Originally written on NESN.com  |  Last updated 11/9/14
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Take a good, long look at the Red Sox’ Opening Day victory. It’s exactly how this year’s team plans to win ballgames. The offense collected 13 hits, Jon Lester pitched five solid innings and the bullpen proved to be the shutdown unit that many anticipate it being this season. On top of all that, the Sox showed grit, hustle, aggressiveness, plate discipline and the ability to manufacture runs, all of which falls directly in line with the organization’s 2013 approach. General manager Ben Cherington and Co. went into this past offseason looking to acquire players who fit a certain mold. Not only did the Red Sox want talented players, but they wanted guys who could mesh together and form a cohesive unit. While we’re just one game in, the team that took the field and took down the Yankees in Game 1 on Monday looked like a passionate bunch with something to prove. One play in the ninth inning epitomized the gritty and hard-nosed style of play that manager John Farrell figures to instill in his players and that the Red Sox must embrace this season. With Boston holding a 5-2 lead with two outs in the ninth inning, Jacoby Ellsbury hit a ground ball to the right side. Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano ranged over and got a glove on it, but he then stumbled through a juggling act and had no chance of throwing out a hustling Ellsbury, who even lost his helmet while sprinting through the bag. Rather than the Red Sox settling for one run, though, they pushed the envelope. Jonny Gomes, who isn’t going to win any races, never let his foot off the gas while rounding third, and he came all the way around from second base to slide just under Francisco Cervelli’s tag. The end result was two runs — as opposed to just one — and a seemingly insurmountable 7-2 advantage. Gomes pumped his fist upon being called safe, and the Red Sox’ dugout erupted. That play all but secured the victory, although the game was never really in much doubt. While the Red Sox showed plenty of aggressiveness on the bases, they also demonstrated a great deal of patience in the batter’s box. The Sox drew eight walks. Jackie Bradley Jr. — making his major league debut on Monday — and Jarrod Saltalamacchia each walked three times, and Yankees starter CC Sabathia was run from the game after five innings with a pitch count of 102. The walks proved costly for New York, as Boston found ways to make the free passes count. Of the Red Sox’ 13 hits, only two went for extra bases, and neither of them led to runs. The Sox were instead at their best offensively when they were manufacturing runs via station-to-station baseball, as was the case during that ninth-inning in which two walks and a single preceded Gomes’ hustle play. On the pitching side of things, Lester was solid, twirling five effective frames to earn the win. It was the bullpen that was particularly impressive, though, as Koji Uehara, Andrew Miller, Andrew Bailey, Junichi Tazawa and Joel Hanrahan combined to shut the door. A good bullpen can be a difference-maker, as it really shortens games, and on Monday, the Yankees’ offense never really stood a chance against the pen. The Red Sox now have 161 more games, during which they’re bound to experience some ups and downs. When they’re at their peak, though, it’ll be because of efforts like Monday’s. A win is most definitely a win, but there’s something a little bit sweeter about earning a victory in the manner in which you intended. Have a question for Ricky Doyle? Send it to him via Twitter at @TheRickyDoyle or send it here.
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