This off-season, after the Red Sox let go of Jason Bay and the winter months flew past without directly replacing his power in the lineup, an argument began. The discussion has largely split along partisan lines in baseball's culture war between stats and gut feelings, between those who see this past offseason's moves as the philosophy of Run Prevention in action and those who see doom in a potentially diminished offense with the droughts of the previous July and October still fresh in the collective memory.
The night began heady with anticipation and a tearjerking hug between Pedro Martinez, who threw out the first pitch, and Johnny Pesky, along with fireworks and a flyover of fighter jets. A matter of hours later, the anticlimax seemed complete, with Josh Beckett heading to the showers early and the Yankees generally pissing upon the Opening Night festivities at the old ballyard. Right then, around the fifth inning, the temptation to decry Run Prevention as 2010's answer to 2003's Closer By Committee was fierce indeed.
The fourth inning had also featured Jacoby Ellsbury clanking off the Monster and missing a fly ball by about a yard in left, and the Yankees pulling off a double steal of second and home to score their fifth run after firing up the merry-go-round on Beckett, thereby giving that whole Run Prevention idea a swift kick right in the jimmies. Thus resumed, at least for a time, the chicken and egg debate that had come to define this off-season.
What I was forgetting, at that point, was that this was a Sox / Yankees game, and so there were still about six hours to go. And as usual in a Sox / Yankees game, the ensuing events would render any conclusions made and inferences drawn in the fourth or fifth inning largely irrelevant by game's end.
What the Sox offense lacked in power early on against Sabathia, they made up for in patience, wearing CC down and tearing into the Yankees bullpen by the sixth inning. When all was said and done, the same Pedroia-Martinez-Youkilis combination that buried the Twins last week in Ft. Myers sent the big man packing with Kevin Youkilis panting behind him on third, having cleared the bases with a standup triple.
Then came Adrian Beltre, who knocked Youkilis in to tie the game and hang a fifth run on CC to match Beckett's.
In the bottom of the seventh, Dustin Pedroia was rewarded for his ability to restrain himself from planting a knuckle sandwich on Angel Hernandez (who took a page out of CB Bucknor's playbook this evening at first base) with a towering Monster shot off Chan Ho Park to tie things up again.
Damaso Marte was next out of the bullpen for the Yanks after Pedroia's blast, and once again there was Youkilis at third base, having taken it on a passed ball. Another passed ball a few pitches later sent Youk across the plate with the go-ahead run.
In the bottom of the eighth, with the table nicely set by Cameron and Scutaro, Pedroia showed up for an ass-kicking encore, delivering the ninth Sox run against Joba Chamberlain.
In the end, not many Runs were Prevented, on either side. 9-7 Sox on 12 hits. The Yankees racked up a dozen of their own. And I wonder if we'll still be arguing about this in June.