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A loss with character? Red Sox take some solace in Opening Day defeat

04.05.12 at 6:56 pm ET
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Red Sox DH David Ortiz addressed his team after the Opening Day loss. (AP)

DETROIT — On the one hand, it was a loss. As such, in the grand scheme, it was a bad day at the office for the Red Sox.

At the same time, the 3-2 Opening Day defeat against the Tigers did come with the proverbial silver linings under the circumstances. Jon Lester, though not as dominant as counterpart Justin Verlander, came within a pitch of being just as effective, allowing just one run in seven innings of work. And when the bullpen allowed another run, the Sox remained unbowed.

Against Tigers closer Jose Valverde, the Sox still saw opportunity in the face of a 2-0 deficit. They rallied back to tie the game — coming within no more than a couple feet of a lead had Ryan Sweeney‘s triple high off the fence, just inside the right field foul pole, either been a hair higher or slightly to the left, where it might have snuck through the inexplicable notch just above the 330-foot sign in right for a home run.

Though the Sox’ top-of-the-ninth-inning rally to tie the game, 2-2, was overcome in the bottom of the inning when the Tigers plated a walkoff run against relievers Mark Melancon and Alfredo Aceves, the Sox still viewed the way they played as a promising building block for what lies ahead this season.

“That’s what we do. That’s what the Red Sox do,” said Pedroia. “We’re going to fight until the end. It says a lot about our team and organization.”

When the Sox streamed back into their clubhouse, DH David Ortiz addressed the team.

“Like I told everyone after the game, come back on Saturday and play. Actually,” he then admitted. “I said Friday. Of course. I said Friday (an off-day for the Red Sox) but somebody tells me, you’re going to be all by yourself tomorrow. There’s adrenaline going on, but that’s how it is. you can’t look back. You have to come back with the same attitude and keep on playing. It was a good game. … It will be interesting this season and even losing the first game, I liked the attitude and liked what I saw from everybody.”

Of course, it would be foolish to react to a walkoff loss on Opening Day and to have it color perceptions about the Sox. Nonetheless, the usual “big picture” likely will be more problematic in the 2012 season than the past.

The consequences of each defeat — particularly in winnable games — are now more real for the Sox. Coming off a season in which they missed the playoffs by a single game, there is now a clearer understanding of the potential for a loss at any point in the season to be costly.

“At the end of the day, it’s the first game of a long season. We’ve got to remember that,” said Melancon. “At the same time, each game is really important. It seems to always come down to the wire at the end, so these first games are extremely important, too.”

It is worth noting, then, that the Sox played as if that was the case, with an urgency to win rather than passivity. A year ago, the Sox were just 2-69 in games when they trailed entering the ninth inning.

The 2011 Red Sox club was a team that jumped out to early leads and then, for most of the year, kept them intact, a team that played well when ahead or tied but that rarely came from behind. That being the case, even though the Sox are now 0-1 when trailing after eight innings, there was a certain form of satisfaction that the Sox could take in the act of tying the game, incomplete though that satisfaction was.

“Yeah, it’s disappointing, but we’ve got a long way to go,” said Pedroia. “We feel we’ve got a great team and we’re going to compete until the end. We’re going to be just fine.”

Read More: David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Opening Day,
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