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News / Sports / National Sports

O’Neill homers for record-setting 5th straight opening day as Red Sox top Mariners 6-4

Moore’s 2-run HR in 7th pulled Seattle to within 5-4

By TIM BOOTH, AP Sports Writer
Published: March 28, 2024, 10:17pm
7 Photos
Seattle Mariners catcher Cal Raleigh can't get a tag on Boston Red Sox's Tyler O'Neill, who scored on a throwing error by Mariners third baseman Josh Rojas during the fourth inning of an opening-day baseball game Thursday, March 28, 2024, in Seattle.
Seattle Mariners catcher Cal Raleigh can't get a tag on Boston Red Sox's Tyler O'Neill, who scored on a throwing error by Mariners third baseman Josh Rojas during the fourth inning of an opening-day baseball game Thursday, March 28, 2024, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Lindsey Wasson) Photo Gallery

SEATTLE — Tyler O’Neill set some unlikely baseball history on opening day in the stadium he visited almost yearly as a kid growing up in British Columbia. And it came against the team that drafted him more than a decade ago.

“Baseball is a funny game,” O’Neill said. “It brings everything home like that.”

O’Neill homered in his fifth straight opening day game to set a major league record and helped the Boston Red Sox beat the Seattle Mariners 6-4 on Thursday night.

Rafael Devers homered and doubled off Seattle ace Luis Castillo, but it was O’Neill’s homer on the first pitch from Cody Bolton in the eighth inning that gave the Red Sox a 6-4 lead and made history.

O’Neill homered the previous four opening days with St. Louis, tying him with Todd Hundley (1994-97), Gary Carter (1977-80) and Yogi Berra (1955-58). He was a top prospect in the Mariners organization before being traded to St. Louis in 2017.

And it came in front of a large contingent of family and friends from British Columbia who made the trip down to see O’Neill’s first game in a Red Sox uniform.

“You always want to kick the season off with a bang,” O’Neill said. “Fortunately, I’ve been able to do it a couple times in row now. Just having a lot of fun out there.”

The homers and some solid pitching helped Boston manager Alex Cora enjoy his first opening day win as a manager.

Devers hit an opposite-field two-run homer on an elevated fastball from Castillo in the third inning and his one-out double in the fifth helped lead to another run for Boston. Connor Wong added a two-out RBI single in the sixth on a pitch well off the plate.

“He was able to drive the ball to left-center, something that he wasn’t able to do last year,” Cora said of Devers. “That homer was impressive.”

Boston starter Brayan Bello (1-0) pitched five innings and limited the damage to Mitch Haniger’s two-run homer after he spent last season with San Francisco. Kenley Jansen pitched the ninth for the save after recording 29 last season for Boston.

Dylan Moore’s pinch-hit, two run homer in the seventh inning pulled Seattle within 5-4, but that’s as close as Seattle would get. Two of Seattle’s big offseason additions, Jorge Polanco and Mitch Garver, both experienced some of the frustration that comes with playing at home early in the season. Each hit deep fly balls that likely would have been homers in their former parks, but instead became outs.

“They got some hits with two outs, RBI hits, and those are huge. They’re difference makers,” Seattle manager Scott Servais said. “Not the way we wanted to start. We have a lot of games to go. We have a good team.”

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Castillo (0-1) labored through five innings as his control got away from him at times, missing with a number of borderline pitches. Castillo, who needed 91 pitches to get through the fifth, gave up four runs and six hits.

GOING OUT A MARINER

Nelson Cruz finished with his duties throwing out the ceremonial first pitch and walked over to a little stand set up behind home plate.

There, he signed a ceremonial one-day contract allowing Cruz to retire as a member of the Mariners organization before Thursday night’s season opener.

Cruz announced his retirement following last season. He spent parts of 19 seasons in the majors with eight different organizations. His longest stint was the eight seasons he spent with Texas early in his career.

But Cruz had four influential and impactful seasons in Seattle from 2015-18. He was a three-time All-Star in Seattle, led the league with 119 RBI in 2017 and hit 163 homers in his four seasons — more than he hit in parts of eight season with Texas.

Cruz said a special connection with Seattle is why he decided to have his retirement associated with the Mariners.

“I always identified myself as a Mariner, even though I played more years as a Ranger,” Cruz said.

Cruz finished his career with 464 home runs, a .274 batting average and 1,325 RBIs. He appeared in 49 games last season with San Diego in his final year.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Red Sox: RHP Liam Hendriks was placed on the 60-day IL as he continues recovery from Tommy John surgery. … LHP Chris Murphy was also played on the 60-day IL with a UCL sprain. … RHP Bryan Mata (hamstring) was placed on the 15-day IL. … IF Vaughn Grissom (hamstring) and OF Rob Refsnyder (toe) were placed on the 10-day IL.

Mariners: IF/OF Sam Haggerty (undisclosed medical procedure) was placed on the 10-day injured list to begin the season. … RHPs Matt Brash (elbow strain), Bryan Woo (elbow inflammation), Gregory Santos (lat strain) and Eduardo Bazardo (rotator cuff strain) were placed on the 15-day IL. … Veteran IF Brian Anderson was released, but agreed to a minor-league contract and was assigned to Triple-A Tacoma.

UP NEXT

A pair of right-handers will face off as Nick Pivetta starts for Boston while George Kirby takes the hill for Seattle.

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