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Home » May 2007 Game CommentsMay 2007 » Muster


Game 49: May 27, 2007
WinRed Sox 6 W: Joel Piñeiro (1-0)
S: Hideki Okajima (3)
34-15, 3 game winning streak
13-3-2 series record
Rangers 5 H: Joaquin Benoit (5)
BS, L: Akinori Otsuka (2, 1-1)
18-32, 5 game losing streak
4-11-2 series record
Highlights: Did you see Coco’s catch? (I had forgotten that NESN commercial, too, but now it’s running through my head like a much-detested but catchy pop song du jour.) His run-stealing dive in the seventh came with two out and two on to preserve the one-run deficit. Even more gratifying: it came off the bat of Frank Catalanotto.

This game neatly summed the 2007 team’s strengths as well as its disposition. Tenacious. Adamant. Hungry. Even though they already had the series in the bag, they did not relent. Even though they have the best record in the majors and lead all the other teams in their division by double digits, they didn’t allow this game to fall by the wayside. Even though comeback king David Ortiz sat out because of his hamstrings and Josh Beckett and Mike Timlin were on the mend, other players came through to sweep the Rangers for the first time since 1973, on August 20, 21, and 22.

Jason Varitek launched his fourth four-bagger in the fourth with J.D. Drew and Mike Lowell on base and no out for the early lead.

Julian Tavarez holds the position as fifth starter for now, but he doesn’t treat it as if it is a desultory responsibility. He was impressive through five and even managed to plunk Frank Catalanotto in the second without repercussion, not to mention his rolling ball to first on Catalanotto’s grounder to the mound.

By the sixth inning, however, Tavarez displayed why he has never held a spot in the starting rotation for long. The Rangers riddled a walk, a single, and a home run to begin the inning. With the score tied in a flash of Mark Teixeira’s bat, Tavarez came further undone and the ever-menacing Catalanotto traversed home plate for the go-ahead run.

Does Rangers Ballpark make a huge production out of every homer? The fireworks and soundtrack accompanying Teixeira’s spin around the bases were as cloyingly sentimental as a Steven Spielberg production. Do those majestic strains carry through the Texas air even if, say, Ian Kinsler hits a solo shot into the stands when the score is 11-2 in the visiting team’s favor? Such an overwrought opus easily slips into parody.

Akinori Otsuka, former closer and now set-up man, was summoned in the eighth. Kevin Youkilis, batting in place of Ortiz, singled to commence the inning, bringing his American League-leading multi-hit game total to 23. Youkilis swiped second with Drew at the dish, advanced to third on the right fielder’s single to right, and then scored the tying run on Sammy Sosa’s poor relay to the infield. Lowell lined a dart to left to plate the go-ahead run, and the Rangers again witnessed the winning margin evaporate.

Until yesterday Joel Piñeiro proved a dubious option in the pen. The former closer-in-waiting stepped up his efforts, twirling for two outs in the seventh and the entire eighth for a perfect appearance with three strikeouts for good measure.

In a season still young but already marked by distinctive moments, another season-defining event emerged in the top of the ninth. Rookie Dustin Pedroia faced off against Cy Young-winning but recently recovered Eric Gagne. The slight second baseman battled for 11 pitches, fouling off eight in all directions. But on the 12th pitch he would vanquish Gagne’s offering to the seats in left field

The leadoff solo shot avoided the necessity of extra innings as Hideki Okajima allowed a run to score in the bottom of the ninth. With Jonathan Papelbon unavailable because of his two straight days of work, Okajima persevered to notch his third save of the season.

This team has won games in a myriad ways: shutouts to blowouts, coming from behind to early inning scoring feasts; through starting pitching or relief pitching; with the meat and potatoes of the order or with positional mainstays on the bench. What is the use of an All-Star payroll (Yankees, I’m looking in your direction) when everyone, including the pine-riders, must contribute with the call to muster.


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