Game 36: May 13, 2007
||BS, L: Chris Ray (3, 3-3)
||18-20, 2 game losing streak
5-7-1 series record
||W: J.C. Romero (1-0)
||25-11, 2 game winning streak
10-2-2 series record
|Highlights: Astounding ninth inning comeback! A defining moment for this season’s Red Sox? Josh Beckett departed the mound after four innings and seven strikeouts. Whatever he was dealing was so potent it caused the skin on his finger to rip.
As innings one through eight plodded through the afternoon, I took notes on plays in a perfunctory manner. I imagined the different ways to write about a clunker: I could focus on Josh Beckett’s avulsion (a quick search on Medline confirmed it is a five-dollar word for a cut or tear), or perhaps write about all three hits the home team had compiled through that point (that would be a short but satisfying rant), or rewrite a Woody Guthrie song to parody the futility the Red Sox against the eponymous pitcher (“This team is my team, this team is your team/ From Eric Hinske to....”).
Fortunately, Sam Perlozzo’s itchy trigger finger interceded in the ninth, especially opportune for me because no Boston players’ name rhymes with “team.”
Jeremy Guthrie had neutralized the Boston lineup for most of the game. With one out and the Red Sox trailing by five, Coco Crisp popped out in the infield for what should have been a routine infield catch. Was it because the infield was mottled by odd shadows from the light towers? Or could it have been the wind, the same wind that buffeted Kevin Youkilis’s fly ball in the second, turning what was a can of corn to a shallow double?
Whatever the cause, the misplay of a simple snatch by Ramon Hernandez for the second out catalyzed an unlikely chain of events. Perlozzo was more agitated by the error than Guthrie was and immediately pulled his starter from the game in favor of Danys Baez.
As Beckett said in the post-game press conference, he looked at Tim Wakefield at that moment, knowing that their team would win.
I had called my friend in North Dakota at the beginning of the bottom of the ninth, thinking that it would be a quick and painless three outs to end a dreary game. Fortunately he is a devout Red Sox fan (and something of my editor and proofreader, so blame any errors on him), so he understood when I let out a gloating “whoops” as Hernandez botched the catch.
When Crisp was doubled in by David Ortiz to shatter the shutout, I jokingly said that calling him was good mojo. “At least we aren’t being shutout any longer.”
Then Wily Mo Peña, who had entered the game in the top of the ninth as a defensive replacement for Manny Ramirez because of the latter’s tweaked hamstring, crouched his mighty frame in the batter’s box, his countryman Ortiz in his field of view at second. Inspired by the embodiment of clutch in his vision, Peña propelled a ground ball past the infield for single.
Perlozzo again called upon his pen, this time opting for the somewhat reliable closer Chris Ray. J.D. Drew took every one of the six pitches he saw to load the bases. Kevin Youkilis did the same in his at bat, and the second run of the inning made it to the pay station.
Much is said about Lou Mazzone’s mastery, but when he visited the mound nothing in his power could bend the will of a Red Sox team attempting to defy fate.
(As my friend can attest, what I lack for in eloquence as a play-by-play man I make up for in exuberance. “Aww, man. Chris Ray is fa-reaking out, dude.”)
Jason Varitek was next. The catcher has had only two grand slams in his career, but the second one he thumped was against the Orioles. As tempting as swinging from the heels could be, Varitek didn’t overreach but instead neatly lined a double into right-center gap to plate Peña and Drew.
With runners at the corners and one out, Perlozzo made the by-the-book move of walking Eric Hinske to load the bases so there would be a force at every station. Alex Cora tried his best to get the ball out of the infield so that Youkilis could come home for the tying run, but Cora’s grounder to second was swiftly fielded and relayed to Hernandez, who this time secured the ball as well as the out.
(“Why is he out! There’s no way he got the tag down. Here comes Francona, he’s going to get into it with Cederstrom. Oh, right. Force play.”)
Julio Lugo, an easy target for fan derision given his salary and the fact that the lacuna at shortstop has been an ever-shifting site of concern, hunkered into his batting stance. History indicates he’s not going to walk like a Drew or a Youkilis, so the game, the series, lives or dies on how he makes contact with the pitch.
(“Lugo’s freezing out Ray! He keeps on asking for time. He takes the first pitch low for a ball. The second pitch, too. He’s ahead in the count! Takes a pitch inside for strike. He’ll have to swing away now.”)
The count ticked full as Ray’s sixth pitch was called a ball.
(“This is crazy! Come on, don’t pop out! Don’t pop out! He swings... Millar has it, throws to the pitcher on the run... he can’t glove it! Oh my god!”)
Millar’s toss to Ray was adequate, but Ray was clearly concerned about reaching first because of Lugo’s speed. As Lugo slid to avoid a tag by the running Ray, the pitcher failed to connect with the ball. The tying and go ahead runs sealed the comeback.
(“Six runs in the bottom of the ninth! Holy crap!”)
This could be a team-defining moment for the 2007 version of the Red Sox. Not only did the usual suspect, Ortiz, contribute to the victory, but Hinske and Peña played key roles as platoon players. And, when our team is trailing in the ninth, my friend in the Midwest can now expect an urgent, mojo-inducing call from me.
(“Tina’s interviewing Lugo. Her mouth is gigantic; she can fit his entire head in her mouth. [Pause.] Not that head. You know, sort of like a female praying mantis eats the male after they mate. Never mind.”)