Yes, yes, we know. It was one game. But first impressions are important, and Jose Peraza and Kevin Pillar made a good ones with their new team.
The duo made their Red Sox regular season debuts Friday evening in Boston’s 13-2 pounding of the Baltimore Orioles, and they combined to go 7-for-10 with five RBIs and three runs scored. Pillar kicked things off in a big way as well, making an impressive grab in right field on the first at-bat of the game.
It was a historic performance for the newcomers, as they became the first pair of Red Sox teammates to debut with three-plus hits in the same game since Bobby Doerr and Pinky Higgins in 1937.
For Pillar, he was just trying to fall into line.
“The one thing that I promised myself, watching this team from afar is they all give really competitive at-bats,” Pillar told Tom Caron after the game, as seen on NESN’s postgame coverage. “Being here for a couple months now, getting a chance to talk to these guys, our hitting coaches they work their butts off putting together a plan. And for me it was (less) about my individual results but making sure I bought into the team plan because I saw what it did in that first exhibition game with Mitch(Moreland) hitting that home run, the guys starting with the plan that we set up. And it might not be you with the big day, but it’s just kind of passing the baton, allowing guys behind you to set up the pitcher, looking for stuff they want. …
“My first at-bat I was a little excited, a little nervous, went out there and probably swung at a pitch I shouldn’t have but was able to settle in and watch guys have good at-bats and just remind myself that that’s what I’m here to do.”
Sox manager Ron Roenicke admitted at the end of summer camp that he didn’t realize just how strong Peraza could become offensively. The infielder proved his manager right in the opener.
“He doesn’t waste a lot of time on the first pitch,” Roenicke said after the game. “If he sees it and it’s in there he rips it. So I know that’s big for him with the confidence and just to continue on knowing that what he did, the changes that he made in his swing carried over (into Opening Day).”
It’s been well-documented the Red Sox’s biggest question mark this season is the pitching, and thus the offense putting games out of reach with the bat like they did Friday is all the more imperative. Both Pillar and Peraza are best known for their gloves, but if they can compliment it with even halfway decent offense, then the Red Sox might be cooking with gas.
Here are some other notes from Friday’s Red Sox-Orioles game:
— It was a memorable night for Nathan Eovaldi, who was tremendous in his first career Opening Day start.
The hard-throwing righty, after kicking his night off with a 100 mph heater, allowed just one run on five hits over six innings with four strikeouts and a walk. His mid-game number switch did, to a degree, steal the show though.
Despite the lack of fans in attendance, he had no issues getting up for the outing, which was made possible because Eduardo Rodriguez is unavailable.
“Once I started warming up in the bullpen I could feel the juices flowing,” Eovaldi said. “Then taking the mound and having somebody else in the box I definitely was excited and ready to go out there and compete.”
— The circumstances surrounding this season are unusual, what with the no fans and a 60-game schedule.
But just one thing at the end of the day shocked Roenicke.
“The only thing you don’t expect was — I knew our offense was good and we’d been swinging the bat well — but obviously you don’t expect them … to score that many runs,” Roenicke said.
— J.D. Martinez had a vintage performance, going 3-for-5 with three RBIs and two runs scored, walking once while slamming a pair of doubles.
It was just the 36th game of Martinez’s career that he hit out of the two hole, and of all the spots in the lineup that’s his worst in terms of batting average. Didn’t seem that way, obviously, against Baltimore.
— It wasn’t just Martinez though — it was bombs away for the Red Sox bats from the third inning on, as they put up 17 hits, eight of which were doubles.
Entering Friday, the franchise record for two-baggers on Opening Day was six, so the 2020 squad shattered that mark. But eight doubles actually hasn’t been done in quite some time in MLB as a whole.
— MLB Stats (@MLBStats) July 25, 2020
Thumbnail photo via David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports Images