Schilling, Ortiz lead Red Sox in opener

Schilling, Ortiz lead Red Sox in opener

ARLINGTON -- It was almost as if the Red Sox spent the last few weeks of Spring Training orchestrating an ideal blueprint for Opening Day, and, without a hitch, orchestrated it to perfection once the curtain was raised.

How else to explain so many things going right in one afternoon of baseball? No, things won't always go so smoothly over the course of a 162-game season, but Monday was one to bottle for the Red Sox, as they upended the Rangers, 7-3, at Ameriquest Field for their first win on Opening Day since 2000.

Ace Curt Schilling looked far more like the 2004 model than the one who was hammered around throughout '05. A rejuvenated Schilling iced the Rangers over seven innings, allowing five hits and two runs while notching five strikeouts.

The bats were equal parts timely and potent. David Ortiz belted three hits and drove in three runs, including a two-run homer. Jason Varitek (two hits, two RBIs), Alex Gonzalez (two hits) and Mike Lowell (solo homer) also chipped in.

And the gloves came through when needed, particularly when new center fielder Coco Crisp made a spectacular, lunging catch at the wall to help rescue Keith Foulke in the ninth.

"It was a good day," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "If you could kind of draw it up, that would be a pretty good way. We scored first, we added on, they come back and score, we come right back and score and give ourselves some breathing room. Schill was good, he got better as the game went."

For all the positives of the day, Schilling, who was beset all of last year by inconsistency and ankle woes, stood out. He wants to re-establish himself as one of the elite pitchers in the game, and this seemed to be a pivotal step in that direction.

"It's huge," said Schilling. "I spent all spring trying to figure it out and not really knowing until we got here how it was going to go. ... The first couple of innings, I didn't feel like I was throwing exceptionally hard. I felt very normal and the ball was coming out of my hand good. It was very encouraging."

Sporting a fastball that reached as high as 96 mph -- quite a bit harder than he was throwing in Spring Training -- Schilling mowed right through the Rangers for most of the day. And he did it without the benefit of one of his most trusted pitches, the splitter.

"I didn't have a good split at all today. I think I got maybe two outs with it," said Schilling. "The other ones were bad. I threw some real good changeups, got an out with it early."

In short, Schilling had plenty of weapons to get through the day, firing 117 pitches, 79 for strikes.

The honor of pitching on Opening Day wasn't something for Schilling to take lightly. His mission was to justify getting that nod.

"I take a lot of pride in where I sit in the rotation," Schilling said. "After Opening Day is over, it's over. But there's something to it for me. But I want to be at the top of this rotation and I want to help lead this rotation and that comes with performance and consistency, and I haven't done that for almost two years now."

Another player trying to make a similar rebound is Foulke, and his first day did not go as well. The closer gave up two hits and a run, but it was not a save situation, and hence, not exactly a great cause for alarm.

"I think his velocity was good," Francona said. "I think it was probably location. It was a good inning of work, though, because it gets it out of the way. We gave him a little wiggle room because he made a couple mistakes. He didn't use his changeup that much. He just used his fastball. He threw a pretty good fastball."

With runners at second and third and one out, Crisp made that tremendous catch on a sac fly from Laynce Nix, preventing the inning from getting out of hand.

"I basically just ran back and closed my eyes and hoped to catch it," quipped Crisp. "Luckily, it went in my glove. I got a good jump on it."

But the best jump of the day would have to be the ball that skyrocketed off of Ortiz's lethal bat and off the top of the foul pole in right field. That two-run homer off Rangers starter Kevin Millwood in the top of the fifth gave the Sox a commanding 5-0 lead.

"That's pretty impressive," said Crisp. "I try to hit the bottom of the foul pole, but he hit the top, it almost went over."

To the self-effacing Ortiz, it was no big deal.

"You know how the game is," said the big DH. "He's one of the guys that I'm not going to see too many pitches to hit out there, but I've got to make my adjustment. What can you do about it, just keep fighting."

After pitching prevailed for the early portion of the game, the Red Sox got their bats warmed up against Millwood in the top of the fourth. It started innocently enough, with Ortiz ripping a one-out single to right and Trot Nixon drawing a two-out walk. Varitek capitalized, belting a two-run double to right center.

The Sox came back for more in the fifth. No. 9 hitter Gonzalez sparked a rally with an opposite-field single to right. With two outs, Mark Loretta put together a strong at-bat, lining the eighth pitch to right-center for an RBI double. Then came the big blow from Ortiz.

There were more positive developments later in the game, such as a lights-out eighth inning from setup man Jonathan Papelbon, and a solo shot in the seventh from Lowell, who struggled mightily last year.

"It feels good, the first hit, the first home run, we win, it's a good first day," said Lowell. "It's something real positive. I think this is the balance of the team we were preaching about in Spring Training. We saw it today. Hopefully it will be something that's consistent through the whole year."

Schilling liked the view from the mound and the dugout.

"This was [a case of] some guys coming in as advertised," Schilling said. "[Crisp] at the top of the lineup, Mark generating runs and David doing what David always does, and Manny [Ramirez], the presence of those two in the middle of this lineup. This is a good team, this is a very good team."

Ian Browne is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.