With Tim Wakefield pitching yesterday, Jason Varitek was getting a regular game off. Manager Tito Francona gave Dustin Pedroia the day off to rest, and Coco Crisp was still off nursing a sore leg. Apparently, Manny Ramirez wanted to get his rest in too, so after striking out in the second inning he lobbed a few choice words towards the umpire and the umpire was so pleased, he gave Manny the rest of the day off. Idiotic move on Manny's part to put himself in that position since he is the hottest hitter on the team right now.
It also made for some interesting moves for Francona. With Dustin Pedroia out, Jed Lowrie was put in at second base, his third position for the Sox since coming up from Pawtucket. Coco Crisp was not available, so Joe Thurston, also freshly up from Pawtucket, went to left field in Manny's spot. This adds to a lineup where Youkilis was already playing third for the injured Mike Lowell and Sean Casey was substituting for Youkilis at first. Only Ellsbury, Drew, and Lugo were at their usual spots.
Tim Wakefield had a nice day going 8 innings on only 86 pitches. He gave up a lead off home run to Ian Kinsler, and another run in the second inning before settling down and getting the Rangers out 1-2-3 in the 3rd, 4th, and 5th innings. In the 6th inning, one knuckle ball just didn't knuckle enough and Milton Bradley got a hold of it for a 3 run home run. That put the Sox in a bleak looking 5-0 hole. This is where you would have liked to have seen Manny in the lineup!
But the Sox finally got rolling in the 7th inning scoring 2 runs to bring the game back into reach. In the 8th, Big Papi got rolling, incredibly beating out a ground ball to second. Ian Kinsler was playing deep in the shift, and with two outs and Lowrie on second, Papi knew he had to be safe. You've never seen the big guy fly so fast. First baseman Ben Broussard was so surprised that he forgot about Lowrie, who took advantage and snuck home for Boston's fourth run. Tito knew this was his best chance to tie the game, so he pinch hit Dustin Pedroia for Joe Thurston. Dustin came through with a terrific line drive into the deepest part of center field. Big Papi, still soaring from his speed to first, came all the way around from first to tie the game. After all that drama, the winning run came across in less exciting style. An intentional walk to Youkilis, followed by a not so intentional walk to JD drew brought Kevin Cash to the plate. No, there was no thrilling grand slam into the night. Just a third walk in a row to force in the go-ahead run.
Now, if you have been paying attention (and who could blame you if you are not), Pedroia just pinch hit for the left fielder, and we have one more defensive inning to go, and the bench is devoid of outfielders. So, Tito got creative. He moved Julio Lugo from short into left field, sent Lowrie from second over to short, and left Pedroia to take back his usual second base spot. With Papelbon coming in, you would think it would hardly matter. But last night, there were no strikeouts in the ninth, so the defense did matter. A pop-up to Youk at third, a line drive to Ellsbury in center, and a ground out to Lowrie at short ended the game, extended the Red Sox' winning streak to 4 games, and sent 39,000 folks home happy.
Early game today on Patriots Day as the Sox try for a sweep of the Rangers behind the young arm of Clay Buchholz. Clay could really use a strong outing to solidify his spot in the rotation.
And of course, I have to send out congratulations to the Boston Celtics, crushing the Atlanta Hawks in the first game of the NBA playoffs. With the Bruins going for an historic win tonight over Montreal, you have to love the thrill in the air in Beantown!
(Photos of Big Papi and Dustin Pedroia courtesy of Yahoo Sports)
(Photo of Manny Ramirez courtesy of Boston.com)
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