Most memorable Red Sox Opening Days since 2000 feature joy, heartbreak

John Tomase
NBC Sports Boston

No two words herald the arrival of spring quite like "Opening Day."

Unfortunately, the real world has intruded on the sports world this year, and so in lieu of Thursday's scheduled opener in Toronto, the Red Sox will be sheltering in place.

But that doesn't mean we can't look back at some of the most memorable openers of the last 20 years. Since 2000, the Red Sox are a middling 9-11 on Opening Day, and the losses have tended to leave a mark.

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NBC Sports Boston's chief cynic (me) has compiled the five most memorable opening days since 2000, and of course two of them are losses, including No. 1. What did you expect, rainbows?

Anywhere, here's the list.


5. 2015 Red Sox 8, Phillies 0

Hoping to prove that 2014's descent to last place was a fluke, the Red Sox pummeled the Phillies and ace Cole Hamels in Citizens Bank Park, but alas the good times did not last.

The Red Sox slammed five home runs - including two each from Dustin Pedroia and Hanley Ramirez - and Clay Buchholz tossed seven shutout innings in a game that seemingly augured well for the rest of the season.

The Red Sox had retooled that winter around Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval, a pair of $80 million free agents who were supposed to bolster the lineup. For one day, Ramirez did his part, but his lack of interest in playing left field would soon catch up to him.

Sandoval, meanwhile, went 0 for 5 with three strikeouts, a performance that provided only a taste of what was to come in Boston, unfortunately.


4. 2012: Tigers 3, Red Sox 2

The Bobby V. years were greeted with curiosity, the veteran baseball man returning to the dugout at age 61 after three years in the broadcast booth. And a season that would give us one disaster after another started in excruciating fashion.

Jon Lester and Tigers ace Justin Verlander dueled to a virtual standstill, with Verlander delivering eight shutout innings and Lester departing after seven innings of one-run ball.

The Red Sox entered the ninth trailing 2-0, but a David Ortiz sacrifice fly and improbable Ryan Sweeney triple tied the game.

Valentine turned to closer Mark Melancon, who retired Ryan Raburn before allowing consecutive singles. Out went Melancon - his confidence shaken by the quick hook - and in came human tinderbox Alfredo Aceves.

Aceves hit Ramon Santiago and served up the walk-off single to Austin Jackson, starting a trend that carried through the rest of the campaign. The Red Sox would get walked off again three days later in the series finale and eight times overall in a lost season that set the stage for rebirth in 2013.


3. 2008: Red Sox 6, A's 5

The defending champions opened their season on the other side of the world in Japan, one year after the start of Daisuke-mania.

Daisuke Matsuzaka got the start over ace Josh Beckett in his homecoming, but the Red Sox appeared headed for a loss until reserve outfielder Brandon Moss - starting only because J.D. Drew was a late scratch - tied the game with a solo homer in the ninth off of Huston Street.

Manny Ramirez then won it in the 10th with a booming two-run double to complete a four-RBI day before Jonathan Papelbon closed it out with a little bit of a heart attack save, allowing a run on a walk, double, and two singles.

The 2008 Red Sox never said die for the rest of that season, either, eventually pushing the Rays to Game 7 of the ALCS.


2. 2013: Red Sox 8, Yankees 2

The tone setter for a title came early. The 2013 Red Sox entered the season with zero expectations, coming off the disaster of Bobby Valentine and the offseason acquisition of multiple unheralded veterans.

Mike Napoli, Shane Victorino, Jonny Gomes, Stephen Drew, David Ross, and Ryan Dempster felt like varying degrees of retread. But on Opening Day in New York, the Red Sox gave us a taste of their future by teeing off on ace CC Sabathia and then running the stunned Yankees off the field.

Victorino's two-run single keyed a four-run second, and Jon Lester struck out seven over five innings before being replaced by veteran setup man Koji Uehara, a name that would acquire infinitely more significance as the season progressed.

Rookie Jackie Bradley Jr. worked a pair of walks and recorded an RBI groundout in his big league debut, but the real statement came in the ninth when Jacoby Ellsbury beat out an infield single and Gomes never stopped running, coming around from second with the run that announced exactly what kind of team the Red Sox would be in 2013, an attitude that carried them to a title.


1. 2003: Rays 6, Red Sox 4

There's nowhere else to finish.

The pressure on the Red Sox that afternoon in Tampa was absurd. Theo Epstein's first game as general manager featured one of his most controversial decisions - to eschew a closer in favor of a mix-and-match bullpen that would become known, for better or worse but definitely worse, as closer by committee.

That lasted eight innings. The Red Sox cruised into the ninth with a 4-1 lead on the strength of seven three-hit innings from ace Pedro Martinez. What happened next felt here-we-go-again perfect for baseball's most cursed franchise.

Alan Embree, hoping to take the closer's job for himself, didn't retire a batter, departing after a two-run homer from Mookie Betts' uncle, Terry Shumpert. Right-hander Chad Fox replaced him and immediately recorded two outs.

But with the Red Sox one strike away, Fox served up a walk-off three-run homer to Carl Crawford and jaws hit the floor across New England.

Most memorable Red Sox Opening Days since 2000 feature joy, heartbreak originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

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