fenway Park. Hopefully the next one will happen sooner rather than later.

Looking at How the Red Sox’ World Series Odds Changed Over the Course of a Hectic Offseason

If Major League Baseball is to be played in 2020, the Red Sox currently stand as long-shots to capture their 10th World Series title this fall, or perhaps winter.

As recently as this past Tuesday, March 31st, the Red Sox’ odds to win the World Series this year stood at +3667, according to SportsBettingDime.com. In other words, if you bet $100 on the Sox to win the Fall Classic and they do, your total payout would be $3,767.

Compare that to the reigning American League East champion New York Yankees’ most recent odds of winning the 2020 World Series (+367), and it’s clear to see that the Red Sox are underdogs coming off a turbulent offseason to say the least.

Right around the time the offseason began after the Washington Nationals won their first World Series title, Boston’s odds of winning in 2020 stood at +1200 as of November 1st, which were good for the third-best in the American League.

Since that time though, the Sox’ chances of winning have gotten significantly worse, as one might expect with the trade that sent Mookie Betts and David Price to the Dodgers in February, as well as the recent news that ace left-hander Chris Sale needed and underwent successful Tommy John surgery last month that will sideline the 31-year-old for the rest of 2020 and into 2021.

With Betts at the top of the lineup and Price maintaining a top spot in the rotation, the Red Sox looked like a team that could still at least compete for a Wild Card spot this coming season even with injury concerns surrounding Sale.

Instead of Betts and Price, who served as important clubhouse leaders in recent years, reporting to Red Sox camp, the two were instead dealt to the Dodgers as part of an earlier-set goal put in place by Sox ownership to get under the $208 million luxury tax threshold.

In his first offseason as Boston’s chief baseball officer, Chaim Bloom did just that by packaging Price, who is owed $96 million over the next three years, and Betts, who will earn $27 million in his final year of salary arbitration, in the same deal.

The Red Sox will pay about half of what is owed to Price over the next three seasons, while Betts was already viewed as a potential trade candidate anyway since he seemed and still seems locked in on becoming a free agent for the fist time this winter.

Despite the financial flexibility gained in parting ways with Betts and Price, the competitive state of the club certainly didn’t get any better even with three controllable players coming back from Los Angeles.

Take these numbers for what they’re worth. On February 3rd, the day before the first, now-voided three-team trade between Boston, Los Angeles, and the Minnesota Twins was reported, the Red Sox’ odds to win the World Series stood at +2067.

Fast forward to February 10th, one day after Boston and Los Angeles agreed to terms on a new trade between just themselves, the Sox’ odds to win the World Series fell to +3433. They have only gotten worse since then, as previously mentioned.

Bloom was dealt a difficult hand as soon as he took over as the head of the Red Sox’ baseball operations department last October. As he said himself at the time the trade was made official in February, “Our biggest goal…is to put ourselves in position to compete and win sustainably for as many years as we can.”

The club will never admit it publicly, but as the oddsmakers and sportsbooks have indicated, trading two of their better players in Mookie Betts and David Price certainly hurt the Red Sox’ chances of competing in 2020 once baseball does finally return.

Former Red Sox Second Baseman Ian Kinsler Retires From Baseball

In case you missed it, former Red Sox second baseman Ian Kinsler retired from baseball on Friday night after spending the 2019 season with the San Diego Padres. He will however remain with the Padres in a front office capacity, per the Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal.

Kinsler, 37, finishes a 14-year big-league career between the Rangers, Tigers, Angels, Red Sox, and Padres with 1,999 career hits, 257 career home runs, 909 career RBI, four career All-Star nods, two career Gold Glove Awards, and one career World Series championship, which he won with Boston in 2018.

The Sox acquired Kinsler from the Angels in exchange for pitching prospects Ty Buttrey and Williams Jerez the day before the trade deadline in 2018.

Brought in to stabilize Boston’s infield defense at second base, the Arizona native slashed .242/.294/.311 with one homer and 16 RBI over 37 games while ranking 11th among American League second baseman in FanGraphs’ Defense metric (0.8) in that span.

Appearing in 11 of the Sox’ 14 postseason contests that October, Kinsler went 7-for-34 (.206) with three runs driven in.

“Obviously, Detroit was a great experience for me,” Kinsler told The Athletic. “Dave Dombrowski traded for me twice. He traded for me in Detroit, then for that magical run in Boston. I was able to be a part of a world-championship team. Those are the two things that really stand out in my head.”

Kinsler also added that, “The run in Boston, being just a small part of that was incredible.”

After winning his first World Series title with the Red Sox, Kinsler inked a two-year, $8 million deal with San Diego prior to the start of the 2019 campaign, but a herniated cervical disk held him out from August 12th on and was the ultimate deciding factor in his deciison to step away from playing baseball.

Kinsler may have only been with the Red Sox for a brief three months, but he definitely made his time in Boston worth it.

