Game 13: April 17, 2006
Mariners (6-8), 6
Red Sox (9-4), 7
H: Jake Woods (2)
BS: J.J. Putz (1)
BS, L: Eddie Guardado (1, 0-1)
W: Mike Timlin (1)
Have you ever witnessed something so perfect and of such beauty that you were hesitant to commit words to paper, brush to canvas, voice to notes, for fear of failing utterly in the attempt to convey what you saw?
It’s no stretch to say that, after 2004, all Red Sox fans share this in common--a far better legacy than contrived curses or maladroit management. When you see something so wonderfully implausible, you wonder if, in the retelling, some of that magic will dissipate. But then you realize, no, you should recount said events, even if only for the selfish pleasure of reliving such feats.
The comeback win on Patriots Day had a trace of July 24, 2004 about it. Sure, it’s only April and it was against the Mariners. But when there are retrospectives of 2006, this game could be heralded as the game where everything came together.
Lenny DiNardo made his second major league start, a sport start in a top-heavy pitching rotation. I did see his first start in September of last year; I wish I could have been on hand for his second. He went five innings with a line of six hits, two earned runs, and one each of bases on balls and strikeouts.
The Mariners scored first thanks to Ichiro Suzuki hit DiNardo’s second pitch over Manny Ramirez, who, as usual, was playing shallow, for a leadoff double. Ichiro, who could advance a base when a pitcher scratches his nose, proceeded to third base Jose Lopez’s 1-3 ground out. Raul Ibanez then lofted a sacrifice fly to left field, Ramirez at the ready for a play at home. The left fielder’s throw was accurate but Suzuki was too fast. 1-0, Mariners.
Gil Meche is one of those run-of-the-mill righties hitters like David Ortiz feast on. With two out and the count full, David Ortiz propelled a ball into the camera hut in the center field bleachers to tie the game going into the second inning, 1-1.
Adrian Beltre reached first DiNardo’s only walk of the game. It would prove costly as Seattle’s third baseman scored on Yuniesky Betancourt’s fly ball double to center field. Alex Cora displayed transcendental game awareness when netting Suzuki’s grounder: instead of attempting to throw to Kevin Youkilis to get the out at first, he trapped Betancourt in a rundown. Cora along with infield accomplices Mike Lowell and Mark Loretta ensnared the sophomore shortstop for the third out of the second inning. Suzuki was left stranded at first, but the Red Sox failed to keep the game tied. Seattle led 2-1 going into the bottom of the second.
Perhaps overly anxious after his brief respite, Trot Nixon fell behind 0-2 in his first at bat. He then evened the count watching two pitches miss low. Meche tried to go low and away, but Nixon was able to single to right field and advanced on Jason Varitek’s ground out to second base. The Boston right fielder was perfectly positioned to score on Cora’s short fly to center. The Mariners’ second baseman Lopez had pursued the ball just deep enough into the outfield to allow Cora to leg out a double since none of Lopez’s infield covered second base on the play.
The game would remain knotted at 2-2 until the sixth inning. Rudy Seanez struck out the first two batters he faced, Ibanez and Richie Sexson, with just 10 pitches. Then rookie catching standout Kenji Johjima (called variously by Jerry Remy as “Joe Jama” or “Jojimer”) dispatched a fly ball single to center field, scoring when the all-too-familiar Carl Everett jacked a two-run roundtripper off Pesky Pole. The teeter-totter tipped again in the Mariners’ favor, 4-2.
The Red Sox played “our DH is better than your DH” in the bottom of the sixth. Ortiz retorted with a two-run blast of his own with Youkilis on base. Boston could have taken the lead had Ramirez’s fly ball off the wall not missed clearing the Monster by just a foot. Instead, the game headed into the seventh inning with a 4-4 draw.
The tie was quickly effaced. Cora, despite his earlier heroics, erred on a Willie Bloomquist liner. The Mariners utilityman went then went station to station on a Betancourt sacrifice bunt, stole third base, and scored on Suzuki’s ground out to second base.
Trailing 5-4, Ortiz nearly evened the score again with his olympian fly ball to right. Instead, Suzuki cleanly fielded the ball just in front of the visitors’ bullpen. Nixon then proved that the rest did not rust his skills; he placed himself into scoring position with a two-out double that bounded along the first base line before trickling into right field. Varitek’s gutshot grounder past the diving Lopez drove in Nixon to, yet again, tie the score.
Keith Foulke got Everett to fly out to left but then allowed two consecutive singles to Beltre and Bloomquist. Bloomquist’s single was a particularly sharp grounder up the middle that advanced Beltre to third base. With one out and runners at the corners, Mike Timlin entered the fray.
Timlin yielded the go-head run to pinch-hitting Roberto Petagine, who the Red Sox may have been more familiar with had he been allowed any playing time last season. Petagine’s ground out to second base scored Beltre. Suzuki was then intentionally walked to get to the slumping Lopez, who impatiently swung at every thrown pitch and quickly struck out.
Boston trailed 6-5 going into the bottom ninth inning. Wily Mo Peña and Dustan Mohr both struck out to Almost Everyday Eddie Guardado. The left-handed closer came within one strike of sealing the Red Sox’s fate, going up on Youkilis 0-2. But Youkilis muscled a ball into play on and just beat out a throw by Lopez for an infield single.
Loretta watched two pitches miss the zone and on the third pitch he saw hit his first walk-off home run at any level. His first circuit clout as Red Sox player soared into the Monster Seats to grant a fan a souvenir and a his team a win.
Like heavyweight fighters exchanging blows in a championship bout, each team rallied back after falling behind in a repartee of RBIs. Morever, the Red Sox proved they can win both tight games and offensive face-offs.
Is it really only April?