It was difficult to imagine the Boston Red Sox would end up stealing a 2-1 win in 13 innings as Jim Palmer stood on the mound in the top of the ninth, staring in for the sign from catcher Andy Merchant.
Working with Merchant, who was traded to Baltimore from Boston late in spring training, may have provided Palmer with a little extra edge through the first 8 2/3 innings of the 1976 season opener at Memorial Stadium. The Orioles’ ace needed just one out to complete a brilliant three-hit shut out. Instead, he surrendered back-to-back hits to Rick Miller and Rick Burleson before giving way to Grant Jackson. Steve Dillard delivered the third consecutive two-out hit for the Red Sox, driving home Miller with the run that would force extra innings.
Another RBI double, this time off the bat of Bernie Carbo, plated Carl Yastrzemski with the deciding run in the 13th.
Luis Tiant surrendered just one run in a nine-inning no decision to play his role in a memorable pitcher’s duel. The lone run for the O’s arrived courtesy of Bobby Grich on an RBI-single in the third.
With closer Jim Willoughby sidelined for the next four-to-five months following surgery to remove bone chips in his elbow, lefty Tom House eased some fears concerning the back end of the Red Sox bullpen. House pitched a perfect 13th inning to notch his first save in his debut in a Boston uniform. He did it in style, too, facing the meat of the
Orioles’ order and retiring Grich and Reggie Jackson before fanning Lee May to end the game. Dick Pole pitched three perfect innings of his own to earn the victory after coming on in relief of Tiant..
Reggie Jackson’s debut with the Orioles did not live up to the hype. Jackson was 1-for-6 and suffered an injury while batting in the final frame. While team doctors have not yet revealed the nature of the injury, Jackson has already been listed as unable to play in game two of the series.