BOSTON -- The Red Sox bullpen was a strength in 2013 and features a deep, talented group once again. Boston's relievers were living up to their reputation early in the season, posting 7 2/3 scoreless innings through the first three games, followed by Burke Badenhop's impressive two-inning debut in relief of starter Jake Peavy on Friday against the Milwaukee Brewers.
Then came Edward Mujica's Fenway Park debut as a member of the Sox, which included four runs, four hits, a bang-bang play at third base that went against Boston and the promise of a home opener gone in a matter of minutes. The four-run rally was the deciding factor in a 6-2 Brewers win.
"They came out swinging against Mujica, knowing that he's been in the National League Central -- they're familiar with him," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "At the same time, Edward's had a lot of success against that lineup. He mislocated a couple of balls and unfortunately paid for it."
Mujica, who was not available in the Red Sox clubhouse after the game, entered with a 2.66 ERA in 21 games against Milwaukee. His latest meeting might've been successful if not for a play at third.
Mujica's first offering was rifled to left field for a leadoff double by Khris Davis, who then tried to advance on a bunt by Scooter Gennett. Mujica fielded the bunt and fired to third, where Davis appeared to slide in safely before nearly going too far past the bag.
As Davis strained to keep a toe on the base, third baseman Will Middlebrooks went in for a second tag, hoping to catch the Brewers left fielder off the bag.
"[I didn't have him] initially, not with the initial tag, but when I kind of swiped up I felt like he kind of came off the bag a little bit," Middlebrooks said. "That's hard to see. I wasn't sure at the time because it happened so fast but after I watched the replay I thought I might've had him. But it happened so fast nobody could see."
Middlebrooks admitted that what he saw on replay was not conclusive, which seems to be the company line.
"From my vantage point it looked like his foot got in," Farrell said. "Safe call came and from our dugout didn't see him come off the bag. Even in conversations internally with our video it didn't seem like the replay was conclusive and did not challenge."
In addition to the manager's challenge, umpires have the option to initiate a review on their own from the seventh inning onward, but apparently they saw no reason to do so Friday.
In the other clubhouse, Davis was confident in the result.
"He didn't hold the tag down on me. I was just thinking stay on the base," he said.
Mujica had a chance to rebound but quickly surrendered a two-run double to Lyle Overbay and run-scoring base hits to Carlos Gomez and Aramis Ramirez, which prompted some boos from a crowd that had just hours earlier been treated to a touching tribute to marathon bombing survivors and fallen heroes, as well as a World Series ring ceremony.
As the rain came, so too did Andrew Miller, and eight of his first 10 pitches were outside the strike zone. While Miller recovered to escape the inning (on a strikeout of Davis), he continued with the control issues that plagued him during spring training, lending some concern to another figure who was to be an important piece in the bullpen picture.
Farrell wanted to stay away from Koji Uehara and Junichi Tazawa, both of whom had appeared in the previous two games. Farrell said that even if Mujica had posted a zero and the game had gone to extra innings, it would've been Brandon Workman on the mound for the 10th and probably an inning or two beyond that.
That scenario never came as the vaunted Red Sox bullpen faltered for the first time in 2014.