And once again, it should be the Yankees and the Red Sox going neck and neck, nose to nose, hammer and tongs, tooth and claw, mano a mano from April through September.
Look. Baseball should never begin on a Sunday night in Boston, no matter what the programming needs of ESPN2 are. It is, after all, Opening Day, not Opening Night. And it’s just foolish to throw away a perfectly wonderful and sunny afternoon that would have been the perfect time for a ballgame.
And the season should never begin with the game’s best rivalry. Yankees-Red Sox is too good to put on your plate in the first game of the season. It’s like serving the main course before the breadsticks, appetizer and soup. Your palate isn’t ready for it.
But that’s what the schedule dictated, and just because it was the wrong time of day and the wrong time of month, you weren’t going to pass it up. And Boston and New York did not disappoint.
They whacked balls off and over the Green Monster and rattled them around every nook and cranny of Boston’s beloved and quirky ballpark. The Yankees took a four-run lead, lost it, regained it and lost it again as the Red Sox came away with a 9-7 win that wasn’t a total work of art but was as good an Opening Night game as you could ask for.
The two aces who started, CC Sabathia and Josh Beckett, were done before the sixth inning was over. Sabathia was better early but battered late. Beckett was treated rudely by the visitors, giving up four runs in fewer than five innings.
I doubt that many were surprised. We don’t watch Yankees-Red Sox for the great pitching. even when great pitchers are on the mound.
We watch because of what these two teams showed in the first game of the season on the biggest stage available to them. We watch to see one team take a big lead only to see it evaporate. We watch for the intensity. We watch for the comebacks and emotion. We watch because we know how much is at stake.
There’s good reason for that. For years, predicting the order of finish in the AL East was as challenging as getting a dog to eat a Milk Bone. You penciled in the Yankees first and the Red Sox second. If you were in a contrarian mood, you put the Red Sox first and Yankees second. You didn’t even have to know which other teams were in the division because they didn’t count.
But this year, the Red Sox particularly have a lot to prove to armies of analysts who have decided that their offense is not good enough to beat not only the Yankees but also the Rays.
Tampa has become the trendy pick this year to finish second to the Yankees and snag the AL wild card.
There are questions about Victor Martinez’s defense behind the plate, about the loss of Jason Bay, about David Ortiz’s declining skills, about what Mike Cameron and Marco Scutaro and Adrian Beltre will be able to bring to the offense.
So Boston is feeling some pressure coming out of the gate. The team reads the papers and listens to the radio and knows what people are saying. The players know they have things to prove.
All of this helped make Sunday something more than your average opener. And both teams responded.
The Yankees got back-to-back home runs from Jorge Posada and their new center fielder, Curtis Granderson. They pulled off a double steal, with Derek Jeter taking second base while Brett Gardner swiped home.
Against the Red Sox, you stick around, because it’s in Fenway, and things can happen in a hurry, which is exactly what they did. Kevin Youkilis was the big thumper with two doubles and a triple. He also scored the go-ahead run on a double, a wild pitch and a passed ball. That was after Dustin Pedroia had tied it with a two-run homer over the Green Monster.
Jonathan Papelbon sent everyone home happy with a scoreless ninth.
That’s one down, a mere 161 to go. If they’re as exciting as the first one, it’s going to be a great year.
NEW YORK (AP) - Yankees fans showed Don Mattingly the love from the moment he took the lineup card to home plate Wednesday. Hiroki Kuroda, though, wasn't feeling nostalgic when facing his old team.
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