At least for one memorable Opening Night, the Red Sox answered that question emphatically, and they did so at the expense of their rivals. Boston got big hits from the holdovers and the new guys, overcoming multiple deficits en route to a memorable 9-7 victory over the defending World Series champion Yankees on Sunday.
"I mean, personally, we all have faith in ourselves," said Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis. "We know we're a good hitting team. I don't think we have to prove that to anyone but ourselves. We showed tonight that we put together some good at-bats and didn't give up. We still have 161 games left. This is one game. But I was very impressed by a lot of guys battling. It was tough to come back there, but we put together some good at-bats and didn't try to do too much, and in the end, we ended up scoring enough runs to win."
It was the first game of Major League Baseball's 2010 season, and it had drama galore.
"It's exciting," said Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia. "First game of the year, first day at home, playing against the Yankees -- there's a lot coming at us at once."
Beantown vs. Bronx openers
|2010||9-7 W||Josh Beckett||Boston|
|2005||9-2 L||David Wells||New York|
|1992||4-3 L||Roger Clemens||New York|
|1985||9-2 W||Oil Can Boyd||Boston|
|1973||15-5 W||Luis Tiant||Boston|
|1971||3-1 W||Ray Culp||Boston|
|1970||4-3 W||Gary Peters||New York|
|1964||4-3 W||B. Monbouquette||New York|
|1959||3-2 L||Tom Brewer||New York|
|1951||5-0 L||Bill Wight||New York|
|1950||15-10 L||Mel Parnell||Boston|
|1945||8-4 L||Rex Cecil||New York|
|1944||3-0 L||Yank Terry||Boston|
|1939||2-0 L||Lefty Grove||New York|
|1938||8-4 W||Jim Bagby Jr.||Boston|
|1935||1-0 W||Wes Ferrell||New York|
|1933||4-3 L||Ivy Andrews||New York|
|1931||6-3 L||Wilcy Moore||New York|
|1929||7-3 L||Red Ruffing||New York|
|1926||12-11 L||Howard Ehmke||Boston|
|1924||2-1 L||Howard Ehmke||Boston|
|1923||4-1 L||Howard Ehmke||New York|
|1919||10-0 W||Carl Mays||New York *|
|1917||10-3 W||Babe Ruth||New York *|
|1912||5-3 W||Joe Wood||New York **|
|1910||4-4 T||Eddie Cicotte||New York **|
|1906||2-1 L||Cy Young||New York **|
|1904||8-2 L||Cy Young||New York **|
But it wasn't enough to unnerve the Red Sox, who came back for good in the bottom of the seventh. Down by two, it was Pedroia who came up big, belting a two-run equalizer into the Monster Seats against reliever Chan Ho Park.
"That was a tough game to win," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "I thought we were very resilient tonight. We get down, then we tie it up and we get back down quick. We did some very good things offensively, and we kept at them and kept some pressure on them. Pedey came through with a huge hit. Youk had a big night. Like I said, that's a hard game to win."
If there was a player who seemed to be in the middle of everything all night, it was Youkilis. With two outs and nobody on after Pedroia's homer, he was the one who got another rally going, clubbing a double off the wall in left. Damaso Marte then unleashed a wild pitch, and Youkilis scooted to third. And in a game where there were 12 hits on each side, it was a passed ball by Jorge Posada that proved to be the difference, as Youkilis came roaring home to give the Red Sox their first lead of the night.
"We pride ourselves on playing the game the right way -- take an extra base, run the bases, play defense, have good at-bats," said Youkilis, who became the first Sox player since Carlton Fisk in 1973 to have three extra-base hits on Opening Day. "In order to be successful, that's what we have to do."
Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon made the late-game rally stand up by firing shutout frames in the eighth and ninth. Papelbon collected his third Opening Day save, passing Jeff Russell and Tom Gordon (two each) for the most Opening Day saves in club history. Hideki Okajima got the win, despite allowing a couple of Ramon Ramirez's inherited runners to score.
As for the offense, it went at the Yankees from all angles. Pedroia scored twice, had two hits and drove in three. Youkilis scored three times and drove in two. Adrian Beltre had a hit and two RBIs in his Boston debut. The bottom of the order got a nice spark from Mike Cameron (2-for-3) and Marco Scutaro (2-for-3). And Scott Schoeneweis allowed no runs and one strikeout in one inning, giving all four Red Sox newcomers impressive performances in the opener.
