By The Sports Xchange
BOSTON — As Rick Porcello showed flashes of last year’s dominance, Andrew Benintendi provided a glimpse of what might be to come in the future for the Boston Red Sox on Monday.
Porcello was sharp with five strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings and Benintendi clubbed a three-run homer as the Red Sox beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 5-3 on Opening Day at Fenway Park.
“His swing is so effortless and smooth, you can’t tell if he ever overswings the bat or not,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “But for a guy, there’s such great timing and fluidity to the swing. He creates easy power.”
Benintendi, a compact 5-feet-10 and 170 pounds, hit 20 home runs in 151 career minor league games before joining the Red Sox last season. He found somewhat of a power swing this spring, launching three long balls.
Still, Benintendi doesn’t believe power is one of his calling cards.
“I don’t think so. I think it’s just my natural swing,” Benintendi said. “Just put backswing on the ball and it seems to go.”
Porcello (1-0) allowed three runs and six hits and a walk while moving within two punchouts of 1,000 for his career. The reigning American League Cy Young Award winner was making his first career Opening Day start.
“Rick was more than primed for today,” Farrell said.
The right-hander also logged his 42nd consecutive start of at least five innings, breaking a tie with Roger Clemens for the third-longest streak in Red Sox history.
“That is a Cy Young winner,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said of Porcello. “He hit spots and made pitches.”
Dustin Pedroia and Pablo Sandoval each had RBIs and Craig Kimbrel had two strikeouts in a scoreless ninth for his first save for Boston, which improved to 58-58-1 all time in season openers.
Josh Harrison, Jordy Mercer and Starling Marte all drove in runs for the Pirates, who are 70-61 all time on Opening Day.
Gerrit Cole (0-1) cruised through four innings before unraveling in his first Opening Day start, allowing five runs and seven hits with a walk and two strikeouts in five innings for Pittsburgh.
Boston’s bats gave a jolt to a lifeless game with six consecutive two-out hits in a five-run fifth.
Bradley, who made an impressive catch up against the wall in center to end the Pirates’ fourth, just missed a home run on a fly to right and legged out a two-out triple.
Sandoval produced the Red Sox’s first run of the season after that, beating out an infield single to shortstop to plate Bradley.
After Sandy Leon’s bunt single, Dustin Pedroia singled up the middle to make it 2-0. Benintendi sent a 2-2 pitch into the Pittsburgh bullpen in right for his homer in the next at-bat.
Before allowing the homer, Cole threw Benintendi a 97 mph four-seamer on a 1-1 count that froze him. He decided to try it again two pitches later, but to no avail.
“Obviously, he was not going to let that get by him again,” Cole said of his 2-2 fastball to Benintendi.
Francisco Cervelli sparked the Pirates’ offense in the seventh, doubling off the Green Monster in left to put two in scoring position with nobody out.
Harrison hit a rocket to left for an RBI single, scoring David Freese from third and ending Porcello’s day. Matt Barnes entered in relief and immediately gave up a soft single up the middle to Mercer, plating Cervelli.
Barnes walked Adam Frazier to load the bases and Marte’s hard lineup to left brought Harrison in. Barnes struck out Andrew McCutchen and a 2-3 putout ended the threat.
NOTES: Pittsburgh faced an American League opponent on Opening Day for the first time, and the Pirates’ last trip to Fenway Park before Monday was in June 2005. … Boston 2B Dustin Pedroia played his 1,399th career game, tying him with Dom DiMaggio for 11th most in team history. … Pirates RF Andrew McCutchen, asked about what could be his final Opening Day with the team amid trade rumors, told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review “I’m just thankful to see another Opening Day.” … LF Andrew Benintendi is the 10th different player to start in left field for the Red Sox on Opening Day in the last 10 years. Benintendi (22 years, 271 days) is also the youngest Opening Day starter in left since Carl Yastrzemski (22 years, 231 days) in 1962. … Tom Brady threw out a ceremonial first pitch and was accompanied by New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and players Rob Gronkowski, James White and Dion Lewis, each holding one of the team’s five Super Bowl trophies. … Pirates RHP Jameson Taillon opposes Red Sox LHP Chris Sale on Wednesday.