Closing Time: Edward Mujica, Red Sox offense falter in home opening loss to Brewers

April 04, 2014 - 1:32 pm
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A grand celebration yielded to an anticlimactic outcome for the Red Sox, as the team suffered a 6-2 loss to the Brewers in a Fenway Park home opener that featured the ring presentation ceremony for those who participated in the 2013 World Series triumph. Boston's bullpen had been outstanding through the early stages of the season, recording 9 2/3 scoreless innings to open the season before Edward Mujica entered a 2-2 tie and promptly gave up three runs before recording an out in the ninth inning, ultimately yielding four runs while recording two outs. While Mujica's poor performance proved decisive, it is worth noting that the Sox amassed just five hits against the Brewers, going 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position. WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX -- Mujica became the first Red Sox pitcher to give up more than three runs in a game in an outing where he was hit hard and made a key mistake in an effort to be aggressive. After he yielded a leadoff double, Mujica fielded a sacrifice bunt attempt and fired to third in an effort to gun down the lead runner. The tag attempt by Will Middlebrooks was late, giving the Brewers a first-and-third situation on which they immediately cashed in with a two-run double as the first stages of a four-run rally. It is worth noting that Koji Uehara and Junichi Tazawa were likely unavailable after having pitched each of the previous two nights. -- Daniel Nava's tough start to the season continued. The Red Sox leadoff hitter went 0-for-4 and is now 2-for-17 (.118) to start the year. -- A.J. Pierzynski swung at seven of the eight pitches he saw, striking out twice and lining out once. He is now hitting .182 with no walks. -- The Sox gave away outs and/or bases on both sides of the ball. Xander Bogaerts committed his first big league error when he failed to glove a liner off the bat of Aramis Ramirez. The misplay proved harmless, however, as Peavy stranded Ramirez. Mike Carp struggled with three balls in left field -- two off the Wall that got past him, one on a groundball into the corner in which his poor angle allowed Jean Segura to leg out a triple to left. And the Sox ran into a pair of key outs, first when Grady Sizemore got gunned down at the plate trying to score on a shallow fly ball with two outs (an understandable risk given the number of outs and the fact that right fielder Jordan Schafer had previously thrown a ball away, allowing Mike Napoli to score from third), then when Dustin Pedroia was caught stealing second with no outs and David Ortiz at the plate. It is worth noting that Carp recovered with a couple of nice plays in left, and Napoli proved a baserunning dynamo, manufacturing the first Sox run with his aggressiveness on the single to Schafer and nearly manufacturing another by walking and advancing to second and third on wild pitches that did not stray far from Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy. WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX -- Will Middlebrooks, in his second plate appearance against Brewers starter Marco Estrada, ambushed a belt-high 88 mph fastball and clubbed it through a strong wind and into the Monster Seats in left field for his first homer of 2014. Middlebrooks' blast came from the No. 9 spot in the lineup -- a position from which he represents an unusual power threat. It's certainly possible that he could move up in the order (indeed, he's already hitting higher than ninth against lefties), but it's worth noting that the all-time record for most homers in a season from the No. 9 spot is by shortstop Kevin Elster, who swatted 21 homers from the bottom of the order for the Rangers in 1996. -- Grady Sizemore reached base three times times, rifling a 2-2 fastball for a single to right in his first at-bat and then negotiating two walks (his first of the year) in his next two trips to the plate. Perhaps more intriguingly, he also stole third base, his first steal since May 11, 2010, before getting thrown out at the plate trying to score from third with two outs on a fly ball to shallow right field in the second inning. Both the steal and the unsuccessful attempt to score offered evidence of Sizemore's willingness to be aggressive on the bases -- a notion further underscored when Sizemore advanced from first to second on a slider in the dirt that strayed no more than a couple feet from the catcher in the bottom of the seventh inning. -- Jake Peavy submitted a solid first start of the year, scattering six hits and walking two over six innings in which he permitted just two runs. Peavy opened with impressive stuff, recording all three first-inning outs by strikeout (the first time with the Sox that he'd accomplished that trick), but then punching out just one more batter the rest of the way. Still, aside from a second inning in which Peavy allowed a solo homer to Jonathan Lucroy and was hit hard while yielding both of his runs, the right-hander navigated nimbly around harm. -- Right-hander Burke Badenhop delivered a strong first outing with the Red Sox, tossing a pair of scoreless innings in which he recorded one out by strikeout and four via groundball, including a pretty 3-6-1 double play that he executed with Mike Napoli and Xander Bogaerts. Badenhop has elicited double plays in 40 games since the start of the 2009 season, tied for the sixth most in the majors in that time.  

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