Pedroia breaks out in home opener

191542.jpg

Pedroia breaks out in home opener

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

BOSTON Jon Lester sauntered through the home clubhouse following Friday afternoons majestic home opener while wrapped in a towel, and announced to nobody in particular Yall can breathe now before heading straight to his locker.

Those waiting to exhale in the Red Sox dugout did so after finally forcing their way into the victory column with a hard-to-come-by 9-6 win over the New York Yankees on Opening Day at Fenway Park, and there were plenty of heroes to be singled out after winning time.

Sox general manager Theo Epstein and manager Terry Francona both gave notable speeches before the game to reassure the beleaguered troops, but there is only so much idle talk can accomplish amid a historically epic fail masquerading as the start to Bostons baseball season.

Instead it was the teams diminutive heart and soul shouting with his bat and thumbing the doubters with his defiant attitude that paved the way for victory.

Dustin Pedroia was all set with losing, and shaped the redemptive tone for the rest of his teammates when he lashed a Phil Hughes offering high into the Green Monster seats in the first inning.

The long ball arrived after John Lackey already labored through a two-run top of the first, and the Sox needed something to spark them.

It was fun, man, said Pedroia. It was fun being at home. We needed it. We have a lot of expectations and we dont want to let anybody down, man. Thats our thing. We want to play hard, win and have fun doing it.

The solo dinger was Pedroias third straight Opening Day homer at Fenway Park, but this one was clearly the grandest given the turmoil his ballclub was mired in after starting winless in their first six games. Pedroia joined Fred Lynn as the only Sox player to go deep in three straight home openers: the sweet-swinging centerfielder did it from 1978-80 with an entirely different group of Red Stockings.

The Sox second baseman also finished with three hits and two more RBIs in the second inning, and gave the Sox an offensive jolt theyd desperately been searching for.

The team was yearning for a defiantly Pedroia attitude just as much as the on-field production, and he had that in man-sized amounts as well.

The second baseman flipped off his elbow guard with braggadocio as he circled second base during his first inning home run trot, and then fired off inspirational words to a dugout full of players as he jogged back in. Then he hit the dirt safely at home plate in the second inning after scampering from second on an Adrian Gonzalez single.

One could almost feel the energy filling back into Bostons reserves now that their inspirational leader was willing them to victory, and his teammates followed suit.

Most of Sox regulars are used to this kind of thing, but for the news guys it was their first viewing of Pedroia in Full.

I noticed it playing against him, but once youre in the same room with him he takes it to a whole new level, said reliever Bobby Jenks. It almost seems like the more pissed off he gets the better he gets.

There must have been an Olympic swimming pool-sized amount of frustration running through Pedroias little body during the long losing streak, and some it was released during that cathartic home run jaunt.

But theres still enough to go around even after the leadoff homer and 3 RBI performance in his home debut.

Theres ample digging left to escape the 1-6 hole Boston has created to start the season, and Pedroia is opting for the team route to solving their troubles rather than accepting back pats and Atta boys for one days work.

We just need to continue to play well and continue to work, said Pedroia. I came in here thinking we need a win, and we need to find a way to do it. I dont care if its the ugliest win of all time. We needed that win.

The Boston win was ugly, but Pedroias performance was far from it.

The former Rookie of the Year and MVP would seem to be right where he needs to be with a .296 batting average after seven games, but all that still matters to him is raising his club out of the doldrums while grinding out games and blocking out the negativity surrounding a team off to a potentially disastrous beginning.

Were 1-6. We dont care whatever you guys say or write. Were just grinding. Were just going to play baseball, said Pedroia. Weve got a lot of great players on this team and a lot of great pitching. Well find ourselves.

We all want to do well. We all want to get a hit every time up. So does Youk. So does Carl. So does everybody else.

The difference today: Pedroia started getting those hits early and set down the gauntlet for the rest of his teammates to follow.

Once again the Little Sox Generals unbending attitude show them the way to victory when they needed it most, and things are a little better in Boston at least for a day.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

Bogaerts' "maturity is clearly taking hold"

red-sox-xander-bogaerts.jpg

Bogaerts' "maturity is clearly taking hold"

NEW YORK -- Xander Bogaerts enjoyed a terrific 2015, his second full season in the big leagues.

