(Reuters) - The Boston Red Sox rallied past Toronto 4-2 on Monday to avoid a second successive 0-4 start to a season and bring the smiles back to the faces of the new team management.
With Fenway Park preparing to celebrate its 100th anniversary later this week, an anxious Red Sox Nation was already poised to push the panic button after watching their team suffer a three-game sweep at the hands of the Detroit Tigers.
The alarm bells were ringing even louder on Monday as Boston trailed the Blue Jays 2-1 entering the ninth and appeared ready to start the campaign with four consecutive losses for the second straight season.
But a ninth inning rally, sparked by a Dustin Pedroia leadoff double and a go-ahead RBI single from Ryan Sweeney, gave new coach Bobby Valentine and general manager Ben Cherington their first taste of success in their new jobs.
”We’ve been trying our butts off to get that first win and we got it and glad we were able to get Ben his first win as general manager and first win as a team,“ Valentine told reporters. ”Pressure is not being prepared and I think we are prepared.
“Probably the only thing we weren’t prepared to do was close out a game but I think we’re fine.”
After a horrific September collapse cost the Red Sox a playoff spot last year and triggered an off-season house cleaning, Boston’s slump carried over into the current campaign.
A ninth inning meltdown by the Blue Jays spoiled the opening night party for the sold-out crowd of 48,474 at the Rogers Centre.
The fans began the game with high hopes and a rousing ovation but watched it end in disappointment and boos when closer Sergio Santos served up three runs on two hits in a messy two-thirds of an inning of work that included three walks and a wild pitch.
“We’ve had some tough times at the end of last year and the this year the first couple of games but you just have to stay with it and grind it out,” said Pedroia, who also contributed a solo home run in the sixth.
”There are 162 games and if you stay with it and stay positive we’re going to be alright.
”We’re going to come out every day and play hard to get a win. We had a couple of tough ones in Detroit but we are going to bounce back and play hard every single night.
“This early in the season everyone has nerves going, it’s hard to settle down and find your rhythm.”
The day began with American League East powerhouses the New York Yankees and Red Sox languishing at the bottom of the division and the Baltimore Orioles perched at the top with an unblemished 3-0.
But after a topsy-turvy start to the new season, the baseball universe began to return to normal as both Red Sox and Yankees claimed maiden wins, New York handing the Orioles their first loss 6-2.
Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto; editing by Amlan Chakraborty