NEW YORK –A case can be made that no member of the Red Sox roster will have more to say about whether the team is an AL East contender or also-ran than Jon Lester. The gap between what he was from 2008-11 — one of the top starters in the majors — and his performance in 2012 — when he was a durable starter who performed at a below league-average level, more along the lines of a No. 4 or No. 5 starter, is colossal.
And so it was that the first note of the Red Sox’ 2013 season was a considerably impressive one. Lester proved mostly sharp against a depleted Yankees lineup, leaning mostly on a 92-94 mph fastball and a nasty cutter that stayed on the hands of hitters while working five innings in which he permitted two runs on five hits and two walks. Lester struck out seven, more than he punched out in 25 of his 33 starts a year ago.
His pitch count (96, 63 strikes) represented something of an issue, as he proved unable to work deep into the game. Still, Lester avoided the sort of potholes that sometimes ruined otherwise-promising outings last year. For the Sox, who hadn’t won on Opening Day since 2010, the left-hander’s performance — and the team’s 8-2 win — represented a positive first step for a team sorely in need of just that.
Some other takeaways from Opening Day:
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX
– In their decision to stash Jackie Bradley Jr. in the eighth spot in the lineup for his major league debut, there was a message from the Red Sox. As promising as his spring was, and as good a hitter as the Sox think that the 22-year-old can become, the team’s decision to insert him in left field for Opening Day was driven chiefly because of the fact that he combines an advanced, disciplined plate approach with tremendous outfield defense and strong base running.
Bradley displayed both against the Yankees. In his first career plate appearance, with runners on first and second and one out in the top of the second inning, he quickly fell behind CC Sabathia, 0-2, but then took a pair of sliders (one just off the plate), fouled off a fastball, then took a slider and fastball for a walk. Then, when Jose Iglesias bounced a chopper to shortstop, Bradley’s good break from first permitted him to slide safely into second on a fielder’s choice attempt — a play that proved huge given that the Sox scored three two-out runs in the inning.
Then, with two outs and a runner on second in the bottom of the third inning, Bradley got a great jump on a Robinson Cano fly ball to deep left field, ran a clean route to the ball and turned around in time to make the catch while backpedaling just shy of the warning track — a play that ended the inning and saved at least one run.
Bradley would later strike out and walk against Sabathia, seeing 15 pitches in three plate appearances despite not putting a ball in play. When he finally did make contact, it was with runners on the corners and one out in the top of the seventh. Against left-handed reliever Boone Logan, he worked the count to 3-1 then hit a hard grounder back up the middle that Logan couldn’t field cleanly; the ball glanced off his glove for an RBI groundout. Finally, in his fifth plate appearance of the game, Bradley accepted a walk from Joba Chamberlain, thus becoming the first big leaguer to walk three times in his major league debut since Danny Ardoin of the Twins did it in 2000.
So, Bradley went 0-for-2 with three walks, an RBI and 26 pitches seen. The ability to impact multiple dimensions of the game without collecting a hit underscored what the Sox hoped Bradley might be able to do if he remained on the roster.
– The Red Sox bullpen was dominant. Even though Lester was knocked out after just five innings, the team had waves of arms to send at the Yankees, with Koji Uehara (1IP), Andrew Bailey (2/3 IP), Andrew Bailey (1/3 IP), Junichi Tazawa (1 IP) and Joel Hanrahan delivering four shutout innings in which they permitted just one hit and two walks while striking out three. Miller hit 98 mph with a pair of punchouts, Bailey struck out Kevin Youkilis with a 95 mph heater up in the zone and Hanrahan showed 97 mph with life to close out the contest.
– Jarrod Saltalamacchia had a strong day at the plate, notable because he starter against the left-handed Sabathia. He went 1-for-2 with a double and a pair of walks (including 1-for-2 with one of those walks against Sabathia). That performance continued a spring in which the catcher performed well against southpaws (.333 average, .375 OBP), something that he rarely had the opportunity to do in 2012.
– Jose Iglesias didn’t exactly destroy the baseball, but he chopped an infield single with the bases loaded, pushed a bunt to the right side for a single and later had a swinging bunt to third for another hit. (He’d worked quite a bit on bunting during spring training.) The three-hit game was the second of the young shortstop’s career, with the previous one coming against the Rays last Sept. 20 representing his only prior contest with multiple base hits in 35 big league appearances.
– Overall, the lineup did an excellent job of making Yankees pitchers — particularly Sabathia — work. The Sox knocked the big left-hander out after just five innings in which he required 102 pitches.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX
– Mike Napoli had a tough Red Sox debut, going 0-for-5 with a pair of strikeouts.
– Will Middlebrooks went 0-for-4 with a walk, but deserves some bonus points for being on the field despite a 102-degree fever while fighting the flu.
– The Sox missed out on several chances to blow the game open early, leaving 13 runners on base. Most heinously, they failed to score a run in the sixth inning after Jacoby Ellsbury led off the frame with a triple. Still, they finally put the game out of reach by plating three runs in the ninth against reliever Joba Chamberlain.
We had an impromptu visit from Peter King from SI / MMQB to our Fenway Studios and decided to talk some NFL and Patriots with him.
