Hanley looked more than ready to swing the bat last night.

Hanley looked more than ready to swing the bat last night.

Matt Barnes has been on the cusp of being a blazing option out of the bullpen for nearly a year and a half now. He can hit the upper 90s on the radar gun and on pure talent, he could be a starter or a shut-down closer.

He’s been stuck in between, though. And on the most ridiculous night in what has already been a rollercoaster season, he was summoned to the mound in the sixth to clean up Tommy Layne’s mess in an especially messy game. Drew Pomeranz cruised through three innings against the San Francisco Giants and was given an 8-0 lead before falling apart in the fourth inning. Soon enough it was 8-5, and three pitchers and two innings later, it was 8-7 and up to Barnes to get the Red Sox out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam.

Ultimately, he was brilliant, pitching three full innings, striking out two and walking none on his way to helping Boston to a 11-7 victory. And his first bit of brilliance was triggered by Hanley Ramirez starting a double play that wound up being just one of maybe five or six great moments for him on this night.

On any other night, Barnes going three innings to bail out the bullpen and shutting down the best team in baseball would be the story of the game. But it’s hard to ignore Ramirez whizzing around with the glove, hitting three home runs and putting the team on his back in a way we haven’t before seen. (more…)

Mookie Betts certainly knows how to make an entrance.

Mookie Betts certainly knows how to make an entrance.

In the second inning of Fenway Park’s Opening Day, Mookie Betts came to bat with Xander Bogaerts and Sandy Leon on base and sent a pitch that ricocheted off the third row of seats above the Green Monster. It was 4-0 so quickly that it felt like Pedro Martinez’s ceremonial first pitch was the one Betts rejected over the wall.

It’s served as a microcosm of his ascent from promising minor league infielder to starting center fielder for the Boston Red Sox in just one calendar year. He’s shot past so many other highly rated prospects to force his way onto the roster in the middle of a lost season last year, and today, he kept adding to his myth. It feels like he’s a character out of every sappy baseball script. He’s feeding every trope and cliche, smiling and hitting and leaving everyone wondering if this is history unfolding. (more…)

Sizemore was good, but he didn't quite match Evans' Opening Day record.

Sizemore was good, but he didn’t quite match Evans’ Opening Day record.

At this point in the season, it may finally be safe to assume that all Opening Days, save for the home openers of individual teams that may not have happened yet, are finally in the books. Overseas, Sunday nights, the real thing Monday, the Yankees and Astros finally playing a game on Tuesday, and then teams even getting in a second and sometimes third or fourth game as of yesterday. Baseball is back, officially back, standings count, statistics are being accumulated, and so on.

Focusing squarely on the Monday Opening Day, when most teams played their first game and played most of them in the day, there was no shortage of highlights amid the excitement. Neil Walker hit a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 10th inning to give the Pirates a win over the Cubs. Old friend Alex Gonzalez gave his new team, the Tigers, a game-winning hit against the Royals. The Mets game was delayed when they didn’t have a first baseman on the field, so they’re already in mid-season form.

And here, Grady Sizemore, playing in his first Major League game since 2011, hit a home run in what became a 2-1 loss in Baltimore against the Orioles. Where Opening Day is a time to quickly survey the rest of the league, most of Spring Training was focused on the Red Sox, and Sizemore’s phoenix-like comeback had been the focus. Seeing him already playing well in his first real action seemed like a good harbinger for the upcoming season. (more…)

Last night, Stephen Drew was the pivot in a well-oiled machine.

Last night, Stephen Drew was the pivot in a well-oiled machine.

The Red Sox are on the west coast to play two Interleague series against the Giants and Dodgers, which means a lot of late nights and, realistically, a lot of late nights where I watch the middle innings in bed and fall asleep before the game’s over.

It’s not as if this isn’t common practice at least a couple of weeks per season, but baseball is one of the few games where that kind of passive exposure still feels beneficial and fulfilling. On the same note, there are plenty of those ESPN Wednesday doubleheaders where I’ll tune in and just sort of half-watch the early innings before I pass out. I’ve been doing this since I was 10. I get how time zones work.

So it’s in those games that, while important, I try to suck up as many little bits of information or pageantry as possible. These are Interleague games, so one of my favorite aspects of the game are already built in: there’s no designated hitter, so pitchers have to hit and David Ortiz has to play first base. Both of these things delight me to no end. Pitchers hitting add an element of chaos to the game (what happens if they actually get a hit or walk?), and I’ve always enjoyed watching the big guy play first base. He’s more agile and effective than he gets credit for, considering so many consider him the defensive equivalent of a backstop with a glove tied to a pole.

So, it’s late. It’s probably a little past 11:30 Eastern time, Pablo Sandoval is up in the fifth inning against an incredibly efficient Jon Lester, and I’m already in bed with the sleep timer set on the TV. (more…)

This is Dustin Pedroia. I'm pretty sure he still plays baseball, but it's been a while.

This is Dustin Pedroia. I’m pretty sure he still plays baseball, but it’s been a while.

Today, after work, I walked off the T and picked up a package of ground beef on my way home, changed into my Marco Scutaro t-shirt, relaxed and then got down to the business of making dinner. Tonight was enchilada night, not that every Tuesday is enchilada night, but just to give you a little bit of color this evening.

While I made dinner, I had the Eddie Vedder Water on the Road DVD playing in the background, and “Sometimes” and “Rise” and “Guaranteed” and such provided the soundtrack while I chopped peppers and browned the beef with the taco seasoning.

After dinner, I sat down with a drink and I turned my full attention to the Red Sox game, as they hosted the Padres in the first of a three-game series to dovetail with the Fourth of July. John Lackey was pitching, but I decided to stick with my decision to watch it anyway.

And it was right around that time that I realized this was the first time I was sitting down to watch a baseball game in earnest in more than a month. (more…)