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Saturday’s game against the Royals featured the season debuts of three members of the Sox bench, including the soon-to-be retired Mike Lowell. Lowell started, played third base, and hit sixth in the batting order. He didn’t commit an error and made a good play in the second inning, but he didn’t light the world on fire in a 1-4 effort. The rest of the team, however, picked up the slack offensively to the tune of five home runs in an 8-3 victory.
Even more shocking than the power surge is the hitter responsible for two of the blasts: Red Sox backup catcher Jason Varitek. Yes, VARITEK. He followed up a fifth-inning homer with one in the ninth as part of a 2-4 day. Tek was starting at catcher in place of Victor Martinez (0-5), who was starting at DH in place of David Ortiz.
Varitek’s fifth inning blast followed a Jeremy Hermida home run a pitch earlier off starter Zack Greinke, who allowed four runs on five hits in 6.2 innings, but did rack up five strikeouts. Greinke certainly wasn’t as sharp as he was last season, as he has now allowed five runs over his first two starts after allowing just six runs over his first eight starts in 2009.
Kevin Youkilis hit a solo shot in the eighth inning, and Dustin Pedroia completed the fireworks show with a two-run shot in the ninth behind starter Josh Beckett. Beckett, who was nearly hit in the head by a David Dejesus line drive, was sharp in allowing three runs on nine hits in seven strong innings. With the win on Saturday, Beckett officially owns the Royals. He now has a career 6-0 record against them.
Who else but Tek? He hit two home runs in his first game of the season. While he probably won’t see increased playing time, it’s good to know that the Sox have a backup catcher capable of that much offensive production.
OK, so maybe Tek should play more? Victor continued his rough start to the season, finishing 0-5. To make matters worse, Red Sox-killer Rick Ankiel made a nice running catch to rob Victor of a hit in the fourth inning.
“My focus obviously was Josh and what has to go on there,” said Varitek. “It’s nice to contribute, absolutely. Both swings, I was able to get the good part of the bat on the ball. The ball was carrying a little bit to the right.”
W: Josh Beckett (1-0)
L: Zack Greinke (0-1)