Pete talks with The Senator, Phil Perry about the Patriots trading for Dwayne Allen, ruling out a return to New England for Martellus Bennett. They also talk about the potential future of Patriots backup QB Jimmy Garoppolo and some of the big names in NFL free agency
Pete, Thornton and Price give their final thoughts and predictions for the Super Bowl.
Dale, Holley and Rich Keefe discuss NBA lottery pick Lonzo Ball with his very outspoken father Lavar Ball. The guys touch on the Celtics, his feud with his sons' high school coach, Lonzo being better than Steph Curry and much more.
Kirk, Gerry, and Alex Reimer discuss whether or not Isaiah Thomas will win a title in Boston.
Gerry, Kirk, and Trenni react to the Celtics loss against the Suns.
Joe Castiglione and Tim Neverett talked to the Sox left fielder, who had five hits in the Sox win in Baltimore.
Rob Bradford is joined by both Lou Merloni and Curt Schilling to discuss the recent controversy involving Manny Machado, Dustin Pedroia, Matt Barnes and their respective teams. The two former major leagues offer insight to how baseball handles (and should handle) hitting batters as an act of revenge, with their own stories of involving similar situations as the one that unfolded in Baltimore. They also break down the decision to take Chris Sale out of his last start after eight innings. The former pitcher and batter cover it all from every angle.
Joe and Tim talk with Red Sox right fielder Mookie Betts after he provided the big hit in the 10th inning driving in 3 runs as the Red Sox beat the Blue Jays 4-1. Mookie talks about playing behind a pitcher like Chris Sale, and the amount of strikeouts from Sale lightens his work in the outfield.
Hour 4. The guys think the Globe was looking for more with Brady, possibly a Trump connection. Crazy Al joins the show multiple times.
Hour 3. Gerry and Mut defend Brady while Kirk thinks it’s a little suspicious. Callers weigh in on the Tome Brady piece. Climate marches are taking place across the country.
Hour 2. Gerry, Kirk, and Mut discuss the Celtics win against the Bulls and continue their conversation about Brady and Best Buddies. Headlines with Kirk features a new accusation against Sean Hannity.
Hour 3 - The guys talk about the rivalry that is building between the Sox and Orioles as Matt Barnes threw at Manny Machado's head. They also talk about Pedroia's actions during the game and his comments after the game.
Hour 2 - The guys talk about the Boston Globe article attacking Tom Brady and his charity work. Pete Abe's is an idiot saying his twitter account was hacked but in fact he is just an ass man.
Hour 1 - Glenn, Lou, and Christian react to the Bruins losing another overtime game and being knocked out of the playoffs by the Senators. They also talk about the Celtics and Bulls series and how the Celtics were able to win another game in Chicago.
Last two hours focused on our winter teams as they struggle in their first round match-ups.
Finish out the week on Freestyle Friday talking mostly about the Aaron Hernandez suicide and how it will affect his family in hour #2.
Hour One of freestyle Friday focused mostly on the Celtics and their matchup vs the now Rondo-less Bulls.
Kirk Minihane, Springsteen super fan, is joined by Garry W. Tallent, founding member of the E Street Band. Kirk and Garry talk about what it's like on tour with Bruce, how the band goes about selecting songs for the tour, Garry's projects away from the band, and Garry's upcoming solo tour that will bring him to the New England area.
Kirk Minihane, future radio hall of famer, sits down with current radio hall of famer Howie Carr. Kirk and Howie talk about Howie's latest book Kennedy Babylon. If you like famous people engaging in sex scandals, hard drug taking, and murder this is the podcast for you. Its a fascinating look at Boston's most famous family and the problems that took the family down.
Kirk Minihane, host and overlord of the morning show, brings Gerry Callahan and producers Chris and Ken into the studio to hear his show proposal. Kirk is thinking about making some changes to the morning show and wants to hear his crew's opinion.
Keefe, Holley, and Ben talk about how the Celtics tied their series with the Bulls after a terrible start, why Gerald Green is starting and making an impact, and where is Jaylen Brown?
Christian Fauria and Dr Gill talk about the beginning of the Baseball season. Why players need as much time as they do to get ready for the season, and what they should be doing in their offseason.
Ken & Chris are back at the postgame recaps after a Monday K&C with Mut.
Danny talks about the Red Sox and Orioles game and the fireworks in the 8th inning when Matt Barnes threw at Manny Machado. Pedroia was shown talking to Machado saying he wouldn't have thrown at his head and Danny wants to know how bad does this make Pedroia look throwing a teammate under the bus.More from this show
Michele McPhee joins Kirk, Gerry, and Alex to talk about Hernandez’s suicide and the accusation that she may have contributed to his suicide.More from this show
Hour 1. Mut joins Kirk and Gerry. The guys can’t believe neither Boston newspaper covered the Hernandez sexuality story. Over the weekend, the Globe’s Bob Hohler wrote a slanted piece about Tom Brady’s work with charity.More from this show
Hour 4. While discussing what kind of music Aaron Hernandez may have liked, the guys realize they hate musicals. Robert Kennedy Jr. has voice spasms. The week ends with a tragedy.More from this show
Hour 4. The guys think the Globe was looking for more with Brady, possibly a Trump connection. Crazy Al joins the show multiple times.More from this show