Despite strong start from Jon Lester, Red Sox fall in season-opener
Red Sox starter Jon Lester threw 104 pitches over seven innings, in what would typically be considered a terrific first start, but it was his 93rd pitch that he would like to have back.
With the game tied at one in the bottom of the seventh, Orioles slugger Nelson Cruz belted the first pitch of the inning over the wall in left field, putting the Orioles ahead for good in their 2-1 win over the Red Sox on Opening Day Monday. It marked the fourth straight and 16th out of the last 19 years the Red Sox opened the year on the road, going 7-8 prior to Monday. The Sox won on Opening Day last season, an 8-2 victory over the Yankees.
Lester (0-1) went seven innings against the O’s, allowing two runs on six hits, striking out eight, while walking just one. Despite the homer to Cruz, Lester finished the game strong as the last four outs he recorded were strikeouts.
With the start, his fourth straight on Opening Day, he passed Babe Ruth and Mel Parnell for the longest streak by a left-hander in club history.
Junichi Tazawa pitched a scoreless eighth in relief of Lester.
Grady Sizemore continued his hot spring and triumphant return to baseball as he went 2-for-4 with a home run, his first since July 15, 2011, which also came in Baltimore.
Every player in the Red Sox lineup recorded a hit, except Daniel Nava and Will Middlebrooks. Dustin Pedroia extended his season opener hit streak to eight, passing Mo Vaughn (1992-1998) for the longest in club history.
The Red Sox had their chances to tie the game as they left two runners on in both the eighth and the ninth innings, including a David Ortiz fly out to center with the tying run on second in the ninth. Overall, Boston went 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position.
The Sox forced Orioles starter Chris Tillman from the game after just five innings as they worked counts, pressing Tillman to throw 104 pitches. Tillman allowed one run on seven hits, while striking out four. Winning pitcher Zach Britton gave the Orioles two scoreless innings of relief.
Evan Meek and Brian Matusz pitched the eighth, before Tommy Hunter pitched the ninth to earn his first save of the year.
The two teams will be off Tuesday, as the Red Sox will visit the White House for a celebration of the 2013 World Series title, before returning to action Wednesday night (7:05, NESN) as John Lackey will go up against Ubaldo Jimenez.
What they’ll be saying: Despite suffering the loss, it was a strong first start for Lester. Some have questioned him coming out for the start of the seventh inning after 92 pitches, but he threw 96 or more pitches in all 33 of his starts last season and striking out the side following the home run validated that it wasn’t a case of his tiring … Looking back, it was the inability to get a clutch hit as the Sox had the tying run in scoring position in each of the final two innings. A.J. Pierzynski grounded out in the eighth, before Ortiz and Jackie Bradley Jr. were each retired in the ninth … Sizemore once again impressed in his first regular season game in more than two years, recording two of the Red Sox’ eight hits. With Shane Victorino going on the disabled list before the game, his presence on the roster becomes even more important.