Thursday, April 26, 2007

Red Sox 07 Game 21 Recap

Final - Bos - 5 Bal - 2

Hero - Wily Mo Pena (third straight game Wily has won something first time its hero).
Honorable Mention - Josh Beckett who went eight innings and only gave up 2 runs.

Goat - Ray who gave up his second grand slam this year.

After the first inning when Lugo, Youkilis and Ortiz struck out only to have Roberts lead off the bottom of the inning with a double, stolen base and run scored you had to wonder if this was going to be a King Felix or Chacin type of an outing.

Things only looked worse after a 1-2-3 inning by both Loewen and Beckett was followed by a weird third inning. The third started with Varitek reaching on an error only to have Wily Mo finally hit the ball hard, unfortunately it was hit right at Aubrey Huff who basically stepped on 1st base as he was catching the ball doubling up Varitek. This was followed by three straight base on balls (Youkilis's being on four straight). Of course this brought up David "Mr. clutch" Ortiz who grounded out to the pitcher ending the threat.

Of course in the bottom of the inning Hernandez doubled on the first pitch and two outs later scored on a Mora double down the third base line. Score was now two zip and Loewen retired three of the next four batters, with J.D. being the one who broke up the no hitter and being stranded on first. Beckett was up to the challenge however as he retired seven of the next nine batters. Which led to the top of the sixth.

The sixth was really the first chance where some damage could be done. Youk led off with a single, Ortiz and then Manny walked loading the bases with no outs. However, just like the last two games the Sox struggled with RISP. J.D. popped up to third on the second pitch bringing up last out Lowell. On the fourth pitch Mike hit a ground ball to third which fortunately was on a broken bat that prevented Mora from even trying for an inning ending double play. Youkilis scored though, bringing the Sox within one run. The threat was over though as Varitek struck out on five pitches.

Now that the Sox were within one run you just hoped that Beckett could continue to hold the Oriole bats quiet, only Mora led off by doubling to right field on a 2 - 2 pitch. This though was where Beckett really came through as he struck out Markakis (his first of the night) on four pitches, got Tejada to ground out to Lowell on the first pitch and then had Huff ground out to Lugo on a 1 - 2 pitch. Inning over and the team was still within one run. This was where the game changed though, at least in my opinion.

Seventh saw Wily Mo hit his second hard ball, which was a double into left center off of the new Oriole pitcher, Baez. Starting the inning with a man on second and you have to think that the Sox will at least tie the score. A recent trend would continue though as the Sox would see Pedroia move Pena to third on a ground out to second base, watch Lugo ground out to the pitcher preventing Pena from even trying to score, watch Youkilis walk on four straight pitches bringing up big Papi. Again though a Baltimore pitcher (Parrish) was able to get out of the jam as Papi hit into another inning ending grounder to the pitcher, the Sox were now 0 - 7 with RISP.

At this point I was beginning to wonder if we would ever get a clutch hit. A quick look at the day by day database at showed that the Sox were now 24 - 6 with RISP since the weekend series with the Yankees. In the bottom of the inning Beckett was again challenged as Payton led off with a single on the first pitch only to have Pedroia save him on the next batter as Gibbons hit a ball that Pedroia gloved on the edge of the outfield grass and threw a strike to Lugo getting the lead runner.

Of course the next batter was Hernandez again who quickly singled to left field placing runners on first and second with only one out. The next batter was now the speedy Patterson. Beckett quickly fell behind 0 and 2. The next two pitches Patterson couldn't make any contact evening the count. The fifth pitch was a comebacker to the mound but Beckett had to double clutch and his throw to Lugo was to late to get the double play. Runners on the corners and the lead off hitter Roberts was again in the batters box but Beckett was up to the task and got the fly ball to left field. Inning over and we were still in a one run ball game.

The Orioles were now six outs from tying the series and staying within 1 1/2 games of the Sox. Only once again the Baltimore bull pen imploded. Manny led off with a walk, the struggling Drew hit a fly ball to center and the Orioles brought in their closer Chris Ray to get the five out save.

Last out Lowell was again up in a clutch situation with his 11 game hitting streak on the line, so of course he once again failed to live up to the name by hitting a ground rule double into the left field stands. Once again it looked like the team should be able to score the tying run, only the implosion was not complete, as the Sox went for more than the tying run. The captain was intentionally given a pass to load the bases and bring up the .120 hitting Wily Mo Pena. On the 1 - 1 pitch a fast ball was thrown into the power zone of Pena and it was look out Red Sox bullpen. Just like that it was now 5 to 2 Red Sox and the tenor of the game was changed from frustration to euphoria.

There was no doubt that the way Beckett was pitching and Papel-bot waiting in the pen to take over the ninth inning that the Orioles were going to come back. Sure enough the ball game would end with the three run margin as six of the last eight Orioles were retired easily as Beckett K'ed 2 and Papelbon ended the game on a check swing strike. Ball game over! The Sox now go to New York on a two game winning streak and with the Blue Jays winning their game to night the sox stayed three games ahead of the Jays.

This was the third series in the last four that the #1 team in the East faced the #2 team. In those series the Sox are now 7 and 1 with two sweeps. Thats the good news, the bad news is that this year when the Sox have faced a team with a losing record (going into the game) the Sox are 1 and 4. The win came in Arlington against Texas. Of course the Sox lost the first two games in that series and their were two games that were lost against the Jays in Fenway. In all of the other series the opposing team was at .500 or greater.

Press pass for this game here.

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