Reliving Andrew Benintendi’s ALCS Catch on Its One-Year Anniversary

One year ago Thursday night, October 17th, 2018, the Red Sox were one out away from jumping out to a three-games-to-one lead over the Houston Astros in the American League Championship Series at Minute Maid Park.

Entering the bottom half of the ninth inning with an 8-6 lead to protect after allowing one run to cross the plate in the eighth, former Sox closer Craig Kimbrel walked three of the first five hitters he faced in the frame to fill the bases and put the winning run at first for Astros star third baseman Alex Bregman.

Heading into that at-bat, Kimbrel had thrown just 53% of his 34 pitchers for strikes and even plunked Bregman in the previous inning.

On the very first pitch he saw from Kimbrel this time around, a 97 MPH four-seamer on the inner half of the plate, Bregman ripped laced a line drive to left field, one that was falling quickly as Andrew Benintendi was closing in on it.

Per Statcast, Bregman’s liner had an exit velocity of 86.3 MPH off the bat and 79% chance of being a hit.

If that line drive were to fall in for a hit, it certainly had the potential to clear the bases and give their Astros their second win of the series.

Benintendi had different plans though, as he closed in, sprawled out, and saved the day for the Red Sox with an incredible catch for the third and final out of the contest.

According to Baseball Reference, that catch had a Win Probability added of 18%, the second-highest amount for one play in Game 4 behind only Jackie Bradley Jr.’s two-run home run off Josh James in the fifth inning.

“I thought I got a good jump on it,”Benintendi later said following the Game 4 win. “It wasn’t hit that hard. I thought I could catch it, I timed it up well. At that point, it was do or die.”

Later named the Associated Press’ Play of the Year for 2018, Benintendi’s game-sealing catch was an altering one, and it could have made the difference between the Red Sox eventually topping the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series or getting sent home early by Houston for the second year in a row.

“It was fun. I’m glad I caught it,” Benintendi added.

It was also one of the few times we had seen Benintendi put his emotions on display while on the field to that point.

The 2019 season may not have gone the way the 25-year-old outfielder wanted it to, but the talent he displayed last October surely shows that he is more than capable of bouncing back in 2020.

Three Home Runs and Seven Masterful Innings from Eduardo Rodriguez Lift Red Sox to Rain-Filled 8-1 Win over Dodgers

In their first game at Fenway Park since June 26th, the Red Sox took the first of a three-game set against the Los Angeles Dodgers, opening the second half of their season with a commanding 8-1 victory Friday night.

Making his 19th start of the season for Boston in this World Series rematch was Eduardo Rodriguez, who capped off his first half with back-to-back outings of five or more innings pitched and less than two runs given up.

Picking up right where he left off in this one, the left-hander yielded just one earned run on five hits and two walks to go along with 10 strikeouts to tie a season-high over seven quality innings of work.

That one Los Angeles run came in the top half of the second, when with one out and the bases empty, Alex Verdugo unloaded on a 1-2, 87 MPH cutter from Rodriguez and deposited 374 feet into the right field seats.

Other than that, the Venezuela native maneuvered his way around back-to-back walks earlier in the first before retiring 17 of the next 21 Dodgers hitters he faced leading into the middle of the seventh, where his night came to a close with a ground out off the bat of Corey Seager to strand runners at first and second.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 105 (67 strikes), the 26-year-old hurler turned to his four-seam fastball more than 37% of the time he was on the mound Friday, inducing eight swings and misses and topping out at 94.1 MPH with the pitch. He also got 11 whiffs with his changeup, a pitch he threw 33 times with Christian Vazquez behind the plate.

Improving to 10-4 while lowering his ERA on the season down to 4.43, Rodriguez will look to keep this recent encouraging run going in his next time out, which should come against the Toronto Blue Jays.

In relief of Rodriguez, after an hour-long rain delay, left-hander Josh Taylor came on, fanned one and tossed a scoreless eighth to make way for Hector Velazquez in the ninth.

Like Taylor, Velazquez also punched out one lone Dodger en route to securing the convincing 8-1 win for his club.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against Dodgers right-hander Kenta Maeda, who allowed one run over three relief appearances against Boston in last year’s Fall Classic.

Rafael Devers got the scoring started for the Sox right away in the first inning, picking up where he left off before the break by mashing his 17th home run of the season, a 372-foot opposite field shot over the Monster, to put his team on the board.

An inning later, it was Christian Vazquez getting back in the swing of things, this time taking Maeda deep to left on a one-out, 3-2 changeup for his 15tth big fly which also broke a brief 1-1 stalemate.

Fast forward to the sixth, after the Dodgers starter had his way for a bit, and back-to-back doubles from Mookie Betts and Devers to lead off the frame got Boston back on the board again. 3-1.

In the seventh, with Maedo out and reliever Pedro Baez in, a one-out single from Jackie Bradley Jr., followed by Michael Chavis and Bradley Jr. both reaching base safely on a fielder’s choice, brought Brock Holt to the plate in a prime insurance run spot.