"The media made a big deal of [a potential lack of offense], but today we scored nine runs," said Beltre. "That says something. We know we have the players to put runs on the board."
The second comeback was made possible by the first one. Down, 5-1, against Yankees ace CC Sabathia, the Sox chipped back for one in the fifth and then a big three-spot to knock out Sabathia and tie it in the sixth.
Youkilis was the catalyst, pummeling a 3-1 pitch from Sabathia for a two-run triple over the head of Yankees right fielder Nick Swisher.
"I got to 3-0, I got the green light, but I wanted to see him throw another pitch, and I was just telling myself to lay off some inside stuff," Youkilis said. "He threw a pitch out over the plate and I tried to drive it the other way. I was very fortunate to get it by Swisher for a triple."
Opening Night notes
|The Red Sox improved to 54-55-1 on Opening Day, 23-17 when starting the season at home (20-17 at Fenway Park), 11-16-1 in season openers against the Yankees and 5-4 in Opening Day contests vs. New York at home. ... It also marked Boston's first win vs. New York on Opening Day since 1985. ... The Sox improved to 20-14 all-time on Easter.|
|Kevin Youkilis (3-for-4, two doubles, a triple, two RBIs and three runs) became the first Red Sox player to tally three extra-base hits on Opening Day since Carlton Fisk had a double and two homers vs. the Yankees at Fenway Park on April 6, 1973. ... Youkilis is the first Boston batter to triple on Opening Day since Jose Offerman on April 5, 1999, at Kansas City.|
|With Dustin Pedroia's two-run homer in the seventh inning, he became the first Boston player to hit Opening Day home runs in back-to-back years since Trot Nixon in 2001-02. Pedroia is also the first Red Sox player to hit an Opening Day homer for Boston against the Yankees since Mo Vaughn went deep at Yankee Stadium on April 7, 1992. Phil Plantier homered earlier in the same inning. ... The last time a Red Sox player homered on Opening Day vs. the Yankees at Fenway Park was Jim Rice on April 8, 1985. Tony Armas and Dwight Evans each homered earlier in that game.|
Then it was Beltre coming through, smashing an RBI single up the middle to make it a tie ballgame.
Beltre was a big piece of the run-prevention makeover, but he came through with the bat on this night.
"They're not just defensive players," said Youkilis. "These guys can play. These guys are going to do a lot of good things for this team all year."
The night started with some emotion, as former Sox icon Pedro Martinez -- wearing a white Red Sox jersey with No. 45 on the back -- walked out from the Green Monster and threw out the first pitch to former teammate Jason Varitek.
From there, he handed off to the two aces who currently play a central role in the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry.
Much of the hype going into the game was on the battle of those two marquee pitchers, Josh Beckett for the Sox and Sabathia for the Yankees. But neither factored in the decision. Beckett, who walked three and had just one strikeout, gave up eight hits and five runs over 4 2/3 innings. That included back-to-back homers by Posada and Curtis Granderson (first at-bat as a Yankee) in the second. Beckett got in more trouble in a three-run fourth inning, which included a steal of home by Brett Gardner on the back end of a double steal.
Sabathia was dominant early, allowing just one hit over the first four innings. But the Red Sox never relented, coming all the way back from a 5-1 deficit. The big lefty gave up six hits and five runs over 5 1/3 innings. He walked two and struck out four.
"I was behind a lot today," Sabathia said. "I had good stuff early. I just started nibbling a little too much. I had a lead and I should have just thrown it over the plate and said, 'Here it is, hit it' -- instead of trying to pitch a little too much. It hurt me."
The Red Sox made it hurt him, proving to be relentless.
"We looked dull in the beginning and didn't score a lot of runs and didn't look too pretty," Youkilis said. "But this team is resilient. It's good to get a 'W' on Opening Night. It's good for the city, it's good for the fans, it's good for the players, it's good for everyone. We're just excited to come out of here with a 'W,' but it's still just one game."
Even still, it's one game that the Red Sox hope will be a tone-setter for their offense.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.