Tuesday, March 25, 2008

BoSox top A's in MLB Opener

Manny Ramirez's two-run double in the top of the 10th inning lifted Boston over Oakland, 6-5, and made a winner out of Hideki Okajima in his return to Japan during Major League Baseball's season opener at the Tokyo Dome.

The A's were clinging to a 4-3 lead in the ninth and brought in Huston Street (0-1) to close things out but rookie Brandon Moss had other ideas, turning on an off-speed pitch and driving it over the wall in right for his first big league home run.

Oakland manager Bob Geren stuck with Street in the 10th and it came back to bite him. Street gave up an infield single to Julio Lugo before Dustin Pedroia moved the shortstop into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt. The former University of Texas star managed to get Kevin Youkilis swinging but then intentionally walked David Ortiz, setting the stage for Ramirez. The Boston slugger roped a double off the wall in center to make it a 6-4 game.

Jonathan Papelbon managed to secure things for Boston from there but not without a struggle. The fireballer walked Daric Barton and, after Jack Cust struck out swinging, Emil Brown laced a RBI double into the gap in right- center.

Brown made a colossal baserunning mistake however, getting caught trying to advance to third on a throw home. Bobby Crosby and Jack Hannahan followed with consecutive singles that would have surely knotted the game had Brown not been gunned down. Instead, Papelbon got Kurt Suzuki to bounce out to first and end things for his first save of the season.

The game also featured the return of Red Sox star pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka to Japan. Matsuzaka struggled with his command early but settled down and grinded out five innings for the Red Sox. The former Seibu Lions star allowed two runs on just two hits but walked five, while striking out six en route to a no- decision.

Okajima (1-0), a former star with both the Yomiuri Giants and Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters, earned the win with a scoreless ninth.

Ramirez finished 2-for-5 with a pair of two-run doubles for Boston, which opened defense of its second World Series title in four years by winning just its second opener in eight seasons. Moss, who was playing after J.D. Drew was scratched with a balky back, was 2-for-5, with the home run and an RBI single.

Hannahan and Mark Ellis both homered for the Athletics, who lost their 11th opener in the past 15 seasons. Crosby was 2-for-5 with an RBI for Oakland.

Joe Blanton, making his first-ever opening day start, was solid early for the A's but imploded in the sixth. The big right-hander surrendered three runs on seven hits in 5 2/3 innings. . The A's jumped on top with a pair of runs in the bottom of the first as Matsuzaka struggled with his command. Ellis got things started by belting a one-out, solo homer to left. Matsuzaka then walked Barton before plunking Cust with a pitch. Another base on balls to Brown loaded the bases before Crosby chased Barton home with a grounder back to the box. Matsuzaka finally wiggled out of trouble by fanning Hannahan to end the frame.

The BoSox finally broke through off Blanton in the sixth. Pedroia slapped a double just out of the reach of Travis Buck in right and Youkilis followed by drawing a walk. Blanton managed to induce the dangerous Ortiz to foul out to third but Ramirez then ripped a double down the third base line to deadlock things. After Mike Lowell fanned, Moss grounded a two-out RBI single through the right side to give Boston its first lead of the season, 3-2.

Oakland bounced right back against the Red Sox bullpen. Crosby greeted Kyle Snyder with a single up the middle and Hannahan followed by drilling a low and inside fastball over the wall in right to put the A's back in front, 4-3.

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