Having only faced the Dodgers one-time before Friday in his career, Holt capitalized on said run-scoring opportunity with a first-pitch RBI double off the left field wall, scoring Bradley Jr. and advancing Chavis up to third.

That gave the Sox a 4-1 advantage, and an hour-long weather delay meant Los Angeles had to turn to a new pitcher in righty JT Chargois with one out and runners in scoring position for Boston.

Mookie Betts came through in his first at-bat following the lengthy stoppage, driving in Chavis from third on a sacrifice fly to center. 5-1.

Two batters later, Xander Bogaerts made the Dodgers pay for intentionally walking Devers by punishing a 1-1 slider from Chargois and sending it 388 feet just over that home run marker on the Monster.

Bogaerts’ 18th blast of 2019 put the Red Sox ahead 8-1, and that would go on to be Friday’s final score.

Some notes from this win:

The Red Sox are 6-1 in their last seven games. Over that span, they are averaging 7.7 runs per game.

The 22 swings and misses Eduardo Rodriguez got on Friday set a new career-high.

From Red Sox Notes

From WEEI’s Rob Bradford and Red Sox Stats

From the Red Sox:

Next up for the Red Sox, it’s the middle game of this three-game set on Saturday night.

Left-hander Chris Sale will get the start for Boston, while right-hander Ross Stripling will do the same for Los Angeles.

Since June 15th, Sale has posted a 5.96 ERA and .301 batting average against over his last four starts and 22 2/3 innings pitched.

Last time he pitched against the Dodgers, Sale recorded the final out of the 2018 World Series in Game 5.

Stripling, meanwhile, did not make an appearance at all for LA last October, and only has one prior start against the Sox under his belt, one in which he put together five scoreless innings in a winning effort back on August 6th, 2016.

First pitch Saturday is scheduled for 7:15 PM EDT on FOX. Red Sox going for their sixth straight win.

Former #RedSox Closer Craig Kimbrel Will Not Be in Attendance for Tuesday’s Ring Ceremony, Says Team President and CEO Sam Kennedy

Earlier last week, Red Sox president and CEO Sam Kennedy extended a formal invitation to former closer Craig Kimbrel to attend the club’s Opening Day festivities at Fenway Park on Tuesday.

Fast forward to Monday, the day before Boston’s home opener, and Kennedy told reporters that Kimbrel will in fact not be in attendance, as he does not want to cause any distractions.

MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo has the full quote from Kennedy:

Kimbrel, who of course won a World Series with the Red Sox in 2018, has yet to sign a contract with a big league club and remains a free agent.

When the report first popped up that the 30-year-old hurler could make an appearance at Fenway to receive his World Series ring, my initial reaction was that if you’re Dave Dombrowski, you can’t let that man leave without a contract offer.

Now, as we talk about the Red Sox bullpen 11 games into the new season, things do not as dire as many expected them to be. That much is highlighted by both Matt Barnes and Ryan Brasier owning an ERA of 0.00 in eight combined appearances so far this year.

Still, one of the more elite relievers baseball has seen should be contributing in a major league bullpen right about now. We’ll have to wait and see if that happens anytime soon though, especially with a compensatory draft pick potentially on the line for the Red Sox.

Any way, first pitch against the Toronto Blue Jays is scheduled for 2:05 PM EDT on Tuesday at Fenway Park, with pregame festivities kicking off the day at 1 PM EDT.

The Final Three Outs of the 2018 World Series Taking You into the New Year.

As 2018 comes to a close, I figured it was a good time to reflect on what was one of, if not the greatest year in Boston Red Sox franchise history.

A record-setting 108 regular season wins followed by an impressive 11-3 run in the postseason en route to the club’s ninth World Series title following a 5-1 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game Five.

Mookie Betts was named 2018 American League MVP, the first time a Red Sox player has received that honor since Dustin Pedroia in 2008.

After waiting until February to finally sign a five-year, $110 million contract, JD Martinez went ahead and led the junior circuit in RBI (130) and total bases (358) to go along with 43 home runs in hs first season with Boston.

Jackie Bradley Jr.’s defensive prowess was finally recognized with his first ever Gold Glove Award. The 28-year-old outfielder also came through with multiple clutch at bats in the ALCS against the Houston Astros on his way to being named the series’ Most Valuable Player.

Steve Pearce was acquired from the Toronto Blue Jays in June to provide a platoon with Mitch Moreland at first base and hit his way to becoming the MVP of the World Series after slashing .333/.500/1.167 with three homers and eight RBI in five games.

David Price put his postseason demons behind him to the tune of a 2.59 combined ERA in the ALCS and World Series, including seven-plus innings of one run ball against the Dodgers in that faithful Game Five.

And finally, Chris Sale, after dealing with left shoulder issues for the majority of the second half of the season, came in to close things out in the ninth inning of Game Five and win his team their fourth World Series title in the last 15 years.

So, without further or due, here are the final three outs of the 2018 World Series. Enjoy and Happy New Year.