CLEVELAND – Evidently, David Price knows how to make an entrance.
The lefthander made his first statement in a Red Sox uniform an impressive one, becoming the fifth Red Sox pitcher ever to strike out 10 or more batters on Opening Day and the first since Pedro Martinez to punch out 10 or more batters in his Boston debut, a 6-2 win over the Indians.
Though Price had a four-hit, two-run hiccup in a 33-pitch fourth inning, he was otherwise dominant, allowing no runs on one hit in his other five frames. He was able to mix his complete complement of pitches for strikeouts, getting swings and misses with his fastball, curveball, and changeup, and employing a backdoor cutter to get called third strikes.
It was precisely the sort of outing about which the Red Sox must have daydreamed when they signed Price to the richest contract ever received by a pitcher.
He wasn’t flawless. In stretches, he appeared less than comfortable with his fastball in the cold conditions, particularly in the two-run, four-hit fourth inning, in which he threw his heater on just eight of his 33 offerings.
Price averaged just 90.8 m.p.h. on his fastball – a full mile per hour below his previous career-low of 91.8 m.p.h. in a game in 2014, and more than 3 m.p.h. off of his career average of 94.2 m.p.h.
Still, he proved capable of changing the sequences of his pitches repeatedly, in a way that limited the Indians to five singles.
Ultimately, Price proved the better of two former American League Cy Young winners, outpitching Corey Kluber in a way that the Red Sox hope to see repeatedly in the months and years to come.
Other takeaways from the Sox’ second straight Opening Day win:
COLD WEATHER #FEATS: Mookie Betts’ home run off of Corey Kluber represented an unlikely feat. It was the first homer in a game with a first-pitch temperature of 34 degrees or under since April 23, 2013 – an unsurprising drought for cold-weather power, given how hard it is to drive the ball in arctic conditions.
Betts proved unfazed by drilling a Kluber fastball with an exit velocity of 107 m.p.h. off the bat. Last year, his highest measured exit velocity on a home run was 105 m.p.h.
Betts later added another hit and also made a brilliant leaping catch on a line drive that seemed destined to carry over his head in right field.
NO BAT SPEED LIMIT AT AGE 40: David Ortiz offered the Red Sox some very encouraging at-bats, first ripping a double just to the left of center field that came off the bat at 106 m.p.h., later launching a long fly ball to right at 105 m.p.h. that likely would have been gone on a less frigid day, and finally clearing the fences in right in his fifth and final plate appearance.
He consistently hit the ball hard in a way that evoked the 2015 season, during which his 94.4 m.p.h. average exit velocity for the season ranked sixth in the big leagues. The homer, incidentally, gave Ortiz 504 homers for his career, tied with Eddie Murray for 26th all-time.
It was also Ortiz’s fifth career Opening Day blast, placing him first among all active players.
A DIFFERENT LOOK FOR HANLEY: Hanley Ramirez drilled a ball off the fence in right field, a suggestion that his spring emphasis on returning to driving the ball to all fields rather than selling out his approach for pull power may have paid dividends.
Ramirez had just six extra-base hits to right in 2015. While the ball caromed too far off the wall for him to secure a double on Tuesday, the ability to hit the ball hard to the opposite field represented a contrast with his performance of much of last season.
He also handled his few defensive opportunities without incident, and he proved surprisingly aggressive on the bases. On one play, he went from first to third on a single to shallow right, arriving at second base at the same time right fielder Collin Cowgill arrived at the ball.
Ramirez’s ability to take the extra base on the play offered a reminder that, after an offseason focused on improving his quickness and athleticism, he has a chance to impact the game in more ways this season.
THE BOTTOM DID NOT DROP OUT: Travis Shaw and Brock Holt — unexpected members of the Opening Day lineup — both delivered a pair of hits, and Blake Swihart (two walks) and Jackie Bradley Jr. (single, walk) likewise reached base twice each. In total, the bottom four members of the Red Sox went 5-for-15 with three walks, reaching base a total of eight times.
Manager John Farrell said during the spring that he anticipated a lineup that would feature few breathers for opposing pitchers from one through nine.
On Opening Day, the Red Sox validated the claim.