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Nava’s 7th Inning HR lifts Red Sox in Home Opener

Daniel Nava and Shane Victorino celebrate the Red Sox 3-1 home opening victory. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

Celebration swept across New England on Monday afternoon as the Boston Red Sox kicked off their home schedule with an exciting 3-1 victory over the Baltimore Orioles, their ninth consecutive win on Opening Day at Fenway Park. The team was coming to Fenway strong off of a 4-2 road trip within the division, winning series in both New York and Toronto, and now have their sights set on a third straight series win as they play Baltimore twice more later this week.

Clay Buchholz led the Sox with a second brilliant start and win, pitching 7.0 shutout innings while striking out eight batters. Buchholz threw 113 pitches (65 for strikes), allowing four walks and allowing just three hits.

For a while it seemed like the Sox were going to be handcuffed by southpaw Wei-Yin Chen, who was also pitching into the seventh inning while working a shutout. The Sox hot offense had launched six home runs the previous day against Toronto, but couldn’t generate offense at home against Chen until the middle of the order had their third look at him.

Dustin Pedroia reached base on a grounder to shortstop, and then Mike Napoli came through as he doubled to center field, which could be the beginning of great numbers for Napoli at Fenway, where he has had success throughout his career. With two runners on, Will Middlebrooks stepped to the plate, fresh off his three-homer game on Sunday.

Middlebrooks fouled off four pitches from Chen and worked the count to 2-2 before the Taiwanese pitcher put him away on a change-up. But just when the Orioles may have thought they had a chance at escaping the critical jam in the scoreless contest, Daniel Nava launched a three-run shot to the Monster seats in left field, giving Boston a 3-0 lead.

Andrew Bailey worked a perfect eighth inning in his set-up role, where he notched his third hold of the season. Bailey came in and struck out both Nate McLouth and Manny Machado, with the momentum carried through the park by Nava’s shot still heavy in the air.

Manager John Farrell turned to closer Joel Hanrahan, who surrendered a leadoff solo shot to Adam Jones to tighten the score at 3-1 without an out in the ninth. He retired recent hot-hitter Chris Davis on a ground out before striking out Matt Wieters. Down to their final out, J.J. Hardy kept the Orioles alive by doubling to center, but Ryan Flaherty popped out harmlessly to third base to end the game and secure another Red Sox win.

The team improves to 5-2 with the victory, and things are actually looking up for a franchise that seemed lost not so long ago. Buchholz is 2-0 this season with a 0.64 ERA, and teammate Jon Lester is also 2-0 with a 1.50 ERA. Without a doubt, these two need to pitch well in order for the Sox to compete in the American League East, and so far, they’ve exceeded expectations, as has the team as a whole.

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