Sox get off on wrong foot with loss to Rangers, 9-5

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Sox get off on wrong foot with loss to Rangers, 9-5

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

LEADOFF SPOT: Jon Lester had never before given up three homers in a single start. Daniel Bard hadn't allowed four runs in an outing since his rookie year.

So when both things happened Friday, you got the sense it wasn't going to be the Red Sox' day. And it wasn't as they dropped their regular season opener, 9-5 to the Texas Rangers in a slugfest.

Lester twice coughed up two-run leads, with the big blow against him a three-run homer by Mike Napoli in the fourth.

After David Ortiz tied the game with a solo homer in the top of the eighth, the Rangers responded right away with four runs in the bottom of the inning off Bard, including a pinch-hit two-run double by former Sox outfielder David Murphy. Murphy's opposite-field slice kicked up chalk on the left field line and gave the Rangers a lead they wouldn't lose.

Adrian Gonzalez, in his Red Sox debut, collected three RBI. Carl Crawford wasn't nearly a successful, going hitless in four at-bats with three strikeouts.

PLAYER OF THE GAME: David Murphy. The former Red Sox outfielder came off the bench to deliver a tie-breaking two-run pinch-hit double in the bottom of the eighth and put the Rangers ahead for good.

HONORABLE MENTION: Mike Napoli, a noted Red Sox killer while with the Angels, didn't do anything differently with his new team, belting a three-run homer off Jon Lester and adding a walk in the eighth to help set up Murphy's heroics.

THE GOAT: Daniel Bard. Bard was hit around for four runs in the eighth and was saddled with the loss. In 73 appearances last season, Bard gave up more than a run twice. The four runs off him tied a career high.

TURNING POINT: On a 3-and-2 pitch to Napoli, Bard threw a slider which missed, walking Napoli and setting the four-run inning in motion.

BY THE NUMBERS: David Ortiz had a game-tying homer off lefthander Darren Oliver. All of last season, Ortiz hit just two homers off lefties.

QUOTE OF NOTE: "We battled all day to stay in that game. It sucks to be the one that gives it away.'' -- Daniel Bard.

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

Brady allows himself to enjoy win: '[Bleep], you've got to be happy now'

Brady allows himself to enjoy win: '[Bleep], you've got to be happy now'

FOXBORO -- Tom Brady can be his own worst critic. That's why last week, after beating the Texans in the Divisional Round to move on to the AFC title game, he wasn't thrilled. He didn't play up to his standards. The offense struggled at points. He wore his frustration like a five o'clock shadow.

Winning is not everything for Brady, most weeks. He has an idea of how he should perform, how the Patriots offense should perform, and when those ideals aren't met, he's generally displeased. 

PATRIOTS 36, STEELERS 17

On Sunday, after beating up on the Steelers, 36-17, that wasn't the case. It was a sound performance, but it wasn't perfect. It was explosive at times, but it shined a light on areas where the Patriots will need to continue to improve. 

Despite its imperfections, Sunday was no time to brood about plays missed or lessons learned the hard way. Screw it, Brady seemed to say. They were going to the Super Bowl. It was OK to smile.  

"It was a good day," Brady said. "I mean, we're going to the Super Bowl, man. [Expletive], you've got to be happy now."

The Super Bowl berth is the ninth in franchise history -- more than any other club -- and the seventh with Brady and coach Bill Belichick. By throwing for 384 yards and three touchdowns on 32-of-42 passing, Brady tied Joe Montana for the most postseason games (nine) with three touchdown passes. 

Brady will also claim the record for Super Bowls played when he and the Patriots head to Houston. And if they win, he'll tie Charles Haley for most Super Bowl wins for a player (five).

Those are lofty numbers made even more significant, perhaps, due to the fact that Brady wasn't allowed to start this season as his team's quarterback. He was asked during Sunday's postgame press conference if it was personally satisfying to get back to the Super Bowl despite having to serve a four-game suspension due to Deflategate.

"Well, that's because of the hard work of a lot of people from my coaches to my teammates to our families that support us," he said. "It takes a lot of people, a lot of hard work and a lot of effort over the course of many months. This didn't start at 6:40 tonight.

"This thing started in April. It really started before that in free-agency when we were picking up guys like [Chris] Hogan and drafting guys like Malcolm Mitchell and guy who were in rehab like [LeGarrette Blount] and [Dion Lewis] and [James Develin] and Nate [Solder]. It's a lot of hard work. There are only two teams left standing, and I'm happy we're one of them."

They're going to the Super Bowl. He has to be happy now.