Red Sox pitcher Brayan Bello reacts during Boston’s 6-4 win over the Mariners on Opening Day on Thursday in Seattle. Bello pitched five innings, allowing two runs on five hits. Lindsey Wasson/Associated Press

SEATTLE — Brayan Bello’s first Opening Day assignment came with plenty of expectations.

As it came only weeks after the Red Sox signed him to a six-year contract extension, it naturally placed Bello under the microscope. Add in the fact he was just the second Dominican – after Pedro Martinez – to pitch an opener for Boston, and at 24 the youngest to draw the assignment in almost 30 years, and the spotlight only got brighter.

But Bello didn’t shrink from the challenge. To the contrary, he was as calm as could be during the run-up to the game, unaware this start would be somehow different, or indifferent to that reality. He pored over scouting reports as though this was just an ordinary game.

And when it came time to pitch, Bello tamed a powerful Seattle Mariners lineup, allowing two runs over five innings, qualifying for the victory in a 6-4 Red Sox win.

“He was excellent,” said Alex Cora, who picked up his first Opening Day win as a manager. “He can be better, we know that. His command was off but he was able to make pitches. For a kid from (a small town in the Dominican) to be on this stage and go out there and perform, it was awesome. We made a big commitment a few weeks ago. He wanted to pitch (when the Red Sox were in the Dominican Republic earlier this month), but I always envisioned him pitching here, in one of the first two games. He had the ball tonight and he did enough.”

“I feel happy for him,” said countryman Rafael Devers, who clubbed a two-run homer in the third to stake Bello to an early lead. “He looked very good out there and I hope he keeps throwing the ball like he did today.”


While Bello didn’t feel nervous before the game, he acknowledged the game sped up on him some in the first few innings. It helped that starting with the last hitter he faced in the first through the final out in the third, that he retired 7 of 8 Mariners, allowing him to establish his own rhythm.

That said, though he allowed five hits and only a few were particularly hard hit, Bello still had to work himself out of jams at times. He needed a tidy 6-4-3 double play to wriggle out of a first-and-second, one-out mess in the first. He hit the leadoff man in the fourth, and after a fielder’s choice erased Jorge Polanco at second, gave up a two-run homer to Mitch Haniger that cut Boston’s 3-0 lead to 3-2.

But he finished strong in the fifth and at 84 pitches over five innings, admitted he tried to hide from pitching coach Andrew Bailey and Cora in the dugout, hoping to go back out for one more inning.

“I felt strong enough to go another and I was trying to avoid everybody,” he said with a smile. “But they came and found me anyway.”

Bello recorded just two strikeouts in his five innings, after saying in spring training he understood he needed to get more swings and misses. In today’s game, it’s rare for starting pitchers to succeed while averaging 7.6 strikeouts per nine innings, as Bello did a year ago. The more balls that get put in play, the easier it is for opponents to piece together rallies, but Bello said the Mariners represented a special challenge.

“This is a team that doesn’t strike out too much,” said Bello. “They’re very good hitters. So my focus tonight was to get quick outs and I think that was the result that I had.”

Importantly, Bello didn’t walk a batter.

Over the winter, the Red Sox envisioned Lucas Giolito starting their first game, but Giolito’s elbow injury and surgery tossed aside those plans. Instead, Bello, in whom they invested $55 million as well as the belief that the organization had finally developed a homegrown front-line starter, stepped in and put them on the right road to begin the season.

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