Rivera: Opening Day is a unique experience at Fenway

Former Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz, left, embraces Olympic gold medalist Aly Raisman during ceremonies prior to a home opener baseball game between the Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays at Fenway Park. (Photo by the Associated Press)

BOSTON –There’s something about the way the Red Sox celebrate opening day.

Thursday’s chilly winds didn’t set the stage for the ideal start to a new baseball season. In fact, the game-time temperature, 39 degrees, felt more reminiscent of a hockey game. But once the Fenway festivities got underway the Red Sox once again proved why no other team matches their opening day celebrations.

“It was a tremendous game,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said after the 3-2 extra-innings win over Tampa. “It went to extra innings and I think that’s great for the fans. For us it was a bit tough but it went well. We played very well. Coming from behind demonstrates the character of the team.”

With the game tied 2-2 in the bottom of the 12th inning, Hanley Ramirez, for the second game in a row, played hero. Ramirez singled to right field, bringing Jackie Bradley Jr. home with the game-winning run to put an exclamation point on the Fenway opener.

“The first thing Hanley told me is that he’s healthy and that last year he wasn’t,” Cora said. “When Hanley’s healthy the quality of his at-bats are some of the best in league. He’s somebody that can be dangerous at any moment. He demonstrated that today and he demonstrated that in Miami.”

Red Sox radio announcers Joe Castiglione and Dave O’Brien kicked off the afternoon by introducing both rosters.  

Last season, Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski were the featured guests for the opening day kick-off. Thursday, the Red Sox kept their theme of champions. This time it was a group of local olympic and paralympic medalists who starred at the ceremony, including Danvers native and USA women’s hockey captain Meghan Duggan. Together, the olympians threw out the ceremonial first pitch.

And it’s not a party at Fenway unless David Ortiz makes an appearance. Ortiz walked out to the mound wearing his retired No. 34 jersey before removing it to reveal a t-shirt that read “Girl Power” as olympic medalist  and Needham native Aly Raisman met him to announce “Play Ball!”

In natural Ortiz fashion, the former Red Sox slugger took a selfie with Raisman before clearing the stage for David Price to continue his dominant start to the season from the mound. Price tossed seven innings of shutout baseball, fanning five Tampa Bay batters and allowing just three hits.

“We pitched very well,” Cora said. “David Price was excellent and we’re confident in him. When he’s healthy he’s one of the best pitchers in the league.”

Rays starter Yonny Chirinos matched Price’s performance and silenced the Red Sox bats for five innings.

“The at-bats were a lot better in the last third of the game,” Cora said. “I thought Chirinos did an outstanding job, first of all pitching inside early in the game and then off his sinker he started throwing that split-finger down in the zone. He wasn’t giving us too many pitches in the middle of the zone.”

Tampa took a 2-0 lead in the top of the eighth inning when Matt Duffy hit a 2-run homerun to left-center off reliever Carston Smith. The Red Sox rallied to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth inning. An RBI-single from Hanley Ramirez scored Mookie Betts to make it a 2-1 game. Xander Bogaerts delivered a game-tying double, scoring Andrew Benintendi, to send the game to extra innings.

“From a personal perspective if the game was going to go like this, that’s tremendous,” Cora said. “We had fun throughout the day and to be able to win puts us in a good position to keep playing well and win the series. Now we have a chance to win the series Saturday or Sunday.”

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