The 2020 baseball season opened in disorienting fashion at Fenway Park, where the normal 45-minute rush hour commute from north of Boston took 18 minutes, parking was plentiful and cheap right outside Gate D, and not a single fan entered the park, though a handful milled about outside it.
The Red Sox eschewed their usual pomp and circumstance for low-key pregame ceremonies that focused rightly on the considerable toll of the pandemic, as well as honoring the Black Lives Matter movement with a black ribbon extending from the Orioles on one baseline to the Red Sox on the other in a show of our interconnectedness.
The game began with Red Sox starter Nathan Eovaldi firing 100 mph fastballs and Orioles leadoff hitter Austin Hays lining sharply to deep right field, where Kevin Pillar, manning the ground once owned by Mookie Betts, made a nice twisting grab in front of the bullpen as the fake fans belatedly roared.
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After months of uncertainty over whether baseball (a) wanted to return or (b) would be capable of it, the Red Sox treated the viewing and listening audience to a familiar sight, pummeling the Orioles, 13-2, and in the process revealing the blueprint for how they might actually make the playoffs this year:
By bringing some serious pain.
"If you look up at what this lineup is very capable of doing," said J.D. Martinez, "it could be scary."
The Orioles may be an embarrassment, but the Red Sox still made it look easy. They pounded 17 hits and eight doubles. Martinez debuted in the No. 2 hole -- where manager Ron Roenicke once feared he wouldn't have as many RBI opportunities -- with three hits and three runs batted in. "I'm not complaining, I came up twice with the bases loaded, so far so good," Martinez said. Newcomer Jose Peraza stroked a pair of doubles as part of a four-hit night. Jackie Bradley Jr. drove the ball with authority en route to three hits of his own.
Perhaps most impressively, the Red Sox did considerable damage despite the trio of Andrew Benintendi, Rafael Devers and Xander Bogaerts going 1 for 12. They reached base a staggering 24 times -- enough to load the bases in all eight innings that they hit -- leaving the Orioles in a constant state of bombardment.
Their pitching staff may be a mess after Eovaldi, but they should hit the living crap out of the ball, and there's certainly 60 games' worth of entertainment value in that.
"I knew our offense was good and we've been swinging the bat well, but obviously you don't expect them to come out . . . in my mind I'm not expecting we're going to score that many runs," Roenicke admitted. "But guys continue to swing the bats great and we got the good pitching."
The challenge for the 2020 Red Sox will be the reality of their pitching staff, which most fans could not name. "Honestly, we don't have one of the best pitching staffs in baseball," Bogaerts said before the game in a refreshing moment of candor.
Starting Eovaldi in the opener is one thing. We'll see what the Martin Perez experience looks like in Saturday's Game 2, before the Red Sox go double-barreled openers early next week. There's the distinct possibility that 13-2 becomes 13-11 in short order.
But as long as the offense swings like it did on Friday, there's a chance of meaningful baseball this fall, and considering everything we've been through just to play a season, Red Sox fans should take it.