BOSTON (CBS) – There was a lesson learned by the Red Sox Thursday night in the Bronx.
It’s all well and good that the Red Sox are welcoming their rookies to their team with open arms as they begin the 2013 season. Jackie Bradley, Jr, Jose Iglesias, and sophomore Will Middlebrooks give Red Sox fans “hope” for the present and the future.
It’s great stuff. However, one must remember that there will be some bumps along the way.
Welcome to Thursday night in the Bronx.
Andy Pettitte did what he’s been doing for years: eight strong innings while allowing just one run. Then he turned things over to the best closer in MLB history.
Mariano Rivera made his first appearance in a year after blowing out his knee last May in Kansas City. He wasn’t the sharpest he’s ever been, but he brought his Hall of Fame cutter with him.
Rivera entered with a 4-1 lead, and after Dustin Pedroia drew a walk to start the 9th, Mike Napoli followed with a fly out to right. Veteran Jonny Gomes then had a professional at-bat and ripped a double down the left field line to put runners on second and third with one out.
Then it was time for the kids. First up, Middlebrooks. Rivera worked both sides of the plate and got the third baseman to weakly ground out to second base. A run scores, but it was clear that Rivera won the at-bat.
Next up with two outs, the phenom, Jackie Bradley Jr. stepped in, and it was like watching a tutorial. Cutter in, strike one. Cutter in, strike two. Next pitch? I’m screaming to my son “here comes another cutter that starts on a lefty’s hands and wraps you in knots when you swing.” My sons says, “nope, change-up down and away.” And? Rivera throws the kid a change-up low and away just off the plate. A pitch that Rivera will get called for strike three 99 out of 100 times for Big Mo — especially against a rookie.
Good night, game over.
They weren’t the result Sox fans were looking for, but great theater to watch unfold. There is nothing else in sports like the ninth inning confrontation that played out; pitcher vs. hitter with it all on the line. This time, the great closer won. Next time? Who knows, but, the kids will be better prepared for it. That’s why they’re here. Next time, Bradley Jr. will be ready for it and may fight off and foul off that pitch. That’s what it’s all about.
So, the Sox lost a game. It will happen again. Now it’s time to move on to Toronto with a good lesson learned for the hope of the future.
Follow WBZ-TV’s Dan Roche on Twitter @RochieWBZ.