There was pomp and there certainly was ceremony.
The only thing missing was a satisfying outcome for the Toronto Blue Jays, who desperately wanted a successful showing for the 48,473 fans who crammed into sold out Rogers Centre Monday night to welcome home the Boys of Summer.
Instead what they served up was another ninth-inning horror show in the Blue Jays’ regular-season home opener by Sergio Santos, their newly-minted closer who coughed up three runs that allowed the Red Sox to emerge with a 4-2 victory.
It was the second time that Santos has blown a save this year -- and the Blue Jays are only four games into the season..
The exuberant crowd was cheering wildly when Santos entered the game from the bullpen to protect a well-deserved 2-1 Toronto lead.
When he left with the home side now trailing by two it was to a deafening chorus of boos.
“Look I’d be booing too,” Santos said. “It wasn’t pretty.”
What transpired was difficult to fathom for the home-town supporters -- a litany of woe that began with a leadoff double off the bat of Dustin Pedroia
Pedroia advance to third on a passed ball and then scored to tie the game on a sacrifice fly lifted by Adrian Gonzalez.
Then it got real nasty after Santos managed to strike out Kevin Youkilis.
Santos would walk David Ortiz and then Cody Ross.
Darnell McDonald, running from second in place of Ortiz, would score the go-ahead run on a single by Ryan Sweeny.
Cody Ross would score the fourth Boston run on a wild pitch.
“He got into a situation after the leadoff double,” Toronto manager John Farrell said. “I thought he started to overthrow his fastball. He yanked a number of pitches out of the strike zone. The two walks obviously led to those three runs.”
The outcome ruined what was an otherwise solid starting assignment from Toronto’s Henderson Alvarez, at 21 the youngest Blue Jays pitcher to ever start a home opener.
Alvarez looked cool and calm, pitching a solid six innings while allowing just four Boston hits and one run -- a home run by Pedroia in the sixth inning that halved the Toronto lead to 2-1
Think this kid wasn’t ramped up?
His electric fastball was already nudging 97-miles-an-hour -- in the first inning.
“They’ve got some pitching over there,” Pedroia said. “Their starter was pretty darn good. He’s got great stuff, man. His two-seam fastball is pretty darn good. He’s going to be good for a long time.”
The win for Boston was its first of the season after three consecutive losses for new manager Bobby Valentine. Toronto’s record fell to 2-2.
It has been quite a while since a Blue Jays team has entered a season with such a high degree of optimism, not to mention enthusiasm, for a squad coming off an 81-81 finish a year ago.
The Blue Jays affected considerable change to hopefully shore up a leaky bullpen in the off-season and then roared through the spring training schedule with the most wins of any major league team.
With a high-powered offence, led by the game’s most accomplished power hitter the past two years in Jose Bautista, returning intact, the team’s supporters are anticipating -- almost expecting -- nothing less than a run for the playoffs.
An exciting start to the season over the weekend in Cleveland where the Blue Jays won two of three from the Indians in no way dampened the spirit.
Santos is expected to be a big part of it all, but so far it has been a tough start.
“It just wasn’t one bad pitch, it was a lot of bad pitches,” Santos said. “When we play a team like Boston, and the way we played -- home opener. Henderson threw unbelievable. We played really good baseball.
“So it’s tough because you feel like you let 24 other guys down that you’ve been working hard with for the past two months. It's tough. It’s just a couple bad pitches and they capitalized on them. It’s an ugly feeling.”
Farrell, who managed to keep a straight face when he was asked after the game if Santos would remain his closer (he will), noted that Toronto’s offence has not exactly set the world on fire so far.
But it’s early -- still 158 games to go.
“I think guys are still trying to find their rhythm,” Farrell said.
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