In last night's 6-3 loss to the Baltimore Orioles, Manny Ramirez provided the entertainment with another memorable "Manny Moment". In the fourth inning with runners on first and second and one out, old pal, Kevin Millar, hit a deep fly ball to left that looked like a sure double. Both runners took off, confident the ball would drop in for a hit. Manny raced back and to his left and somehow managed to catch up to the ball, catching it at full speed heading towards the outfield wall with about three strides to go before reaching it. Manny let his momentum carry him to the wall, planted a foot on the wall and pushed off, propelling high up enough to reach the fans. In fact, sitting in the front row, right in front of Manny, was a fan in a Red Sox shirt. While he was there, it appeared that Manny gave the fan a quick "high five" before dropping back down to the field. Meanwhile, there was still a play going on, as that was only the second out. The runner from first was now between second and third and racing to get back to first base before Manny noticed. Manny fired a throw to Dustin Pedroia, who relayed the ball to Kevin Youkilis to complete the double play and end the inning.
Now, most people wonder what the heck Manny was doing high fiving a fan in the middle of a play, but the Rational Sox Fan has the inside scoop for you loyal readers. A "source" (who will not be named, but is the same source Boston Herald reporter, John Tomase, used for his piece about the Patriot's filming of the Rams pre-Super Bowl practice session) happened to be at the game and provided the information. Apparently, as Manny was chasing the ball down, the fan in the Red Sox shirt was heard yelling, "Manny, I'll give you ten dollars if you make that catch!!", and held a ten dollar bill in his outstretched hand. Manny apparently heard the shout, made the catch, and leaped up to snag the ten dollars from the generous fan. If you watch the replays closely, you can see Manny slip the bill inconspicuously from the fan's hand. Very clever move - and very entertaining. But, now you know the inside story.
Jon Lester pitched a pretty good game, holding the Orioles scoreless until the 6th inning when a single, double, and another single put two runs on the board for Baltimore. He got out of the inning, striking out Aubrey Huff and Millar, and had only thrown 86 pitches to that point, but Brad Mills, filling in for Terry Francona for the night, opted to go to the bullpen to start the 7th inning.
Javier Lopez started the 7th, and did a nice job. He got the first two batters out and induced Freddie Bynum to hit, what looked like, an inning ending ground ball to Pedroia. Pedroia, uncharacteristically misplayed the ball and Bynum was safe at first. Somehow the official scorer did not see the play as an error, but the play would be the beginning of the Sox' downfall. At this point, the Sox were holding on to a 3-2 lead, thanks to solo home runs by Mike Lowell and Jason Varitek and a single by Pedroia that plated Jacoby Ellsbury from second base in the 1st inning.
Now, cue up the funeral march music as it all unravels. The left handed batters had passed, so Brad Mills got Lopez out and sent in Craig Hansen in to get the quick out and hold the lead. But, Hansen instead gave up a single and a walk to load the bases and make things interesting. Mills apparently was uncomfortable with the situation, and decided to go for the "sure thing" and sent Hideki Okajima in to replace Hansen. What Mills failed to notice in making his decision was that Okajima has been awful this season when he enters a game with inherited runners. Going into that inning, He had allowed 8 of 11 inherited runners to score this year. Those runs get charged to the pitcher who put the runners on base, so Okajima's ERA stays nice and low. But, we've discussed here how Okajima does does not have the same success as when he comes in with bases empty. Well, Jay Payton liked the second pitch Okajima threw, an 85 mph fastball, and planted in the outfield stands for an Orioles inspiring, and Red Sox deflating, grand slam. Now that the bases were empty, Okajima felt more comfortable and got the final out of the inning, and pitched a 1-2-3 8th inning.
The Sox were out of time, out of energy, and done for this game. So, the Sox still struggle to find pitching relief that can handle the 6th and 7th innings effectively and consistently. Hansen may still be that guy, but not last night. And please, let's hold off on bringing Okajima into an inning with runners in scoring position for a while!
In other news, Clay Buchholz has been placed on the 15 day disabled list (DL) because of a split fingernail. Now, I know fingernails are important in controlling the ball on certain pitches, but 15 days to heal sounds excessive for a fingernail. There is a possibility that this move is partly to let Buchholz heal, partly to give him a rest and help him through his first full season, but could also be partly to set up a scenario to call up Bartolo Colon. If my sources are correct, Colon would get one more start in with the Pawsox, and then his next start would be set for Tuesday. The Sox would need a replacement for Buchholz on Tuesday. Coincidence? Maybe, maybe not.
So, the Sox head home having lost 6 out of 10 games on this road trip and get today off as they limp back to Boston. Tomorrow they kick off three games against their one-time AL East rival Milwaukee Brewers. They were a team we were used to kicking around pretty well, other than their one shining year in 1982 when they made their one and only World Series appearance, which they lost to the St. Louis Cardinals. In 1994, the Brewers left the AL East and joined the AL Central when MLB added the third division, and in 1998 the Brewers joined the NL, and have not been seen around these parts since. The Brewers are at .500 right now, and let's hope they play more like the hapless Brewers of the 70's and the Sox can get a couple of wins under out of them.
(Photos courtesy of Yahoo Sports) (Source shall remain nameless ;-)
M/Sgt Buck Pennington
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