BOSTON -- So how different is 2013 for the Red Sox?
Well, after two starts in 2012, Clay Buchholz had a 9.82 ERA. This year? 0.64.
Daniel Nava wasn't even in Boston at this time last year, not getting the call from Pawtucket until May. This year? He's not only here, he's hitting .500 (6-for-12) with two home runs.
Last year after seven games, the Red Sox were 2-5 and in last place in the A.L. East . . . which is just where they'd wind up.
Well, this year they're 5-2 after Buchholz and Nava led them to a 3-1 victory over the Orioles on Monday, their ninth consecutive Opening Day victory at Fenway Park. And they're in first place . . . for what that's worth at this ridiculously early stage of the season. But first place nonetheless.
Buchholz -- despite complaining that he was struggling with command and control all afternoon -- put the Sox in position to win with seven shutout innings, matching Orioles left-hander Wei-Yin Chen zero for zero. Given the opportunity, Boston capitalized in the bottom of the seventh.
Dustin Pedroia led off with an infield single and went to third when Mike Napoli doubled off the wall in left-center. After Chen struck out Will Middlebrooks, Nava made a winner of Buchholz and the Red Sox with a blast over the left-field wall, his second home run of the year.
Buchholz allowed only three hits, with four walks and eight strikeouts, in seven innings.
Andrew Bailey pitched a scoreless eighth, but closer Joel Hanrahan struggled in the ninth. He allowed a leadoff home run to Adam Jones, ruining the shutout, then gave up a two-out double to J.J. Hardy before retiring Ryan Flaherty for the game's final out.
STAR OF THE GAME: Clay Buchholz
He said nothing was working and he had a problem keeping his pitches down. Would that we all struggled the way Clay Buchholz did Monday. He shut down the Orioles on three hits -- singles by Nate McLouth (first inning), Manny Machado (third) and Nick Markakis (also the third) -- and walked four while striking out eight over seven innings. No Baltimore runner reached third base, and only one reached second, as he raised his record to 2-0 and became the first Red Sox pitcher to go at least seven innings while allowing one run or less in his first two starts of a season since Josh Beckett in 2006.
HONORABLE MENTION: Daniel Nava
Very quietly, Nava is making a case for a lot more playing time than he's gotten so far. He homered Monday for the second time in two days; he's now reached base in 14 consecutive starts, dating back to last Sept. 21; he upped his career on-base percentage at Fenway Park to .411. He started in left field in place of the struggling Jackie Bradley Jr., and may find himself out there more and more as the Sox await the return of David Ortiz.
GOAT OF THE GAME: Joel Hanrahan
Well, "goat" may not the right word, but Hanrahan certainly made the game more interesting than it needed to be. Entrusted with the softest of save situations -- a three-run lead with three outs to go -- the Sox closer allowed the tying run to get to the plate before nailing down his third save of the season and his first ever at Fenway Park.
After Pedroia's single and Napoli's double, Chen began looking as if he might actually escape the jam by striking out Middlebrooks. But Nava launched a 1-and-1 pitch into a dumpster in a parking lot beyond the left-field wall, giving the Sox a lead they wouldn't relinquish.
STAT OF THE DAY: 17-4
The Red Sox have won nine straight home openers -- most in franchise history and the longest active streak in the majors -- and have won 17 of their 21 Fenway openers since 1993.
QUOTE OF NOTE
"After a weekend of boos, today was really good." -- Red Sox manager John Farrell, enjoying some love after a weekend spent as Public Enemy Number One in Toronto.