BOSTON — On Easter morning, Terry Francona felt fidgety and found his way to Fenway Park.

“I got here way too early,” Francona said before Sunday’s season opener between the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees.

“The feeling is always the same. There is a lot of excitement. There’s a lot of anxiety.”

Francona spoke of another full house at Fenway and the thrill of pregame ceremonies.

“I’ll be excited for all the first-pitch stuff and all the pageantry and everything,” he said, “but I’ll be happier when we get into the grind, get into playing baseball.”

And make no doubt about it, when the Red Sox and Yankees are playing, it’s a grind.

Take Sunday’s game, which in typical Yankees-Red Sox fashion lasted three hours and 46 minutes, with Boston rallying twice to finally overtake New York for a 9-7 win.

Francona talked about trying to get a handle on this year’s team, with three new everyday players, Adrian Beltre, Mike Cameron and Marco Scutaro.

“There’s no easing into it,” Francona said. “I know our atmosphere is different than a lot of places.”

That atmosphere was turned up a few notches by a pregame ceremony that featured the return of Pedro Martinez to throw out the ceremonial first pitch.

Martinez helped Boston to the 2004 World Series title. One day, you could picture Josh Beckett, star of the 2007 postseason, coming back to throw out a first pitch – but with less clowning than Martinez provided.

Beckett threw out the real first pitch, a 93 mph fastball on which Derek Jeter grounded out to Scutaro.

Six pitches later, Beckett was out of the inning.

“He’s a good guy to start the season with,” Boston Manager Terry Francona said. “I’m sure the Yankees feel the same way. I’m sure they like their guy, too.”

Who would have figured that Beckett and C.C. Sabathia would both be chased early, with the score tied 5-5?

Boston looked cooked with Beckett off target – either out of the strike zone or right over the plate. Boston trailed 5-1 when Beckett left in the fifth, and Sabathia had only allowed one hit.

All five of the Yankees’ runs against Beckett came with two outs. In the second inning, it was back-to-back home runs by Jorge Posada and Curtis Granderson.

In the fourth inning, with Cano on third and two outs, Beckett gave up a walk and two singles, followed by a Little League-style double steal: Jeter broke for second, Victor Martinez’s throw was short of the bag, Gardiner raced home from third and Jeter danced in safely at second.

Unfortunately for the Red Sox, those were likely the first of many stolen bases against Boston this season.

Beckett’s final line: 42/3 innings, eight hits, five runs, three walks, one strikeout.

But Boston finally got to Sabathia. Scutaro singled home a run in the fifth. In the sixth, Kevin Youkilis tripled home two runs, then scored on a single by Beltre, tying the game at 5.

Both teams obviously have a problem with middle relief.

Ramon Ramirez gave up two runs in the seventh, retiring only one of the four batters he faced.

New York was so desperate for bullpen help that it signed Chan Ho Park. He gave up a two-run homer to Dustin Pedroia and a double to Youkilis in the bottom of the seventh. Damaso Marte relieved and, after a wild pitch and passed ball, Youkilis was home for the winning run.

Then the Red Sox reached out to what could be a real strength – Daniel Bard pitching the eighth and Jonathan Papelbon closing.

Bard took care of the eighth with one hiccup, a walk to Nick Johnson. Papelbon gave up a harmless single in the ninth.

Between Bard and Papelbon, Pedroia singled home Cameron for insurance. And the Red Sox brought out one more bit of pizzazz – a live performance of “Sweet Caroline” by Neil Diamond.

But the pageantry is over. The grind of 161 more games continues.

 

Staff Writer Kevin Thomas can be contacted at 791-6411 or at:

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