That the Red Sox would win their home opener had become almost as much of a tradition as the red, white, and blue bunting hanging from the stands at Fenway Park.
The Sox had won nine consecutive home openers, the fourth-longest streak in baseball history.
That came crashing to a halt Friday. On a day of wildly divergent emotions, the Red Sox received their World Series rings in a moving pregame ceremony, then allowed four runs in the ninth inning of a 6-2 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers.
“It was a day I’ll always remember,” third baseman Will Middlebrooks said. “Just not the way it ended.”
Edward Mujica, who was not deemed worthy of pitching in the World Series by the St. Louis Cardinals last fall, allowed four runs on four hits in the ninth inning and left the mound to boos from the sellout crowd of 36,728.
The Brewers, who faced Mujica 10 times last season in the National League Central and hit him hard, swung at 12 of the 15 pitches the righthander threw. They made contact 10 times, either putting the ball in play or fouling it off.
“They swung at everything,” Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski said. “They knew he was going to throw strikes and they swung at everything.”
Mujica had pitched a scoreless inning in Baltimore Wednesday, and manager John Farrell had no hesitation bringing him into a 2-2 game.
Farrell also was determined to avoid using Koji Uehara and Junichi Tazawa for a third straight day this early in the season. So Mujica was the choice.
“He mis-located a couple of balls and unfortunately today paid for it,” Farrell said.
Khris Davis started the inning with a double to left field. Scooter Gennett bunted the ball back to the mound and Pierzynski yelled at Mujica to go to third.
The throw was accurate but Middlebrooks fielded the ball to the home plate side of the base and could not get the tag down. Davis came off the bag while entangled with Middlebrooks but no tag was made.
The Red Sox considered a replay challenge but their review in the clubhouse did not show enough evidence.
“That led to a big inning instead of just getting a guy out,” Pierzynski said. “Those things happen. We tried to be aggressive and it was a real close play.”
Middlebrooks said he didn’t see Davis come off the base until he watched the replay after the game.
Lyle Overbay, who was released by the Red Sox in spring training in 2013, then doubled in two runs and took third on the throw to the plate. Carlos Gomez then singled home Overbay.
Jean Segura grounded into a force play at second, then stole second and scored on a two-out single by Aramis Ramirez. That finally forced Mujica (0-1) out of the game.
Mujica did not speak to reporters after the game.
The Sox, who went in order in the ninth, were held to five hits and were hitless in six at-bats with runners in scoring position. They are 3 for 31 with runners in scoring position this season and have left 33 runners on base over 36 innings.
“That doesn’t last,” said Middlebrooks. “We’ll be OK and get those hits. We’re putting the people on base and that’s what you want.”
Down, 2-0, the Red Sox came back against Milwaukee starter Marco Estrada in the second inning.
Mike Napoli worked a 10-pitch walk. With one out, Grady Sizemore singled to right field and Napoli took third. The throw from right fielder Logan Schafer went into foul territory and Napoli scored standing as Sizemore advanced to second.
Sizemore stole third, his first since steal since May 11, 2010. He then tried to score when Xander Bogaerts hit a fly ball to shallow right field, but Schafer made an accurate throw and Sizemore was out to end the inning.
“Even though it was a relatively shallow fly ball, we’re challenging it,” Farrell said. “No second-guessing the decision to send him there one bit.”
The Sox tied it in the third inning when Middlebrooks drove a high, 87-mile-per-hour fastball into the seats in left field for his first home run.
The day was otherwise fruitless. The Sox stranded runners in scoring position in the fourth, sixth, and seventh innings against Estrada and reliever Will Smith. They ran into another out in the sixth inning when Dustin Pedroia was caught stealing with David Ortiz at the plate.
“We just couldn’t get anything going,” Pedroia said.
Red Sox starter Jake Peavy allowed two runs on six hits over six solid innings. He walked two and struck out four.
Peavy’s only difficult inning was the second, when the Brewers scored two runs on three hits. Jonathan Lucroy homered and Gomez had an RBI single.
The Sox arrived back in Boston from Baltimore close to 2 a.m. and got little sleep before reporting to the ballpark. The pregame festivities were energizing, but that didn’t last.
“Long day for us, but we’ll be OK,” Peavy said. “We tried to grind it out and we were there until the end.
“It was a great day, just not on the scoreboard.”