ARLINGTON -- Rangers reliever Darren Oliver knew something special might be coming when he arrived at the Ballpark and saw big traffic jams leading into the parking lots on Friday.
"I felt like I was driving to a Cowboys game," said Oliver, referring to the NFL team down the street.
Maybe, but lately the biggest games in the neighborhood have been played at the Ballpark in Arlington, and Opening Day proved no exception. Mike Napoli and David Murphy delivered huge hits, the bullpen came through behind starter C.J. Wilson and the Rangers made it a triumphant day by rallying for a 9-5 victory over the Red Sox before 50,164 fans.
"It was a battle ... a battle all the way to the end," said second baseman Ian Kinsler, who became the second Rangers player to lead off the season with a first-inning home run.
The Rangers raised the American League pennant during the Opening Day ceremonies before the game, and that brought back memories of the excitement that swept through the Ballpark last October. Opening Day 2011 picked right up along those lines, even if it didn't have the same impact.
"Opening Day is fun. ... It was a good day," designated hitter Michael Young said. "But at the end of the day, it's just one day. We're not making it out to be anything more than that. It's always nice to win on Opening Day and give the fans something to enjoy, but tomorrow, we have to come out with the same effort."
The Rangers still have reason to celebrate this one. This was their third straight Opening Day victory and 10th in their last 14. This one also came in front of the eighth-largest regular-season crowd in Ballpark history.
"It was a big win," said Oliver, who ended up getting the victory. "It's nice to get Opening Day over with and give the fans something to celebrate. They definitely got their money's worth. It was like a boxing match, both teams battled and battled."
The big blow was a three-run home run by Napoli in the bottom of the fourth off All-Star left-hander Jon Lester that erased the Red Sox's 4-2 lead. The decisive blow was a pinch-hit two-run double by Murphy that snapped a 5-5 tie in the bottom of the eighth inning.
Murphy, pinch-hitting for Julio Borbon, came up with two on and one out against Red Sox reliever Daniel Bard. Murphy got his bat on a 3-1 fastball and lofted it down the line in left. The ball landed right on the chalk and bounced into the corner, allowing both runners to score. A two-out double by Elvis Andrus brought home Murphy, and Josh Hamilton made it 9-5 with a double into the right-field corner.
"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 four-run lead kept Neftali Feliz from earning his first save of the season, but he did close it down by setting down the side in order in the ninth. That finished off an excellent afternoon by the bullpen that was needed for 3 1/3 innings of relief behind Wilson.
Wilson had to battle with everything he had because he was still dealing with some tightness in his left hamstring muscles that forced him out of his last Spring Training start after just two innings. Wilson made it through 5 2/3 innings and threw 109 pitches, retiring nine of the last 11 hitters he faced.
Wilson said the hamstring issues kept him from getting maximum velocity on his fastball, but he compensated by mixing all his pitches and keeping the Red Sox guessing. He ended up allowing four runs (two earned) on six hits and two walks while striking out six.
"I was throwing everything I had," Wilson said. "It was still a great day for the team. That was the big thing -- even last year on days I didn't have my best stuff, the offense picked me up."
Napoli put Wilson in line to get the victory, coming up with two on and two outs in the fourth and hitting a 2-2 breaking pitch deep down the left-field line for a three-run home run.
"Obviously, the three-run homer to Napoli is a huge swing in the game," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "I don't think it was a bad pitch I think it was down, probably borderline out of the zone. He's a big strong kid and has hurt us before."
Wilson didn't get the victory. He left with a 5-4 lead with two outs in the fifth, and David Ortiz tied it in the eighth with a two-out home run off Oliver. But that was the only hit given up by the Rangers' bullpen.
The Rangers used four relievers -- Mark Lowe, Arthur Rhodes, Oliver and Feliz -- and they retired 10 of 12 batters faced. That at least kept it tied before Texas unloaded against Boston's bullpen in the eighth.
"Their bullpen held us down pretty good," Francona said.
"The bullpen was outstanding," catcher Yorvit Torrealba said. "First of all, C.J. did an outstanding job keeping us in the game, and the bullpen was huge. The only mistake was Ortiz. We were trying to go away and got too much of the plate. But overall, we were very happy with the bullpen."
And the day overall.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.