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.
Daniel Jeremiah calls NFL Sunday to preview the NFL Draft and discuss what the New England Patriots will be looking to do starting Thursday night.
In hour 2 of NFL Sunday, we get more draft talk from Price and Dickerson. They discuss if the Pats will trade up or down at all or what they can get by staying put. Also, what does the RB position look like for New England? We hear from Daniel Jeremiah from the NFL Network and NFL.com and get his thoughts on the NFL draft and what the Patriots will do. Finally, the boys talk about the Greg Hardy situation in Dallas.
It's finally the week of the NFL Draft and the guys are psyched. They kick off the show discussing the release of the NFL schedule and how they expect the Pats to do against a relatively easy road for the Super Bowl champs. Greg and Chris talk about any difficult match-ups and if any teams in the AFC East can contend with the Patriots. Then the boys move on to the Draft and where the Pats may go. WEEI.com's Mike Petraglia joins the program to discuss his thoughts on the upcoming draft, the Pats needs and his ideas on why the Patriots may in fact trade up this season.
Greg Dickerson and John Tomase discuss the amazing season for the Celts and if they have any chance against Lebron and the Cleveland Cavs in a seven game series. If they do, HOW ... how do they get it done?
Brian "White Mamba" Scalabrine joins the guys to talk about the Celtics playoff push, the development of Marcus Smart and James Young, and the prospect of Brad Stevens leaving the Celtics for a college job.
Brow Buff's Sam Packard and Ben Kichen break down Marcus Smart's unfortunate ball tap, debate leadership in the Celtics locker room, and rehash the great Kevin Love to Boston rumors.
Joe and Lou Merloni talk with the hero of the night, Mookie Betts after the Red Sox come back to beat the Toronto Blue Jays in walk-off fashion in the first game of the series
Joe and Dave talk with Red Sox super utility man Brock Holt, who hit the game winning 3 run home run that propelled the Red Sox over the Baltimore Orioles, and played some stellar defense to seal the win.
Continued Red Sox talk on benching Victorino and the Red Sox pitching issues..and Sean's love for the band Poison.
The awesomely knowledgeable Fluto Shinzawa calls DJ, Naoko and Pete to talk about his thoughts on the future of the B's. He discusses his column from earlier this week on Cam Neely wanting to give Claude the ax earlier in the season but not getting the ok. Fluto shares his thoughts on Chiarelli's firing, the future for Claude and where the Bruins should go from here. He also gives his opinion on potential moves the team can make, who would fit in here, his thoughts on the NHL playoffs so far and more.
In the final hour of the "midseason finale" as DJ likes to call it, the crew discuss more about the future of the Bruins franchise, the possible power struggle in the front office and who should be the head coach going forward. They talk to intelligent and talented Fluto Shinzawa about all of these thing and more in an excellent interview, and finally, DJ says THANK YOU!
DJ, Naoko and Pete get into the huge week for the Bruins that saw the franchise move on from GM Peter Chiarelli. They discuss why that was done and if they agree. What does this mean for Claude? They talk about Claude and if he can exist here. If not, who would work in Boston? They also get into the NHL Draft Lottery last night and talk to ESPN Boston's Joey "National" McDonald live from Tampa, Florida.
The great Marc Fucarile discussed his struggles since he lost his leg two years ago.
Glenn, Gerry and Kirk discussed the riots in Baltimore.
Frank Perullo joined the show to defend his poll.
Manny Pacquiao tells a story about how his dad ate the family dog when he was just 12 years old. Charley Casserly thinks he's taping a segment for NFL Network..... whoops... it's LIVE. ESPN 2 airs video games causing Twitter to go ballistic.
Ray Lewis gives an impassioned speech to the rioting citizens of Baltimore. Also, news broke that the Jets will be fined 100K for the tampering of Darrelle Revis, but no draft picks will be surrendered.
Christian's favorite player, Brock Holt, spoke about John Farrell's transparency regarding his role with the team, and the confidence that he and his fellow position players has in the starting rotation.
the top stories of the day as recounted by Kirk Minihane.
Dale, Michael and Jerry discuss the struggling Red Sox, in particular the tattered shape of their starting and relief pitching.
Dale and Michael discuss the sweeping nature of the exit of the Celtics, and whether or not Kelly Olynyk made a dirty play when he injured Kevin Love's shoulder early in the final game.
Mikey, Lenny, and Erin talk about the Sox 7-1 win over the Baltimore Orioles on Patriots Day and the Sox hold on first place in the AL East. Also, the Celtics trail the Cavs 1 Game to 0 in their 1st Round series and the 2015 Boston Marathon is in the books.
Mikey Adams, joined by Lenny Megliola and Chris Villani, talks about the Red Sox home opening win at Fenway and the Bruins fallout after missing the playoffs including the future of Peter Chiarelli and Claude Julien.
Chris Price joins Mut to talk about how Revis will heat up the Jets-Pats rivalry next season
Gerry, Kirk and Glenn discuss Bruce Jenner's interview with Diane Sawyer and Chris Gasper's latest column.
Football fans and Fantasy Footballers know that there is NO Offseason in the NFL, so Jim and Pete are back with the first of a series of Fantasy Football Podcasts of the “NFL Draft variety.” Tune in and you’ll get an in depth analysis on Pete’s most first batch of scouting reports on this year’s crop of Rookie Targets. Jim and Pete kick it off with a lot of focus on a Runningback rich draft class, some of the top Wide Receiver talent and touch on the top Quarterbacks, Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota. Enjoy!
Uncle Buck joins Chris on the show again to talk about Raw from 4/20, finishing maneuvers and gives a few classic match picks.
Stephen A. expressed his thoughts on Tom Brady's White House snub and Floyd Mayweather's past.More from this show
Gerry, Kirk and Glenn discuss Bruce Jenner's interview with Diane Sawyer and Chris Gasper's latest column.More from this show
The Celtics, unsurprisingly, were swept by the Cavs and Jackie helped the guys recap the season, and the crazy final game which saw some hard fouls as well as an ejection of JR Smith.More from this show