Closing Time: Everything goes as planned in opener for Clay Buchholz, Red Sox

Rob Bradford
April 06, 2015 - 2:09 pm
PHILADELPHIA -- The Red Sox managed to change a few conversations in a hurry. The pitcher who served as spring training's hottest topic from beginning to end -- Philadelphia starter Cole Hamels -- didn't come as advertised when pitching against the Red Sox in their season-opener at Citizens Bank Park Monday afternoon. The perception of Clay Buchholz also did an about-face, except in his case it was for the better. For just the second time in his career, Hamels allowed four home runs, exiting after just five innings and taking the loss in the Red Sox' 8-0 win over the Phillies. Leading the charge against the pitcher so many wanted the Red Sox trade for was Dustin Pedroia, who managed his fourth multi-home run game with a pair of solo shots over the left-field wall, and Hanley Ramirez. Ramirez hit one long ball against Hamels, and another -- a grand slam -- in the ninth against reliever Jake Diekman. Also going deep for the visitors against Philly's ace -- who had 23 straight starts of allowing three runs or less to end the 2014 season -- was Mookie Betts. Buchholz, meanwhile, looked far more like the pitcher of early 2013 that the one who muddled through '14. The Sox starter didn't allow a hit until Ryan Howard's line drive to left with two outs in the fourth inning fell just out of the reach of Ramirez in left. When it was all said and done, Buchholz turned in a seven-inning gem, giving up just three hits while striking out nine, walking just one and not allowing a run. SWENSON GRANITE WORKS ROCK SOLID PERFORMER OF THE GAME: Clay Buchholz. The righty became the first Red Sox pitcher to win his initial Opening Day start with the Sox since Pedro Martinez's 1998 win over Oakland. "It was good," said Buchholz. "There was a lot of building up to this moment. I felt good all spring. It's just another step, I guess. I was a little more anxious today than I have been for first starts given all the attention to it. After the first couple pitches, it felt like a normal game." WHAT WENT RIGHT -- It has become an annual rite of passage: Pedroia getting at least one hit on Opening Day. His first-inning homer this time marked the ninth time in as many major league seasons that the second baseman has collected a hit in the regular-season opener. With his two homers, he ties David Ortiz and Albert Pujols for lead among active players with four Opening Day homers (4). "Sometimes you get hurt and try to find a way to play through it," Pedroia said. "But sometimes you get healthy too that's the way I look at it. I grinded a lot last year and last couple of years. I'm back to being who I am." -- Betts might have popped up in his first at-bat, but it didn't take long for him to get his spring training groove back soon thereafter. The Red Sox center fielder -- who led the Grapefruit League in extra-base hits (12) and slugging percentage (.750) -- launched Hamels' first pitch of the third inning into the left field seats for a 2-0 Red Sox lead. He already came into the game as the Red Sox' youngest Opening Day leadoff hitter since Rico Petrocelli (1965). Betts actually led off an inning four times, finishing with a pair of hits. -- Ramirez's solo shot in the fifth inning marked his first hit as a member of the Red Sox. He previously got two at-bats as a member of the 2005 Red Sox, striking out in both of them. The ninth-inning grand slam was the the slugger's sixth for his career. -- A subtle help for the Red Sox lineup was the ability of Ryan Hanigan to reach his first two times up, via a walk and single, with two outs. Both times Buchholz ended the inning with ground outs, but it allowed for Betts to lead off the following frame. -- After receiving a standing ovation heading into his first at-bat, Shane Victorino played like his healthy self. The right fielder drew a pair of walks, forced a Hamels balk with an attempted steal, and crashed into the right-field wall to rob Cesar Hernandez in the fifth inning. WHAT WENT WRONG -- National League baseball caught up to the Red Sox in the second inning when they managed to get runners on first and third with two outs. But even though Buchholz managed to work a 3-0 count against Hamels, the end result of the inning-ending at-bat was a 3-2 grounder right back to the pitcher. Buchholz did come into the game with two hits in his five previous at-bats. -- Pablo Sandoval continued to look uncomfortable from the right side of the plate, going 0-for-4 (3 strikeouts) against lefties. Sandoval hit just .199 against left-handers in 2014. -- David Ortiz is still trying to find his timing, carrying over his spring training slump into the opener. Playing first base (where he finished the day without incident), Ortiz went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts.