The scene from my Sox seats last night... Bottom of the ninth inning, score tied at zero, two outs. Terry Francona had already sent Jonathan Papelbon into the game, so it was clear he was going for the quick win. Big Papi draws a walk. So, we looked at each other and said, "okay, let's get Jacoby Ellsbury in there to pinch run. Papi already has a sore knee, and Ellsbury may be able to swipe second base with Manny at bat". But, no substitution comes. Manny Ramirez hits a flair to center that drops in sending Papi to second. " Okay, time to get Ellsbury in there. If Kevin Youkilis hits a single to center, Papi may have to stop at third, but Ellsbury could score easily". Still no substitution. Moments later, Youk hits a single to center - uh oh! Papi goes rumbling around third and it looked like this could be close and we cringed, picturing Papi getting hurt crashing in to home. But, thank heaven, Vernon Wells bobbles the ball in center and cannot get the throw off. Game over, 'Dirty Water' rains down on the Fenway Faithful.
After getting home we discovered 2 things that were not made clear at the game. First, Ellsbury has a sore groin and that is why he was not sent in. Second, JD drew, who we saw replaced by Brandon Moss apparently strained a quad trying to beat out a play to first in the second inning. The Sox get Lowell back, and lose two? When will the injury woes end? Mike Lowell received a huge ovation as he stepped in for his first at bat. He made a couple of nice plays, including a diving play, and looked pretty sharp. Welcome back Mike! But just looking at what could have gone wrong in the ninth shows you how these injuries can mess up the team, in more ways than just who starts where.
Dustin Pedroia made the defensive play of the game in the top of the ninth to set up the big finish for Youkilis. With Scott Rolen on second base with two outs, Vernon Wells ripped a Papelbon fastball back up the middle. Papelbon had to duck of of the way, and it looked like a sure single to center that would easily score Rolen for the Jays' first run. But, somehow Pedroia managed to scramble and dive to his right to just barely snare the ball, leap to his feet and quickly fire a strike to first for the third out of the inning. That was incredible.
The pitching duel was the heart of the story last night. Jon Lester went toe to toe with Blue Jays' ace, Roy Halladay, and carried a no hitter into the fifth, which was broken up when Lyle Overbay opened the inning with a single. But, that was the first and ONLY hit that Lester would allow on the night before turning it over to Papelbon in the ninth. Easily Lester's best outing this year. If Lester and Buchholz pitch even somewhat close to the way they the past two games, this will be a terrific season.
Roy Halladay was the unfortunate tough luck loser. This was Halladay's fourth straight complete game he has pitched this season, but the last three, including last night, have all been losses. Strange!
So, good news and bad news. The Sox finally have another win, and the team looked solid getting the win. But, two more players are hobbled. Hopefully Ellsbury and Drew both have minor injuries they can bounce back quickly from. I ask you this, do you still think the Sox should have traded Coco Crisp? Right now, he is exactly what they need.
Tomorrow, Dice-K Matsuzaka will face off against Dustin McGowan. You heard it here first. Dice-K will pitch well enough to keep them in it, and Manny will launch home run number 497 to help propel Boston to another much needed win.
(Photos courtesy of ESPN)