Horrendous defense leads to early exit for Zimmermann (Red Sox win 9-4)

BOSTON - The pageantry of opening day at Fenway Park included New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, head coach Bill Belichick and owner Bob Kraft entering the field through the Green Monster each carrying a Lombardi Trophy hoisted above their shoulders. Moments later, Brady would skip the ceremonial first pitch to Red Sox star David Ortiz.

The game began with Nationals center fielder Michael A. Taylor striking out for his 11th time in 26 at-bats. Third baseman Yunel Escobar then reached on a bloop single to right field bringing right fielder Bryce Harper to the plate. Harper hit a towering fly ball that Red Sox center fielder Mookie Betts measured. Betts then leaped up and snatched the ball before it carried over the short right field wall, robbing Harper of a two-run homer. Red Sox starter Rick Porcello followed by striking out Jayson Werth in his first at-bat of the season.

zimmermann-pitching-red-wide-sidebar.jpgNats starter Jordan Zimmermann walked Betts to lead off the first. With one out and the Nats in a shift with Ortiz at the plate, Betts took off for second. Catcher Jose Lobaton’s throw one-hopped into shortstop Ian Desmond’s glove but Betts beat the tag. Then, with nobody covering third due to the shift, Betts sprung up and made a run to take another bag. Desmond’s throw to Zimmermann was too late as Betts dove headfirst safely into third. Nationals manager Matt Williams came out of the dugout to challenge the safe calls at both second and third, but replays were inconclusive and the play stood.

Ortiz then smoked a liner to left that Werth started in on. The ball flew over his head, banging off the Green Monster to easily score Betts.

In the second, Desmond committed his fifth error of the season when his throw pulled Ryan Zimmerman off first base on ground ball off the bat of shortstop Xander Bogaerts. Former Nats catcher Sandy Leon followed with a single, his first hit playing for the Red Sox. Betts then slammed a 1-1 offering from Zimmermann over the Monster and out of the park for a three-run homer.

Life would not get better for Zimmerman in the third after hitting back-to-back batters to start the inning. Red Sox first baseman Mike Napoli then lifted a sky high fly ball to deep left-center that Werth and Taylor appeared to lose in the sun. The ball bounced on the warning track and up against the wall before Taylor could fire it back in. The bungled play was ruled a hit and left the bases loaded with no outs. A single by Boegarts plated Ramirez for one run before the defensive follies began again. This time it was Leon who hit a lazy fly ball to right-center that Taylor and Harper couldn’t find, allowing Sandoval to come home home as the ball dropped cleanly again. Another single from Betts on a ball that caromed off Escobar’s glove scored the Red Sox’s seventh run. That was it for Zimmermann after 70 pitches in just 2 1/3 innings.

Right-hander Tanner Roark was called from the bullpen with the bases still loaded. Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroi hit a sacrifice fly to score Bogaerts before Roark was able to finally get out of the marathon inning.

When the dust cleared, Zimmermann’s final line read eight runs allowed, seven earned, on nine hits with one walk and two hit batters.

The Nats finally got on the board when Zimmerman led off the fifth with a titanic blast that carried the 420-feet sign in straightaway center field for his second homer of the year. Designated hitter Clint Robinson followed with a rocket off the top of the center field wall that he would turn into a triple. Robinson scored the Nats’ second run on a groundout from second baseman Danny Espinosa two batters later.

Update: Ortiz hit a 3-2 Roark pitch deep to center for a solo home run to lead off the sixth. Roark has allowed one run on four hits with a walk in 3 2/3 innings.

The Nats were able to add another run in the seventh when Zimmerman reached on an error and advanced to second base on a wild throw. Robinson moved him over to third on a ground ball to first and Zimmerman then scored on Desmond’s groundout.

Update II: Espinosa hit a solo homer in the eighth, batting from the left side against the righty Porcello. It’s Espinosa’s first home run on the year.

Reed Johnson replaced Werth in left field to start the seventh. Werth was 0-for-3 in his season debut.

The Red Sox lead the Nats 9-4 in the eighth.

Update III: It’s a 9-4 final. The Nats fall to 2-5.

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