Last season, the Boston Red Sox were the kings of Major League Baseball. They tied for the best record and run differential in the regular season and then capped off their worst-to-first transformation by winning the World Series title. However, there was one thorn in the side of the Red Sox that they were never fully able to extract; although the Red Sox also won the American League East pennant in 2013, there was one team against whom they had limited success: the Baltimore Orioles. The Orioles were the lone American League East team to post a winning record against the dominant Red Sox and if Opening Day is any indication, the Red Sox will once again find the Orioles to be a tough out.
A close game throughout, the Orioles prevailed 2-1 thanks to the fact they made a few more plays than the Red Sox and took better advantage of their favorable circumstances in the contest. For the game, the Orioles' .214 BA/.241 OBP/.321 SLG/.256 wOBA batting line was far inferior to the Red Sox hitters who posted a .250 BA/.325 OBP/.389 SLG/.328 wOBA, but at the end of the game, it was the Orioles who stood atop the scoreboard because although they had a lot fewer chances to score, when they did have a base runner in threatening positions, they managed to drive him home.
The Orioles only had one at-bat with a runner in scoring position; that at-bat came in the second inning after Red Sox starting pitcher Jon Lester issued an inning-opening walk to Nelson Cruz, who then advanced to third after a Matt Wieters single. Lester then rallied enough to induce Delmon Young to ground into a double play, but Cruz was still able to score as the Red Sox defense was preoccupied with recording those two outs.
Cruz also factored in the Orioles' second run of the contest, homering off Lester in what was one of the few mistakes Lester made all afternoon; in his 7.0 innings of work, Lester was consistently excellent, striking out eight batters while only allowing seven base runners.
However, Lester's dominant pitching outing was wasted because his Red Sox teammates conspired to squander multiple run-scoring opportunities. The Red Sox offense had 10 at-bats with runners in scoring position, but failed to hit safely in any of them; for that bit of offensive futility among other disappointing performances at the plate, overall, the hitters were rewarded with an RE24 of -3.68, meaning they left multiple runs on the base paths.
The Red Sox's RE24 could have been even worse if it had not been for the solo shot of Grady Sizemore in the fourth inning, which was the best story of the game since it was the first home run Sizemore had hit since the 2011 season. Unfortunately, his teammates was unable to join in with his hitting exploits so the home run became more of an individual achievement rather than one which the team used as part of a winning formula.
Since Monday's contest was only the first of a 162-game season, the Red Sox offense will have a multitude of other opportunities to get clutch hits and provide their starting pitchers with a modicum of run support, but their chances of finally solving the Orioles' mastery of them will not be as plentiful. And they have already wasted one opportunity to begin their season-long mission of establishing themselves atop the American League East for the second straight season.