Monday, June 23, 2008

Just a Hellacious Game

The title is a direct quote from St. Louis Cardinals' manager, Tony La Russa. He may have a point there. Both teams had opportunities to win yesterday's game, but time and time again failed to get it done. Jon Lester had yet another superb outing, lasting into the 8th inning, and only allowing 2 runs in the 6th inning. The 6th inning was the only inning Lester really got into any trouble at all, facing no more than 4 batters in any other inning.

Unfortunately for Lester, the Red Sox offense just could not get it done yesterday, and when he exited the game, the Sox were down 2-1, their only run coming off of a solo home run from Kevin Youkilis, the game's eventual hero. The Sox did threaten to blow the game open in the 8th inning. Coco Crisp lead of the inning with a triple and Julio Lugo brought him home with a sacrifice fly to tie the game at 2. Then, with 2 outs, Dustin Pedroia singled and stole second base. Cardinals' reliever, Chris Perez, then had a meltdown walking the next 3 batters in a row to allow the go ahead run to score, and earning himself a blown save. At this point, Manny Ramirez was at second base, and Terry Francona made a very logical move. Manny's hamstring has been bothering him, and Terry envisioned a single and Manny trying to score from second and aggravating the nagging hammy. So, with the Sox holding a 3-2 lead, and knowing Jonathan Papelbon would be pitching the 9th, Terry sent Brandon Moss in to pinch run for Manny. Nothing would come of that move, as the next batter, Kevin Youkilis, would strike out to end the inning. But, once the game went into extra innings, I bet Terry regretted not having his star slugger in the lineup.

Jonathan Papelbon blows the saveYes, the game went into extra innings on a somewhat rare blown save by Jonathan Papelbon. Paps looked great to start the 9th, striking out the first two batters he faced. However, he walked the third batter of the inning, which so often results in bad news. It did yesterday when Papelbon took a little something off of his fastball with the count 0-2, and Adam Kennedy rifled the 92 mph offering into center field for a long double that scored Chris Duncan from first base, tying the game at 3.

Extra innings were quite eventful. The Cardinals had runners at first and second base in the 10th, but Hideki Okajima struck out Rick Ankiel to end the threat. In the 11th inning, Okajima got into a jam with 2 outs and bases loaded. Francona called on Craig Hansen for help, and he delivered a strikeout to end tinning, and kept up the good work with a 1-2-3 12th inning. The Red Sox also had opportunities. In the 10th inning, Jacoby Ellsbury lead off with a double, and Dustin Pedroia bunted him to third base. But, JD Drew, cooled off for one day, struck out and Sean Casey flied out to strand Ellsbury 90 feet from a win. In the 11th inning, the Sox had runners at 1st and 2nd with one out, but Jason Isringhausen got both Alex Cora and Ellsbury to strike out swinging. Pedroia lead off the 12th inning with a double, but Drew's grounder to the pitcher allowed the Cardinals to trap Pedroia off second for the first out, and Sean Casey hit into a double play.

Jason Varitek saves a runTough game so far, but if you stuck with it through all the frustration, you were rewarded with a thrilling 13th inning. With one out in the top of the 13th, Javier Lopez allowed a double to Chris Duncan. The next batter, Adam Kennedy, hit a sharp ground ball to right field directly to JD Drew. The Cardinals were clearly desperate to score, and sent Duncan around third to home. JD Drew was not able to contribute with his bat yesterday, but he sure helped with the perfect throw he fired in to Jason Varitek. The throw took a friendly hop into Tek's glove, then Tek turned to see Duncan still three strides away, but lowering his shoulder knowing his only chance would be to plow Varitek over and hope the ball jars loose. Varitek braced himself for the collision, and then, at the last second he dropped low and Duncan's lunge passed too high rolling harmlessly over Tek as he applied the tag to prevent the run. Terrific play by the Captain to not only ensure the out but to also avoid possible injury.

So, Manny Ramirez is out of the game, and time is running out as well. The Cardinals had used every position player on their bench, and the Red Sox only had Kevin Cash left. Bullpens were down to their last pitcher or two. It was time to end this, but who could get it done? Kevin Youkilis, that's who. Mike Lowell lead off the inning with a single, and Youk launched a 3-1 fastball over the Green Monster to end the game with a 5-3 victory and end a two game losing streak.
Kevin Youkilis walk off home run
Things won't get any easier for the Sox today as the first place Arizona Diamondbacks come to town. Josh Beckett gets the start on an extra day of rest. With the Sox bullpen being emptied out yesterday, this would be perfect timing for Beckett to pitch deep into the game! The Cardinals came to Boston just having suffered a 3 game sweep at the hands of the Royals only to take 2 of 3 from Boston. The Diamondback are coming to Boston just having suffered a 3 game sweep from the Minnesota Twins. Sound familiar? Let's hope the results are different this time!

(Photos Courtesy of ESPN)


Suldog said...

Cora should be hung for that at-bat. Take a frickin' pitch, please! The guy before you walked on wildness. Keep the pressure on Isringhausen. Nope. Takes all the pressure off and lets him know that he'll swing at whatever you throw up there. Not good.

Fenway West said...

Youk is really becoming a superstar, think how much he contributes to the team with his great D at first and third when they need him there as well as the way he has been hitting this season.

Rooster said...

Good point, Sul! I don't think he read that situation right. Force theguy to throw strikes before you start hacking.

FW - Youk is righ up there in average, and power numbers, and does it in the clutch too. He does not look like your classic baseball player, but it works! said...

I always hesitate to get on Pap because he is usally automatic, but come on, that is his fourth blown save of the season. Is anyone else starting to feel shaky about him when he comes in? I don't want to be a nay sayer, because I love the guy and I think he is great for the team, but let's see that fire again Pap...reel off 10-15 in a row and let's talk.