ARLINGTON -- David Ortiz's game-tying home run had barely cleared the center-field wall when a comforting thought came across Red Sox manager Terry Francona's mind: Time to go to Daniel Bard.
There has been one common thread since Bard joined Boston's bullpen in May of 2009. When the game is on the line, he will pitch. And just about always, the fireballing righty has come through.
But Friday -- Opening Day for Boston -- was not that day. Consequently, it wound up not being the Red Sox's day, the final result a 9-5 loss to the defending American League champion Rangers.
"It's a tough one," said Bard. "We battled all day to stay in that game. It [stinks] to be the one who gives it away."
No sooner had Ortiz given the Sox momentum with that equalizing solo shot against lefty Darren Oliver with two outs in the top of the eighth than Bard gave it all back and then some.
After inducing a fly out to center off the bat of Nelson Cruz to open the bottom of the eighth, it all went bad in a hurry. First, there was a walk to Mike Napoli. Then a single to Yorvit Torrealba. And David Murphy, a former Red Sox, dropped a two-run double on the chalk of the left-field line, giving the Rangers the lead for good.
"I made exactly the pitch I wanted to make," Bard said. "We were going sinker down and away. It was on the knees, outer black, he just barely got the bat to it. Three inches to the left, that's a foul ball and we have a different conversation, but that's baseball."
Murphy enjoyed being on the right side of those few inches.
"Obviously any hit in that type of situation feels great," Murphy said. "To be successful in that situation is as good of feeling as there is in the game. My first reaction was it was going to be foul, but it was staying straight instead of tailing off like it normally does. I was running and then I saw it hit chalk."
The case can be made that it was the worst outing of Bard's career. The four hits allowed were a career high, and the four earned runs equaled a career high set in May 2009.
The loss snapped a streak of three consecutive Opening Day victories for Boston.
"I think everybody wants to get off to a good start personally and as a team," said Bard. "No one wants to start this way. But I think we'll be looking at this and laughing a couple months from now."
Bard wasn't the only Boston pitcher to struggle. Jon Lester, making the first Opening Day start of his career, gave up six hits and five runs over 5 1/3 innings. Lester walked one and struck out none for just the second time in his career.
"I don't care about strikeouts. I care about winning the game. I don't care if I strike out another batter as long as we win," said Lester.
He allowed three homers in a game for the first time, including a three-run bomb by Napoli that turned Boston's 4-2 lead into a 5-4 Texas edge.
"I looked at it on film and thought it was a good pitch," said Lester.
But Lester would not take the loss, thanks to Ortiz, who already has half as many homers against lefties as he had all of last year, when he had just two in 185 at-bats.
"David hits a home run and it kind of changes the whole feeling in the dugout," Francona said. "We're thrilled to get to Bard. I thought he got under a few pitches. Didn't locate. The ball Murph hit, it just hit the chalk. It changes the whole game. But taking that away, there were still a lot of pitches and a long inning for him."
At least early on, it seemed that the story of the game was going to be Adrian Gonzalez, who was making his debut with the Red Sox. The star first baseman belted an RBI single to right in the first, highlighting a two-run first for Boston.
Ian Kinsler gave the Rangers a jolt by leading off the bottom of the first with a solo shot against Lester. Cruz tied it by ripping a solo homer against Lester in the second.
Gonzalez came right back with a two-run single up the middle in the third against Rangers lefty C.J. Wilson, and the Red Sox appeared to be in good shape at 4-2.
"You take what he gives you," Gonzalez said. "You know you're not going to get a pitch that you can drive. You're looking for singles up the middle. He's real tough. You just do what you can."
Wilson gave up six hits and four runs (two earned) over 5 2/3 innings.
"I thought we did a good job against him," Francona said. "That's one way to probably beat him is to get him out of the game. Their bullpen held us down pretty good."
And for one of the few times in his career, Bard could not hold down the opposition.
"I thought, initially, from third base, it was going to be a foul ball, easily," Kevin Youkilis said of the go-ahead double by Murphy. "It's a game of inches. It's a tough one for us, for a guy like Daniel Bard. Hopefully he'll learn from his first outing and get better. For him, I don't see that kind of inning happening again anytime soon."
The Red Sox will try for their first win of 2011 on Saturday night, when John Lackey takes the mound.
"There's no frustration," said Ortiz. "It's just the first game. We faced a good team. They played a better ballgame than we did. And you've got to come back tomorrow and try to turn the page."