SEATTLE -- All you need to know about the Red Sox' 12-4 loss to the Mariners, complete with BSJ analysis and insight.
Sale shelled: Red Sox ace Chris Sale was battered for seven runs in just three innings, allowing three homers, including two in the third inning. Through all of last season, Sale had just one game in which he allowed multiple homers (two against the Blue Jays on April 26). The big problem for Sale was poor command, especially with his fastball. That's rare indeed — ordinarily, Sale can spot his two-seamer and four-seamer with precision. But on Thursday, Sale gave up two of the homers on mislocated fastballs, and when those pitches weren't being hit out of the ballpark, they were causing him to fall into hitters' counts. His velocity wasn't in midseason form, but it was good enough and no different from a year ago when he was brilliant in seven innings in the 2018 season opener. Both Sale and Alex Cora insisted there was nothing physically wrong with the ace, which serves as some comfort to the club with just issued him a five-year, $145 million contract extension.
Bullpen offers little: The game was already in danger of getting away from the Sox by the time Sale left, with the Mariners enjoying a 7-2 lead. But things didn't get any better over the next few innings. Hector Velazquez gave up a solo homer in his second inning of work, then couldn't get through the sixth after two hits and a hit batsman loaded the bases. Later, Tyler Thornburg got two quick outs before he hit hard with a line double to left by Mitch Haniger and a two-run homer by Domingo Santana. Granted, the Sox weren't using their high-leverage relievers, but it would have been nice to keep the score more competitive to give the Sox a comeback chance in the late innings.
Betts comes out swinging: The Red Sox' reigning AL MVP wasted no time mashing the ball. Mookie Betts had a three-hit game with singles in the first, fifth and ninth innings Beyond that, however, the Red Sox weren't exactly explosive and they missed out on some chances to add on the early going. In the first, the Sox had a run in and runners at the corners with one out but couldn't score more than the solo run. It was more of the same in the second when a Seattle error and a single by Jackie Bradley Jr. resulted in two baserunners with no out. But the Sox came away with just one run, then didn't score again until the sixth when the game had long been decided.
Eduardo Nunez: It didn't take long for Nunez to demonstrate that he's far better physically than he was a year ago. In the second, he was on the front-end of a double steal, then scampered home later in the inning on a shallow flyout to left, sliding in ahead of the throw. Later, Nunez roped a double to center to lead off the sixth, driving the ball harder than he did most of last season.
J.D. Martinez: Martinez was a master run producer a year ago, driving in a major league-high 130 runs and he picked right up where he left off with his first at-bat. With two on and one out in the top of the first, Martinez muscled a single into left field, scoring Betts from second base to provide the Sox with a quick 1-0 lead. Martinez later added another single in the fifth.
Mitch Moreland: The first baseman had some ugly at-bats and stranded a total of four baserunners over the course of the game, going 0-for-3 with a walk.
Heath Hembree: Remember last year, when Hembree was so effective with inherited runners? That didn't translate to Thursday. He came in with the bases loaded and one out in relief of Velazquez in the sixth and promptly threw four straight balls to force in a run.
QUOTE OF NOTE
"Throw this one in the trash can.'' — Chris Sale on his first start of the season.
- The loss marked the first time the Red Sox had allowed double figures in runs on Opening Day since 2002.
- For the first time in 10 career starts, Sale didn't post a quality start.
- Betts has hit safely in each of his five Opening Day starts, batting .429 (9-for-21) in that span.
- In making his fifth straight Opening Day start in right field, Betts became the first member of the Red Sox to do since Dwight Evans, who started 10 straight from 1978-97.
The Red Sox and Mariners play the second game of the four-game series Friday night at 10:10, with RHP Nathan Eovaldi (6-7, 3.81 in 2018) vs. LHP Yusei Kikuchi (0-0, 1.93).