Third baseman Rafael Devers walks to the dugout after striking out in the ninth inning of the Boston’s 10-9 loss to the Orioles on Opening Day at Fenway Park. Charles Krupa/Associated Press

BOSTON — The fans who did show up at Fenway Park for Opening Day were patient, probably more patient than the Red Sox deserved.

It took them until the fifth inning to boo. By then, Baltimore led 7-2 in a sloppy game on a cold day, and the fans had seen enough. The Red Sox rallied late to make the score more respectable in a 10-9 loss. But the game did very little to change any minds about the predicted long summer in Boston. In fact, it may have made it worse.

Expectations were low for the Red Sox, but they were supposed to be better than the lowly Orioles.

One game doesn’t mean much. Of course, it doesn’t. But this year, the burden of proof lies with the Red Sox. Unlike in years when the team’s offseason moves stirred excitement, this team has to prove it’s worth getting behind. Prove it’s worth paying to see. They’re the ones who botched the Xander Bogaerts negotiations, three years after trading Mookie Betts, and didn’t get involved with any top-level free-agent pitchers.

They need to convince the fan base they’re not as lousy as everyone thinks. Thursday didn’t help.

The Red Sox listed the attendance as a sell-out of 36,049. Whatever math produced that figure couldn’t hide the fact that if that many people did purchase tickets, lots of them didn’t show up. At every point in the game, a quick eye scan of the park revealed sizable patches of empty seats. That’s stunning in Boston on Opening Day.


Baseball is experiencing a mini resurgence on the strength of a terrific World Baseball Classic, emerging stars, and well-received rule changes. But in Boston, one of the sport’s most reliable strongholds, fans are angry and growing apathetic. Opening Day is supposed to be about rebirth and hope. It doesn’t feel like that this year in New England.

Not only did the Red Sox lose, but they did so for most of the game in a way that was hard to watch and against the only team in the division that people expected the Red Sox to be better than.

The pitch clock does improve pace of play, but only if pitchers can throw strikes. Red Sox pitchers did not do that nearly often enough in their 3-hour, 10-minute game. They gave up nine walks and hit a batter while throwing two wild pitches. The Orioles stole five bases with little resistance.

Fans who stayed braved cold weather and intense wind only to see Boston hit into two double plays and leave five runners on. They were 4 for 14 with runners in scoring position.

Except for his pitch clock violation, Rafael Devers looked good, and Masataka Yoshida and Justin Turner each had two hits in their Red Sox debuts. But they didn’t get much help. Corey Kluber was shaky. The bullpen was lousy and the lineup has a lot of soft spots.

Between the NHL and NBA playoffs and the NFL Draft, interest in the Red Sox figures to be a distant fourth for at least a few weeks. That gives them time to get their feet under them and create something to be optimistic about. Right now, there doesn’t look to be much there.

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