Yesterday’s opener turned into a classic pitching duel between Jon Lester and last years MVP and Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander. Neither was involved in the decision as the Red Sox tied the Tigers 2-2 in the top half of the ninth only to lose it in the bottom half of the frame 3-2.
Jon Lester went seven innings, surrendering one run on six hits. He walked three, struck out four and threw 107 pitches.
The loss actually put the Red Sox opening day record, since Fenway’s birth, to 51-50 still a tad over .500 and they came within two outs of playing in their 11th extra inning opener in 100 years.
Fenway Park was renovated during the 1933 winter and the “Green Monster” in its current incarnation was constructed and ready to go for the 1934 season.
The near extra inning contest got my brain to thinking and I share with you today my rambling extra inning findings.
The first extra inning opening day contest occurred in Washington on April 11, 1932 a 1-0 10 inning loss to the Senators. Two years later on what happened to be the very first game played before Fenway Park’s fabled “Green Monstah”, the Senators took another opening day extra inning contest 6-5 in the 11th. The Red Sox have played in ten extra innings openers, the aforementioned first in 1932, a loss, and the last in Oakland in 2008, a 6-5 ten inning win.
Hank Johnson was the tough luck loser on opening day 1934. He pitched five innings in relief surrendering only three hits and one unearned run in the 11th inning.
Their overall extra inning record is 3-7 in the openers that have required extra frames and believe it or not they have NEVER won an extra inning opener at Fenway Park! They have lost all five at home.
The first extra inning opening day win for the Red Sox came in 1964 when Roman Mejias scored on a wild pitch by Whitey Ford in the 11th inning. Ford took the complete game loss.
Three times the Red Sox have played the Baltimore Orioles in extra inning openers 1966, ’69’ and ’89’ and a couple of those contests have provided some very dramatic moments.
Frank Robinson began his American League career at Fenway Park in 1966. In his first at bat he was hit by Earl Wilson and scored when Brooks Robinson homered. The ’66’ Triple Crown winner went 2-4 including a game tying homer in the fifth.
The 1966 opener is the longest in Red Sox history, decided in the 13th inning when Luis Aparicio scored on a balk by Jim Lonborg, giving Baltimore a 5-4 win.
Opening day 1969 may well be the most dramatic opener in Red Sox history. It took place at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore and it involved the Red Sox boy wonder, Tony Conigliaro.
Tony C. scored the winning run in the 12th inning in the 1969 opener after leading off the inning with a walk.
Suffering what appeared to be a career ending injury in 1967, Conigliaro sat out the entire ’68’ season only to miraculously return in 1969. On opening day in Baltimore, he stepped to the plate in the top of the tenth inning in a 2-2 ballgame and rifled a ball into the left-centerfield bleachers giving the Red Sox a 4-2 lead in a game they eventually won in 12 innings, 5-4.
Lee Smith took the opening day loss in 1988 despite not surrendering an earned run, suffering the same fate as Hank Johnson in 1934.
The last opening day extra inning game at Fenway Park occurred in 1988 against yesterdays opponent the Detroit Tigers. After Roger Clemens and Jack Morris battled through nine innings of a 3-3 tie, the game was turned over to the bullpen. In the top of the 10th an error by Red Sox shortstop Spike Owen opened the flood gates and the game was decided on a two out, two run homer by the Tiger shortstop Allan Trammell.
The Red Sox lost the opener and are 0-1, 100 years ago today they were 0-0 and five days removed from the season’s opener.
The Fenway Faithful can take solace in the fact that in their last three pennant winning seasons of 1986, 2004 and 2007, they opened the season with a loss. We all know what happened in ’04’ and ’07’.
Let’s not think about 1986.
And so it is on this date in Fenway Park history, April 6, 2012.