Game 24: April 29, 2006
Red Sox (14-10), 9
Devil Rays (10-14), 6
W: Keith Foulke (2-1)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (10)
BS: Travis Harper (2)
BS, L: Tyler Walker (3, 0-2)
Last night it was the Devil Rays’ turn to fail to capitalize on offensive opportunities. Tampa Bay had a chance to salt the game away early in the first. Lenny DiNardo allowed three straight singles and images of last week’s meeting against the Blue Jays, who vaulted to an early 4-0 lead, descended from the catwalks of Tropicana Field.
Ty Wigginton, the roving fielder with the league-leading RBI total, ground into a double play to score Joey Gathright. Given all possible outcomes, it was one of the more favorable. The Devil Rays scored in each of the next two innings, including Greg Norton’s first home run of the season. In fact, it was Norton’s first homer since 2004. Jonny Gomes, whom we are more accustomed to seeing go yard, did so in the third with Carl Crawford on the bases. Crawford had reached because DiNardo hit him with a curveball. Due to the intense rivalry between the teams, home plate umpire Mike Winters saw fit to issue warnings to the dugouts. Because of a DiNardo curveball. Just wait until Scott Kazmir and Curt Schilling lock horns this afternoon.
Revivified by the umpire’s injustice, the Red Sox got around to making their statement in the sixth inning. Manny Ramirez homered, Trot Nixon doubled, and Jason Varitek walked, a collection of events that finally chased Doug Waechter from the game.
Relief pitcher Travis Harper promptly gave up a single to Mike Lowell to load the bases. Wily Mo Peña lined a single to left field to bring his team within two runs of the Devil Rays. Kevin Youkilis tied the game with a clutch two-out, two-run double to the opposite field.
Julian Tavarez replaced DiNardo in the sixth inning with the expectation of shutting down the uppity Tampa Bay lineup. Those expectations were short-lived as Toby Hall propelled the second pitch he saw for his second homer of the season.
With the Devil Rays once again in the lead, the Red Sox had to unveil their hidden weapons in the seventh. Ramirez unleashed his speed on the basepaths for his 16th career triple. Ramirez haters may think he was tarrying before first base, but I give the left fielder the benefit of the doubt that he thought his ball was hit foul at first. Ramirez isn’t used to discerning fair versus foul territory deep along the foul lines because of hitting for so long in Fenway. Furthermore, he also didn’t execute his usual bat drop and home run demeanor at contact. At any rate, Ramirez was plated by Nixon, who displayed his not-often-seen ability to hit to opposite field for a sacrifice fly to tie the game.
But Gomes has dangerous devices of his own, and responded with a leadoff double in the eighth inning. Wigginton moved him over with a sacrifice fly and Gomes would tally another run on Hall’s fly ball to shallow left. Ramirez very nearly hosed Gomes, but the ball got hung up in the runner’s cleats.
Terry Francona deftly handled the top of the ninth inning. Youkilis led off with a line drive single to left and was pulled for pinch runner Willie Harris. With a speedy utilityman on first, Francona knew that he had half the equation for a hit and run play, so he pinch hit Mark Loretta, who is a better contact hitter than Alex Cora, who started in the two-spot.
But Tyler Walker did as his surname states; he walked Loretta and David Ortiz to load the bases. Walker was able to strike out Ramirez but gave a free pass to Nixon to permit the tying run. The Boston hit parade marched three more runs across the plate (including an RBI single for Peña that was lined off a Dan Miceli breaking ball), which was more than enough for Jonathan Papelbon to work with.
Papelbon sustained his remarkable rookie relief run. With just fourteen pitches he rang up the side. He now owns the all-time record for rookies with ten saves in April. He is tied with Murray Wall for most saves by a Red Sox rookie. Wall, whose nickname was “Tex,” was 30 years old in 1958 when he set the record. Wall’s career ended the next year, apparently because of injury. No such misfortune seems to be in store for Papelbon, who can pitch no matter how catastrophic his hairstyle is.