BOSTON -- The Red Sox teamed up with Autism Speaks, the world's leading autism science and advocacy organization, on Saturday to celebrate Autism Awareness month. It is part of a league-wide effort to raise awareness for the disorder.
"We are so grateful for Major League Baseball's league-wide support again this year," said Liz Feld, president of Autism Speaks. "Thanks to the wonderful work of each team's staff and volunteers, last year, thousands of families from the autism community enjoyed a ballpark experience for the first time. The sensory friendly accommodations and the ability to participate in pregame activities made it possible for our families to enjoy America's favorite pastime and watch their favorite team. We know our families will be thrilled to return to the ballpark this season."
Families and individuals affected by autism were able to purchase tickets for the game at a discount, with part of the proceeds from the game's overall ticket sales [going] toward Autism Speaks' efforts to increase awareness, fund innovative autism research and family services, and advocate for the needs of individuals with autism and their families.
The Red Sox hosted those affected by autism in a quiet zone, a sensory friendly environment, in Fenway Park's Champions' Club lounge to watch the Sox play the Athletics. Families affected by autism participated in pregame ceremonies, including the ceremonial first pitch and traditional call to 'Play Ball!'
"Major League Baseball is proud to partner with Autism Speaks once again, in order to raise awareness and support its mission of treating, preventing and curing autism," said Commissioner Bud Selig. "Many of our clubs are longstanding supporters of the autism community. As we begin our new season, it is a privilege for our entire industry to stand together behind Autism Speaks and highlight their remarkable work."
Red Sox make their hits count in win
BOSTON -- The Red Sox had just six hits in their 6-3 win over the A's on Saturday afternoon at Fenway Park. But they made almost all of them count, none more so than Jonny Gomes' first-inning grand slam.
With one out and the bases loaded, Gomes wasted no time jumping on Tommy Milone's first pitch, a curveball. He drove it into the Monster seats in left field to give Boston an early 4-0 lead.
From Gomes' experience with the A's in 2012, he knew what kind of an approach their pitchers have.
"Those guys are strike-throwers," Gomes said. "It kind of comes with the motto of pitching in their ballpark. I just wanted to be aggressive early and aggressive throughout the whole game. I swung at every single pitch I saw today, but they were all strikes. I just wanted to be aggressive on strikes early. They came right after me like they do everyone, and it worked out the first at-bat."
It was Gomes' third home run of the season. It was also his fifth career grand slam -- and first since May 8, 2013, against the Twins.
"It was a first-pitch curveball," Gomes said. "Runner on third, less than two outs, I was just looking for something on the bottom half of the ball, something to elevate. Worst-case scenario, sac fly. Best, it goes out."
It went out.
"It's pretty nice," said Gomes. "But I think it's a lot more nice, if you will, to be able to give Jon Lester that four-run lead going into the second. Just get a little bit of pressure off him to where he feels he doesn't have to be perfect. I guess we saw how that worked out with him, he was pretty unbelievable today. With his career and his track record, [it was impressive] to still top some career highs, as well. [Catcher] David Ross [and Lester were] definitely on the same page."
Ross added to the offense with his second home run of the season to lead off the fourth. As a catcher, though, he's looking out for his pitcher -- and Lester pitched a gem for the Sox.
"It's always nice to pitch with a lead," Ross said. "You can breathe a little easier -- especially when he's pitching like that. It always helps. First month, we were playing a lot of catch-up and put a lot of pressure on ourselves. Jonny gave us some breathing room today. That was nice to be able to pitch and be aggressive with the lead. When you've got a guy like Jon Lester pitching like that, you don't need too many [runs]."
David Ortiz hit a lead-off home run in the third. It was the 379th home run of his career with the Red Sox, tying him with Dwight Evans for fourth place on the Sox' all-time list. It came on an 0-and-2 pitch, just the sixth time in his career he's hit a home run in that count -- and the first since Aug. 25, 2004, at Toronto.
The Sox are now 11-3 when they score first.
"[Gomes] gives us a huge lift in the first on one pitch he saw, [his] first pitch of the day," said manager John Farrell. "I think we've shown that when we score first and you get a start like that with Lester today, it puts you in command -- not that you're ever taking anything for granted, [as evidenced] by the ninth inning. But I think as the warm weather starts to descend here, guys are feeling a little bit more free and easy at the plate."
Red Sox shuffle outfield for middle game with A's
BOSTON -- After playing three games in two days, including both ends of Thursday's doubleheader against the Rays and Friday's series opener against the Athletics, right fielder Shane Victorino was not in the starting lineup for Saturday afternoon's game against Oakland at Fenway Park.
Victorino was hampered in Spring Training, as he recovered from the Sox's extended World Series season and some nagging injuries along with right thumb surgery in December. He started the season on the disabled list with a right hamstring injury sustained in the Sox' final Spring Training game, before being activated April 24.
In seven games since returning, Victorino is batting .290 (9-for-31) with five doubles, three runs scored, three RBIs, three walks, and nine strikeouts.
Against the Rays on Tuesday, he went 4-for-4, the most hits he's recorded in a game since going 4-for-5 on June 21, 2013, at Detroit. It was Victorino's 14th career game with four or more hits -- and the second time he's done it with Boston.
"Three games in two days, and still looking at the shortened Spring Training, the number of games missed coming out of the start of the season," said manager John Farrell. "So he's available for defense or pinch-hit duty ... and will be back on the field [on Sunday]."
With Victorino out of the lineup, Farrell moved Jackie Bradley Jr. from center to right, with Grady Sizemore in center and Jonny Gomes in left.
Sizemore had played only center field before this year over his nine-season career. He has played 11 games in left field and three in right so far this season. This will be his 10th game in center this year. Bradley will be going back to right for the first time since April 9 against Texas.
With left-hander Jon Lester starting, and the A's with just one left-handed batter -- Josh Reddick -- along with four switch-hitters, the Red Sox outfield alignment had more to do with Fenway's spacious right field and Bradley's arm than it did with Oakland's lineup.
"We've had the alignment to be the opposite in previous games," Farrell said. "The arm strength of Jackie in right field is a factor in that. And still, [we] feel like right field might be the most important position in this ballpark. So his range lends to that."
Maureen Mullen is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.