The defending American League champion Texas Rangers are already on the comeback trail.
Newcomer Mike Napoli quickly endeared himself to Rangers fans with a three-run homer and old favorite David Murphy delivered as a pinch-hitter with a tiebreaking two-run double as Texas rallied for a 9-5 victory over the Boston Red Sox.
Like so many times while winning their first AL pennant a year ago, including the 2010 opener, the Rangers pulled off an exhilarating rally — this one after raising their championship flag.
"There isn't anything changed with those guys," manager Ron Washington.
Napoli, who spent the last five seasons with the AL West rival Los Angeles Angels, put the Rangers up 5-4 with his homer in the fourth. After David Ortiz tied the game with a homer in the eighth, Napoli was on base in the bottom of that inning when Murphy hit a slicing liner off hard-throwing Daniel Bard that kicked up chalk when it landed.
"My first reaction was it was going to be foul," Murphy said. "Usually from that point, you see the ball tail off a little bit, but it stayed straight. ... I saw the chalk and kept running."
Napoli walked and Yorvit Torrealba singled before both newcomers ran home on Murphy's hit to break a 5-all tie. Elvis Andrus drove Murphy home with a double before another double by AL MVP Josh Hamilton.
Bard said he threw the exact pitch he wanted to Murphy.
"Sinker down and away. It was on the knees, outer black," Bard said. "He just barely got the bat to it. Three inches to the left and that's a foul ball, and we're having a different conversation."
While the Rangers are coming off the season of their first AL pennant, the Red Sox reloaded after missing the playoffs for only the second time in an eight-year span that included two World Series titles. They added a pair of All-Stars this winter in Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford.
Gonzalez, who came in a trade from San Diego, had two hits and drove in three runs in his Boston debut. Crawford, who had played the past nine seasons in Tampa Bay, went 0 for 4 with three strikeouts while leaving a runner in scoring position each at-bat.
Napoli finished with two hits and scored twice for the Rangers, whose returning players will get their AL championship rings in pregame ceremony Saturday.
"When you're making your debut, that's what you want to do. It's a great feeling," Napoli said. "It's a good start. You don't want to start 0 for 3. When I got traded, I was happy to be with a winning team that went to the World Series."
The Angels had traded Napoli to Toronto in January, but four days later the Blue Jays shipped him to Texas for reliever Frank Francisco.
Ian Kinsler and Nelson Cruz also homered for the Rangers, whose opener came exactly five months after a Game 5 loss to San Francisco at home ended its first World Series.
Darren Oliver, the third Texas reliever, got the victory even after the lefty allowed the homer to Ortiz, who had only one homer in April last season.
"We fought back. David hits that home run and it kind of changes the whole feeling in the dugout," manager Terry Francona said. "We were thrilled to get to Bard. I thought he got under a few pitches, didn't locate. The ball Murph hit, it just hits the chalk and it changes the whole game."
Murphy pinch-hit for No. 9 batter Julio Borbon, the center fielder whose two-base error on the first play of the game led to the Red Sox scoring a pair of unearned runs. Borbon remained a starter even after five errors in 21 spring training games, a move that allows the Rangers to play Hamilton in left but relegates Murphy to the bench.
Boston's Jacoby Ellsbury, who finished with two hits and scored twice, opened the game with a fly to right-center. Borbon knocked the ball away from right fielder Cruz as he was about to make the catch.
"It was a very aggressive play on Borbon's part. Cruz was camped," Washington said. "It didn't bother us. We gathered ourselves and kept playing baseball."
Ellsbury scored on a two-out double by Youkilis, and Gonzalez drove in a run in his first Red Sox at-bat before being thrown out trying to stretch his hit into a double.
C.J. Wilson, who won a Rangers-best 15 games last year when he made the transition from the bullpen to the rotation, struck out six with two walks in 5 2-3 innings. The crafty left-hander gave up four runs.
Lester, who won 19 games and was an All-Star last season, gave up five runs over 5 1-3 innings. It was the first time in 125 career games he allowed three homers, and only the second time the lefty didn't have a strikeout.
"Didn't go the way I wanted, obviously," said Lester, who made his first opening day start after pitching the second game for Boston each of the last three seasons — a span when he was 0-2 with an 8.36 ERA. "I just have to keep pitching."
- Nelson Cruz
- Elvis Andrus
- David Murphy
- Mike Napoli
- Daniel Bard
- David Ortiz
- Yorvit Torrealba
- Adrian Gonzalez
- Ron Washington
- American League champion Texas Rangers
- the Boston Red Sox