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    Red Sox drop frustrating season opener

    Jackie Bradley Jr. was left hopping mad after beind called out on strikes to end the game.
    Jim Davis/Globe Staff
    Jackie Bradley Jr. was left hopping mad after beind called out on strikes to end the game.

    BALTIMORE — Mike Napoli was the only Red Sox player sitting at his locker when the doors to the visiting clubhouse opened to reporters late Monday afternoon.

    His teammates eventually filtered into the room and dressed quickly before leaving Camden Yards. No music played and the televisions were dark.

    That the Red Sox won the World Series five months ago and will visit the White House on Tuesday to celebrate that achievement did not blunt the sting of a 2-1 loss to the Baltimore Orioles on Opening Day.


    “We have a lot of games left. But I bet this will be one of the more frustrating ones,” Napoli said. “That’s a game we usually win.”

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    The Red Sox started their 114th season reaching base 13 times against Baltimore starter Chris Tillman and four relievers. But they stranded 12 runners.

    The Sox were hitless in 10 at-bats with runners in scoring position, leaving three runners at third base and three others at second. The only run came in the fourth inning when Grady Sizemore marked his return to baseball after a two-year hiatus with a home run to right field.

    “It’s exciting at the time,’’ said Sizemore, who had not played since 2011 because of injuries. “It’s a nice feeling to get that first one. Just going through what I’ve gone through, it felt nice at that moment.”

    Beyond that, it was only disappointment for the Sox.


    “The two-out base hit proved elusive,” manager John Farrell said.

    It was that way until the end. New Baltimore closer Tommy Hunter hit Will Middlebrooks in the back with a 96-miles-per-hour fastball to start the ninth inning. Dustin Pedroia then singled with one out.

    David Ortiz flied to left, hitting the ball well but into a strong wind. That brought up rookie Jackie Bradley Jr., who was recalled from Triple A Pawtucket earlier in the day when Shane Victorino went on the disabled list.

    Bradley, who had entered the game in the eighth inning as a pinch runner for Napoli, struck out looking at a 2-and-2 fastball to end the game.

    Bradley thought the pitch was high. He hopped in the air and grabbed his helmet when umpire Dana DeMuth made the call to end the game as the sellout crowd of 46,685 celebrated.


    “I didn’t think it was a strike. I didn’t think the first one was a strike, either,” Bradley said. “That’s just the way it goes.”

    The Sox also had a chance in the eighth inning when Napoli drew a leadoff walk against Evan Meek and Xander Bogaerts walked with two outs. The Orioles called in lefthander Brian Matusz to face lefthanded-hitting A.J. Pierzynski and the new Red Sox catcher grounded back to the mound.

    Farrell had righthanded-hitting Jonny Gomes available, but his best pinch hitter stayed on the bench.

    “No, no, we’re staying right there with A.J.,” Farrell said. “I liked where we were matchup-wise. Lefthander, righthander, A.J. is our starting catcher.”

    Farrell also didn’t regret running for Napoli in the eighth inning. He knew Baltimore would bring in Hunter, a hard-throwing righthander, to close.

    “Lefthanders have had much more success against [Hunter]. There was a willingness to [pinch run] a little bit more in that situation,” the manager said. “We’re trying to scramble to scratch out a run and tie things up. Not second-guessing the move.”

    Even the weather irritated the Sox. Bogaerts, Pierzynski, Pedroia, and Ortiz all hit balls that on a warmer day might have sailed over the fence. But all were tracked down by outfielders on or close to the warning track.

    Temperatures in the 50s and a strong wind blowing across the field made Camden Yards bigger.

    “We squared some balls up, the wind was kind of swirling,” Pedroia said.

    Pedroia, who was 2 for 5, came close to a home run in the fifth inning but Adam Jones made a catch at the wall.

    “That was all I got,” Pedroia said.

    Tillman lasted only five innings as the Red Sox wrung 104 pitches out of him. But that persistence translated into only one run despite good swings.

    Red Sox starter Jon Lester pitched very well, allowing two runs on six hits over seven innings, with one walk and eight strikeouts.

    His only real problem was with Nelson Cruz, which has often been the case.

    Cruz walked to lead off the second and went to third on a bloop single to center by Matt Wieters. The Orioles took a 1-0 lead when Delmon Young grounded into a double play.

    Cruz led off the bottom of the seventh inning with a home run to left field, hammering a first-pitch fastball that was inside but a little up.

    “I felt like he hit a pretty good pitch,” Lester said.

    Lester, obviously angry, struck out the next three batters but the damage had been done.

    “The thing I feel like that hurt me was the leadoff walk in the second,” Lester said. “Other than that, when I give up a bunch of singles and a solo homer I like my chances.”

    Said Pierzynski: “He threw the ball great and deserved better.”

    Cruz is 11 of 24 against Lester with three home runs. Cruz, then with the Texas Rangers, homered off Lester in the first game of the 2011 season.

    The Orioles did not sign Cruz until Feb. 22, when he agreed to a one-year, $8 million deal. The 33-year-old saw his value fall after he was suspended 50 games last season for his role in the Biogenesis scandal.

    “It was really neat, it was special,” Cruz said. “I made the right call to come and be part of this organization, be part of this town.”

    Napoli will bring the best beard to the White House since Benjamin Harrison on Tuesday and that day will be a better one. But Monday was a Game 1 downer.

    “You had the feeling something good was going to happen,” he said, “but we just didn’t get it done.”

    Peter Abraham can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.