He finished second in the American League batting race, established himself as a solid defender at short and generally showed immense promise.

The only thing he didn't do was show much home run power, limited to just seven homers.

This past spring, both manager John Farrell and Chili Davis expressed confidence that the home runs would come, and that they would come organically.

And so they have. In Thursday night's loss to the New York Yankees, a solo homer in the fifth by Bogaerts represented the only Red Sox run of the night in a 5-1 loss. It also gave Bogaerts 21 homers for the year, exactly triple his output from a year ago.

"The maturity is clearly taking hold," said John Farrell of Bogaerts' growth. "You start to get a couple thousand at-bats at the major league level, you're starting to understand your swing, you're picking out certain counts in which to leverage a little bit more. He's been able to do that.

"Home runs are up across the board. But with Xander in particular, he's physically maturing and he's maturing as a major league player as well."

Bogaerts took the advise of Davis and others and didn't set out to try to hit more homers this year. He knew they would come in time.

"Maybe not this quick," he said of the big increase, "but probably in the future, yeah. That's what I did in the minor leagues, so it's kind of something that I thought might translate to the big leagues, too."

Bogaerts is hard-pressed to put his finger on any on factor to explain the big uptick. After all, he didn't change his swing or his stance.

Rather, the homers came as a result of him understanding himself better as a hitter and consistently taking the right approach at the plate.

"It's just (a matter of) taking good swings in good counts," he offered. "Sometimes, you're looking for one. But overall, it's just being a more mature hitter and looking for the right spots to pick and choose."

It hasn't hurt that he's surrounded by quality hitters in the Red Sox lineup, with Mookie Betts and Dustin Pedroia ahead of him earlier in the year, and now Pedrioa ahead of him and David Ortiz behind him.

In addition to seeing better pitches because of who's surrounding him, Bogaerts has also benefitted from listening to Ortiz, who watches his at-bats and offers advice when called for.

Still, most of the credit belongs to Bogaerts himself, who has grown into his power naturally -- just as his manager and hitting coach forecast.

Quotes, notes and stars: "It seems like everybody was happy that I'm leaving"

red-sox-david-ortiz-yankees.jpg

Quotes, notes and stars: "It seems like everybody was happy that I'm leaving"

NEW YORK -- Quotes, Notes and Stars from the Red Sox' 5-1 loss to the Yankees:

QUOTES

* "It seems like everybody was happy that I'm leaving." David Ortiz, unaccustomed to ovations and cheering at Yankee Stadium.

* "I thought he threw a high number of strikes. There was good swing-and-miss to his changeup and he took the opportunity and showed well." John Farrell on Henry Owens.

* "It's just taking good swings in good counts. It's just being a more mature hitter and looking for the right spots to pick and choose." Xander Bogaerts, who has tripled his homer output since last year.

NOTES:

* With his fourth-inning homer, Xander Bogaerts tripled his home run total from last year, improving from seven to 21.

* The season series between the Red Sox and Yankees ended with the Sox winning 11 of the 18 games.

* The Boston bullpen has given up eight runs in the last two nights after allowing only seven this month before Wednesday night.

* The Sox suffered only their second sweep of the season. They were also swept by the Tigers in July.

* Jackie Bradley Jr. has reached base safely in his last 13 games.

* Junichi Tazawa has contributed seven straight scoreless outings.

* Robbie Ross Jr. allowed a season-high three walks -- all in the same inning.

* Henry Owens has a career ERA of 8.53 against the Yankees.

* David Ortiz went hitless (0-for-11) in his final series at Yankee Stadium.

STARS:

1) CC Sabathia

Sabathia turned back the clock and looked like a far younger version of himself, pitching into the eighth and allowed just a run on four hits while striking out eighth.

2) Jacoby Ellsbury

Ellsbury had a hand in the first Yankee run -- walk, stolen base, run scored -- and doubled home the second run in the fifth inning.

3) Xander Bogaerts

The Sox had little offense on the night, but Bogaerts smoked a solo homer in the fourth to account for their only run.