This must have been one of the best days of 23 year old Justin Masterson's life - his very first appearance in a major league game! This wasn't just any game either. It was a game pitching for the reigning champion Boston Red Sox, in Fenway Park, in front of 37,848 rabid baseball fans, against the AL West leading Angels. What could make it any more perfect? How about pitching your very best and getting your first big league win?
Well, Justin certainly did his part impressing Red Sox fans everywhere. He showed off an impressive repertoire of pitches, featuring a fastball in the low 90's, a change up in the low 80's, a slider, a splitter, and an occasional curve ball. Only Dice-K has more pitches in his bag of tricks. He lasted 6 innings facing exactly 4 batters in every inning except the 6th, when he only faced three. He never really got into trouble, his only mistake being a solo home run on a slider that stayed out over the plate to Mike Napoli in the 5th inning. This kid appears to be for real, and left the game with a 3-1 lead, thanks to a based loaded RBI ground out by Coco Crisp in the 2nd, and back to back ground rule doubles by Crisp and Kevin Cash in the 4th.
But, turning the game over to the bullpen, especially a bullpen battling the flu, is a risky proposition these days. Javier Lopez got the damage started in the 7th by allowing the only two batters he faced to reach base with a walk and a single. Manny Delcarmen was summoned to help out, and looked like he was still suffering flu side effects as he walked his first batter on four straight pitches to load the bases with no outs. We all knew this would not end well. Manny allowed a single to the next batter, scoring a run. This brought on the usually dependable Hideki Okajima, who gave up back to back singles allowing 3 more runs to score.
David Aardsma and Julian Tavares each gave up a run in the 8th and 9th innings respectively, leaving the Sox in a deep 7-3 hole going into the bottom of the ninth.
But, David Ortiz gave the Sox one last glimmer of hope. With two outs in the 9th, and Ellsbury on with a single, Ortiz thrilled the crowd with a home run to right field, further boosting everyone's hopes that the real Big Papi is finally back. The home run made the score 7-5, but it was too little too late as Manny Ramirez, who was a terrific 3 for 5, flied out to center field to end the game.
The Sox are lucky they have been winning as much as they have with the health issues they have been battling. Maybe what they need is a trip down south to Florida for a little R&R, as Tim Wakefield will kick off three games against the "Rays" (formerly known as the Devil Rays). That is unless Wake gets the flu, then it is anyone's guess who'll pitch!
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