<
>

Brewers rain on Red Sox's parade

BOSTON -- Well, now, that was an odd way to usher in the home portion of the 2014 season: A Red Sox pitcher who didn't receive a World Series ring Friday because he was on the losing side last October gave up a game-winning hit to a Milwaukee Brewers first baseman who might have been in line for some bling had he hung on with the Sox for just a few more days last spring.

But at the completion of an afternoon replete with all the heart-tugging, spirit-soaring, Flyin' Hawaiian elbow-fivin' moments that could possibly be squeezed into a pregame ceremony of celebration, consecration and communal sharing, that's what the Sox home opener ultimately boiled down to: Edward Mujica versus Lyle Overbay and a 6-2 loss to an interleague rival best known for Hank, the stray dog the Brew Crew adopted in Arizona during spring training.

(Elbow-fiving? Shane Victorino had the flu, so that's how he made his way down the receiving line after he received his ring.)

Overbay, released just days before the Sox broke camp last spring, and rescued by the Yankees three days later, got the better of Mujica, a vital part of the bullpen for the National League champion Cardinals last season, hitting a tiebreaking, two-run double that fueled the Brewers' four-run ninth.

By then, a sizable portion of the sellout crowd of 36,728 that had come early for the splendor of the ring ceremony had also left early, for the same reason Xander Bogaerts' mother, Sandra Brown, took refuge in the family room.

"Oh my God, I couldn't stand out there. I couldn't -- too cold," said Brown, a native of Aruba, where the temperature at game time Friday was 90 degrees, or 47 degrees warmer than the first-pitch reading at Fenway Park.

"I managed to stay until I saw Xander run out and get his ring," she said, "but water was coming out all over me, and I just headed for the family room. The rest of the time, I watched there."

Mujica, who had 37 saves for the Cardinals last summer until losing the closer's job in the last month to phenom Trevor Rosenthal -- in part because of a sore neck/shoulder -- had pitched a scoreless inning Wednesday in Baltimore, one of five Sox relievers who did not allow a run in three games against the Orioles (7⅔ innings).

"We're ready to go in the bullpen," Mujica had said that night. "Whatever the situation, you're going to see this bullpen strong -- Koji [Uehara], me, Taz [Junichi Tazawa], [Andrew] Miller, [Burke] Badenhop -- we're prepared for any situation."

This was the home crowd's first view of Mujica, although if folks had looked closely, they would have noticed the Venezuelan right-hander in the background of David Ortiz's famous White House selfie. What was Mujica doing at a ceremony honoring last season's Series champs when he was on the losing end?

"I asked a couple of players. I asked [Ortiz], 'Hey Papi, do you think I should make that trip to the White House?' Papi said, 'Yeah, you're on the team now. You're here. You're part of the team. You have to go.' It was fun."

The fun Mujica had on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue did not carry over on Friday to 4 Yawkey Way, things going south on him when the first batter he faced, Khris Davis, whacked a double. Another anonymous Brewer, Scooter Gennett, then dropped a bunt that Mujica fielded in front of the mound, but his throw was too late to catch Davis, and everybody was safe.

Catcher A.J. Pierzynski, who was directing traffic on the play, thought Mujica had a shot at the out at third.

"I thought we had a chance," Pierzynski said. "[Gennett] bunted it a little hard, [Davis] didn't get a good jump. It could have gone either way."

Even with the late throw, it still could have worked out in Boston's favor when Davis briefly came off the bag, but his foot was planted on the base when third baseman Will Middlebrooks tagged him.

Middlebrooks watched the replay afterward. He didn't dispute that Davis was on the bag when he was tagged. Even if manager John Farrell had elected to challenge the call and send out an SOS to the replay nerve center in New Jersey, the camera angles would have been inconclusive, the Sox third baseman maintained.

Overbay's double, however, was a no-doubter, as he connected with a hanging splitter and drove it into the right-field corner, allowing Davis and the Scooter to score. Overbay had been hitless in his first nine plate appearances of the new season, including a walk, groundout and strikeout Friday.

"It wasn't payback, because I didn't have any bad feelings, but it's always nice to take the World Series champs down," Overbay said in the Brewers' clubhouse afterward. "That's true, no matter who it is."

Carlos Gomez, who had four hits, singled home Overbay, and the fourth Brewers' hit of the inning off Mujica, a single by Aramis Ramirez, brought home the fourth run of the inning.

The Brewers had almost as many hits in Mujica's two-thirds of an inning as the Sox did in nine innings (five), a home run by Middlebrooks off Milwaukee starter Marco Estrada and an RBI single by Grady Sizemore in his first Fenway at-bat in a Sox uniform the only hits of consequence by Boston. Sizemore's hit had advanced Mike Napoli (walk), who came around to score when right-fielder Logan Schafer's throw sailed wide of third. But there was nothing wrong with Schafer's aim when Sizemore tried to score on Bogaerts' fly, because his strike cut down Sizemore at the plate.

It has been a long week of pomp and circumstance for the Sox -- pregame ceremonies for the season opener in Baltimore, the visit to the White House and Walter Reed Military Medical Center, the ring ceremony here. They were also scheduled to attend a team-sponsored charity event Friday night.

Worn out by all the extracurriculars, not to mention the late flight back from Baltimore on Thursday night?

"It changes things, no doubt about it," said starter Jake Peavy, who flew back ahead of the team Thursday, struck out three batters in the first, gave up a home run to Jonathan Lucroy and two more hits in the second that scored a second run but kept the game even through his six innings. "But as much as your routine is thrown off, everybody was excited to be here today."

Added Middlebrooks: "It was an emotional day for everybody, but we were ready to play."

That the game ended badly meant it was the only part of the day that could not be choreographed by Fenway maestro of ceremonies Dr. Charles Steinberg. Mujica's parting thoughts could not be parsed. "We can't find him," one Sox official told reporters in the Sox clubhouse afterward.

But despite the chill and Boston's first home-opening loss since 2004, Sandra Brown felt warmed by what she had witnessed.

"It was really a moment," she said. "It was for the team, but, still, you see your son go out there and you say, 'Wow, we're blessed.'

"He didn't have any hits today, but Fenway Park, he's going to make history here."