BOSTON – They rushed through the gates Friday morning, the early arrivals at Fenway Park, hurrying to catch the end of Red Sox batting practice. They took pictures, pleaded for autographs and called out names of their favorite players: Papi, Youk, Jacoby and Dustin.
Baseball was back at Fenway Park, for its 100th season.
“Home openers are cool,” Red Sox manager Terry Francona said before the game.
While he enjoys opening ceremonies, Francona knew Friday’s had a taint.
His team with the high expectations was winless in six games.
“That takes a little bit of fun out of the pageantry,” he said.
But Francona and his players were enjoying themselves later.
They won. The Red Sox not only snapped their losing streak, but they did it in front of the home crowd with a victory over the rival New York Yankees, 9-6.
“I’ve never seen a team so happy to be 1-6,” Francona said. “We did some good things today.”
The team, which couldn’t hit for six games, recorded 12 hits, including a home run by Dustin Pedroia in the first inning.
“He gave us a huge lift. He gets at least a little bit of excitement going,” Francona said.
But Pedroia wasn’t thrilled. Boston trailed 2-1 at the time.
“We were still losing,” he said. “We’ve lost too many. I wasn’t that excited.”
Pedroia knows about slow starts. He was less than two years away from his days with the Portland Sea Dogs at Hadlock Field when Francona made him the starting second baseman in 2007. Pedroia batted .182 in April.
“I started out slow in ’07, but we were winning so it didn’t really matter,” Pedroia said. “But when you’re losing and everyone is starting out slow, you put more pressure on yourself to be the guy that’s going to pick us up.”
With that, Pedroia arrived at Fenway on Friday feeling unsure and desperate. He could not lie to himself and say he was confident that Boston would win.
“To be honest with you, I didn’t know,” he said. “We got back from the road trip. We’re 0-6. That’s the worst feeling as a player, with the expectations we have.
“I just came in here thinking we’ve got to find a way to win. I don’t care how we do it. I don’t care if it’s the ugliest win of all time. We need that win,” he said.
Pedroia followed his first-inning home run into the Green Monster seats with a two-run single to center field in the second inning. It was part of a five-run rally and Boston led 6-3.
But the Yankees tied it with Alex Rodriguez’s home run in the fifth inning, making the score 6-6.
In the bottom of the inning, catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia came up to bat with two runners on base and two outs.
Saltalamacchia, the man with the long name and enormous potential, has been struggling as much as anyone else, if not more. This is his first year as a full-time starter, and he had just one hit in 14 at-bats.
Francona, who preached patience with Pedroia back in 2007, was trying to keep Saltalamacchia calm.
“He admitted that he was kind of pressing, trying to do too much,” Francona said.
Saltalamacchia stroked a double in the fifth inning, driving in the winning run. It was his second hit.
So now the Red Sox are the happiest 1-6 team in the major leagues. They know they are expected to be much better.
Friday was a start.
“We’re just going to go play baseball,” Pedroia said. “We’ve got a lot of great players on this team. We’ll find ourselves.”
Staff Writer Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or at: