What was more reassuring — that the balky Red Sox offense scored twice as many runs as it had in a single game thus far in the young season on Tuesday, or how the early April sun pierced the clouds during the late innings of the team’s home opener, sparking applause and creating anticipation of better things to come?
It didn’t really matter. On a prototypically chilly New England spring day, both of these things scratched the itch of the Fenway faithful, offering reason to be cheerful and heightening enthusiasm for the steady march of the calendar toward summer.
The eternal verities of the game suffused the 95-year-old ballyard, led by Johnny Pesky, vigorous at 87, and recently exiled from the Sox bench during games by Major League Baseball, who happily gave the resounding call: “Play ball!” The throng of 36,000-plus chewed sausage and pulled on overpriced beer (up to $7 for the “cheap” stuff, and $7.75 for Sam Adams), trying to ward off the slightly above freezing temperatures.
Hurler Josh Beckett showed impressive form in steadily exiling Seattle Mariner hitters, repeatedly striking out Ichiro — one of the game’s toughest outs — and Sox newcomer J.D. Drew continued to impress, bashing a home run over the center field fence for a fine hometown debut. If the crowd was a bit muted because of the cold, new reliever Brendan Donnelly offered some fireworks by resurrecting a running feud with the Mariners’ Jose Guillen, leading to the clearing of both benches, but no punches.
It’s easy to forget how a parade of greats — Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Lefty Grove, Ted Williams, and so many others — have played in the oldest of MLB parks, and how easy it used to be to score tickets, both before and after the Impossible Dream season of 1967. In a tribute, many of the Sox players from that team were recognized before the game.
The ongoing frenzy about the Sox might explain why one fan in the right field grandstand insisted, to the vehement opposition of his neighbor, that the team would be better off with a more contemporary home. Then again, the critic conceded, those paying the face value of $27 in that section, rather than some vastly inflated amount in the secondary market, really have no reason to complain.
With snowflakes falling on Beacon Street in the hours before the game, the season was starting to take shape before our eyes: the AL East, as expected, promises to offer a close battle between the offensively explosive Yankees, the slugging Blue Jays, and a Sox team, quite strong on starting pitching, whose offense remains a bit of a question mark.
For now, the Mariners, sluggish from a sequence of games canceled by snow in Cleveland, proved easy prey for the Sox, who won, 14-3. Jason Varitek, already written off by some because of his advancing age, rapped three hits. Shaking off the rust, reliever Mike Timlin advanced toward the rarefied company of pitchers with 1000 appearances.
The Sox are back, and that’s a good thing.
: This Just In
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