Red Sox 6, Athletics 5(10)
In the earliest major league opener, the Red Sox started their World Series title defense with a signature Manny moment.
Ramirez stood frozen in the batter's box, admiring his 10th-inning drive to center field off Huston Street, thinking it would be a three-run homer. Instead, the ball bounced off the wall for his second two-run double, good enough to lift the Red Sox over the Oakland Athletics 6-5 on Tuesday night.
Daisuke Matsuzaka excited fans at the start, and Ramirez at the finish.
"Ultimately, it was a great ballgame," Matsuzaka said through a translator. "I hope people got a chance to enjoy it live."
A crowd of 44,628, including fans from Boston, cheered at the Tokyo Dome, which hosted baseball's opener for the third time in nine years. It was 6:10 a.m. back in Boston when the season began, and organizers tried to make it feel like Fenway Park by playing "Sweet Caroline" after the last out.
Ramirez, starting the final guaranteed season of his eight-year contract, hit a tying, two-run double in the sixth inning, and rookie Brandon Moss hit an RBI single that gave Boston a 3-2 lead and chased Oakland starter Joe Blanton.
Matsuzaka, pitching in Japan for the first time since joining the Red Sox last season, left after five wild innings and 95 pitches, and Jack Hannahan's two-run homer off Kyle Snyder put Oakland ahead 4-3 in the sixth. Moss, playing because J.D. Drew hurt his back in batting practice, hit a solo homer in the ninth off Street (0-1).
Ramirez hit a drive to deep center and was sure it would be a home run. It wasn't, and he had to hustle to make it to second.
Just Manny being Manny.
He learned when he got to the ballpark that he couldn't use the red-barreled bat he planned on using because it would distract pitchers. So he got some new bats in Tokyo.
"Maybe if I used my American bat that ball maybe would have gone," he said. "I thought I hit it good. I couldn't use my bat because it wasn't legal. Thank God I got some Japanese wood that I could use."
Oakland manager Bob Geren made the key decision to walk Ortiz.
"They're both great hitters and you have to pick one or the other," Geren said. "He got 0-2 and then got a pitch over the plate and Ramirez took it deep."
Jonathan Papelbon took the mound to his "Wild Thing" theme in the bottom half, but was hardly intimidating. He walked Daric Barton leading off and gave up a one-out RBI double to Emil Brown, who was tagged out in a rundown between second and third.
"I made a mistake," Brown was quoted as saying by the San Francisco Chronicle. "What I was thinking didn't happen in that situation. You can't get out like that. It's not a trade-a-run situation. I thought the throw was going home, but that was a mistake. Bad baserunning on my part."
Matsuzaka allowed a pair of first-inning runs, one on a homer by Mark Ellis. The right-hander struck out six and walked five in five innings but allowed only two hits.
The crowd was loud, but not nearly as loud as the regular noise level at Fenway. Fans pounded drums, flashed cameras and gawked at Dice-K's wildness.
"Given the opportunity to start on opening day, I did feel a little nervous and a little excited and that might have shown," said Matsuzaka, who signed a $52 million, six-year contract with Boston before last season after eight years with the Seibu Lions. "I'd like to apologize to all the fans who turned out and wanted to see me go deep in the game."
Ramirez was presented with an oversized check for 1,000,000 yen (about $10,000) for being MVP of the game and smiled as he held it up on a stage placed near the mound. He also gets a color laser printer. ... Pregame ceremonies included a band playing "The Stars and Stripes Forever" and opera singer Michie Nakamaru singing the Japanese national anthem in a red dress with a long train.
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press
This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index
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