BOSTON (AP) — Mookie Betts took away a two-run homer with a leaping catch. He stole two bases on the same pitch. Then he hit a three-run homer.
All in the first two innings.
Boston’s athletic, young leadoff hitter and center fielder thrilled the capacity crowd — and his teammates — at the home opener and started the Red Sox toward a 9-4 win over the Washington Nationals on Monday.
“He took the game over,” Boston manager John Farrell said. “He’s a talented, exciting player.”
The 22-year-old Betts made his major league debut last June 29 and hit .291 in 52 games as he made the switch from second base to the outfield.
Of his three highlights, he was most impressed with the steals. He stole second after walking in the first then continued to third when he saw it uncovered. He slid in ahead of pitcher Jordan Zimmermann’s tag. Both steals were upheld on replay.
“It was kind of an energy thing,” Betts said, “giving myself energy as well as the team and the crowd.”
Rick Porcello (1-1) made his Fenway debut one week after signing an $82.5 million, four-year contract, allowing four hits in eight innings. Two hits were solo homers by Ryan Zimmerman and Danny Espinosa.
The Red Sox led 8-0 after three innings. Zimmermann (1-1) was as wild to start the game as Tom Brady, whose ceremonial first pitch to David Ortiz bounced in the dirt.
“I really didn’t have a feel for the ball and didn’t know where it was going all day,” Zimmermann said.
Ortiz capped Boston’s scoring with a solo homer in the sixth.
Photos: Red Sox win in home opener
But Betts, who singled in a run in the third for his fourth RBI, was the star.
He leaped above the low wall in front of the Boston bullpen in right-center field to snare Bryce Harper’s drive in the first.
Zimmermann walked Betts on five pitches to open the bottom half and Betts stole two bases before scoring on Ortiz’s single. Betts’ homer made it 4-0 in the second.
“He pretty much did everything,” Porcello said.
In the third, Zimmermann hit Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval. Helped by two misplays by center fielder Michael A. Taylor that fell for singles, the Red Sox made it 8-0 on RBI singles by Xander Bogaerts, Sandy Leon and Betts and a sacrifice fly by Dustin Pedroia.
“It’s tough to win ballgames when you can’t catch the baseball,” Washington manager Matt Williams said.
The Red Sox improved to 18-5 in their last 23 home openers. The Nationals lost one day after snapping a three-game losing streak.
Porcello has allowed 10 hits in 14 innings since being obtained in a trade that sent outfielder Yoenis Cespedes to Detroit. The only hit he allowed in the first four innings was a single by Yunel Escobar in the first.
Former Boston College baseball player Pete Frates received an honorary contract from Boston general manager Ben Cherington in a pregame ceremony. Frates, who suffers from ALS, originated the “Ice Bucket Challenge” to raise money for research into the disease.
Brady, Patriots owner Robert Kraft, president Jonathan Kraft and coach Bill Belichick each carried a Super Bowl trophy as they walked in from a door in the left-field wall for the ceremonial first pitch. New England won its fourth NFL title, 28-24 over the Seattle Seahawks on Feb. 2.
Nationals: Left fielder Jayson Werth batted fourth after being activated from the 15-day disabled list and went hitless in three at-bats. He was coming back from surgery on his right shoulder in January. The Nationals optioned outfielder Matt den Dekker to Triple-A Syracuse.
Red Sox: Closer Koji Uehara was activated from the 15-day disabled list after a strained left hamstring limited him to three spring training appearances. The Red Sox optioned left-handed reliever Tommy Layne to Triple-A Pawtucket.
Nationals: Stephen Strasburg (0-1) makes his second start of the season on Tuesday night. In his first, he allowed six runs — three earned — in 5 1-3 innings of a 6-3 loss to the New York Mets.
Red Sox: Justin Masterson (1-0) makes his first Fenway Park start since returning to the Red Sox after signing as a free agent from St. Louis. The Red Sox traded him to Cleveland in 2009. Masterson and Strasburg both pitched at San Diego State.
Copyright 2015 The Associated Press