Andrew Benintendi rounds the bases after his first inning homer. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)
The pregame was a novelty.
The first inning was somewhat of a revelation.
After all the hugs, pleasantries and how-do-you-dos that came with Theo Epstein, Jon Lester and the rest of the Cubs coming to town, the Red Sox defined their day with something much more important than tales of World Series rings and visiting clubhouse shenanigans.
John Farrell’s team scored five first-inning runs. Other than John Lackey getting an ovation matching Koji Uehara when put up on the video board, it was the biggest surprise of the night.
After the well-circulated postgame comment by Xander Bogaerts Thursday night, reminding everyone the Red Sox might be missing David Ortiz, the thought of executing such an offensive explosion didn’t seem likely. Not only were the Sox coming off a two-game series that saw little offense, but they were going up against Cubs starter Jake Arrieta, who threw 7 2/3 innings of one-hit ball the last time he was in town.
That first started with an Andrew Benintendi solo homer, and finished with the Sox totaling six hits while making it around the batting order. When it was all said and done, the Red Sox had more than made up for starter Drew Pomeranz giving up a monstrous homer to Kris Bryant (see below), while forcing Arrieta to throw 42 pitches in the one frame.
It wasn’t as if all of the Red Sox’ ails were cured with this one flurry. After that first inning, they fell back into the offensive doldrums that has plagued them too many times this season. And relievers Robby Scott and Joe Kelly managed to make things interesting, combining to give up two runs in the seventh.
But, with Pomeranz pitching well enough the rest of the way (finishing his six innings by allowing two runs on six hits), it was a start. Add in the two-hit nights from Hanley Ramirez, Dustin Pedroia, Christian Vazquez and Marco Hernandez, along with clutch relief outing by Fernando Abad in the eighth (striking out Kyle Schwarber with two runners on and two outs) and it was a step in the right direction.
Beating the world champs less than a month into their reign is something this Red Sox club can hang their hat on heading into Saturday. And this was a team that desperately needed some hat-hanging.
According to StatCast, Kelly’s 102 mph pitch to Anthony Rizzo was the second-fastest offering in the major leagues this season. The fastball was pulled foul by the lefty hitter.
Elsewhere, there were a few notable homers hit in the Orioles game against the Yankees …