Closing Time: Fenway Park shows its teeth

So it's opening night of the 2010 fantasy hardball season, Sox and Yanks, Fenway Park. Quick, do you know where your starting pitchers are?

Offense was once again the story as the Red Sox outlasted the Yankees at The Hub, 9-7. Josh Beckett(notes) was knocked out of the game early (4.2 IP, 8 H, 5 ER, 2 HR), CC Sabathia(notes) didn't last much longer (5.1 IP, 6 H, 5 ER) and ultimately the game was decided by the bullpens.

It amazes me that so many fantasy owners try to swim against the current and get by with AL East pitchers. The American League in general is a softball league when it comes to offense, and the rules switch to slow-pitch for the AL East, which probably boasts three of the five best teams in baseball (Yankees, Red Sox, Rays), not to mention an offensive paradise in Fenway and a home-run jetstream in Yankee Stadium. Bunts and productive outs live in the NL, but they don't play over here. If you want to be down with the crooked number, this is the division for you.

Not that you can't be successful in this environment, of course, but you're making it harder on yourself. Consider that Roy Halladay(notes) had 15 starts against the Big 3 last year (Yanks, Sox, Rays), while Felix Hernandez(notes) had four such turns, Zack Greinke(notes) made just three and Justin Verlander(notes) got by with five. (When Doc sees Washington's opening-day lineup Monday, he might break down and cry.)

Perhaps Jon Lester(notes) has the stuff to get through the division and make a Cy Young push, but it's time to stop expecting that from Beckett. The Texas flamethrower has a 4.53 career ERA at Fenway and against the Yankees it jumps to 5.51. Messy outings like this aren't surprises for Beckett, it's what we should expect.

As for the offense, I'll let you peruse the overstuffed box score on your own and sort through the goodies. Only three of the 18 starters finished the night without a run scored or RBI (Nick Johnson(notes), Jacoby Ellsbury(notes), David Ortiz(notes)); other than that, it was a fun evening for the offensive guys. I'm still against the idea of a stand-alone Sunday opener, but this is one of the better ones I can remember.

Opening day proper hits tomorrow at 1 p.m. eastern and we want you to share it with us. Andy Behrens and I will be live-blogging with the Big League Stew chaps all day; please stop by, grab a hotdog and a cold drink (sorry, not provided), and let's talk some baseball.

Speed Round: Nate McLouth(notes) (hamstring) has avoided the disabled list for now, though he'll be slotted eighth for Monday's opener. Meanwhile, Melky Cabrera(notes) gets the leadoff assignment. … Dexter Fowler(notes) won't start opening day; Seth Smith(notes) is getting the call against Yovani Gallardo(notes). Although Fowler is a switch hitter, he struggled against righties last year (.240/.357/.372). … Jose Reyes (thyroid) has been put on the DL retroactive to March 26; he's eligible to come off Saturday. … Jack Cust(notes) has been booted off the Oakland roster yet again; Eric Chavez(notes) opens the year as the team's DH. … Brad Lidge(notes) (elbow) had a positive 25-pitch session Sunday and might be getting close to a rehab assignment. … John Bowker(notes) had a big spring with the Giants and will get the opening-day nod in right field, with Nate Schierholtz(notes) moving to the bench. … Mike Aviles isn't expected to start for the Royals Monday, despite his torrid camp. Look for Chris Getz(notes) at second base and Willie Bloomquist at third. … Russell Martin(notes) (groin) is expected to start Monday. … Three spring-training stars to keep an eye on as possible sleepers: Will Venable(notes) (.345 average, four homers, nine steals), Sammy Gervacio(notes) (13 IP, 2 ER, 16 K, 3 BB) and Dan Runzler(notes) (10.1 IP, 0 ER, 5 BB, 17 K).

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