Sunday, June 15, 2008

Red Sox Top Reds in Extra Innings, 6-4

The Red Sox headed into yesterday's game with a big offensive handicap, missing both Manny Ramirez and Big Papi, their number 3 and number 4 hitters, from the lineup. In addition, playing in a National League Park, there would be no designated hitter so the pitcher would be taking the 9th spot in the order (and the Sox got 5 strike outs out of the 9th place in the order, as it turned out). The weakened lineup would then have to face one of the brightest young pitchers of 2008, Edinson Volquez. The edge the Sox needed to take advantage of was speed, with Jacoby Ellsbury and Coco Crisp both in the outfield.

Jacoby EllsburyEllsbury got things running right away. He lead off the game with a single and advanced to second base on a wild throw, possibly due to Volquez worrying about a steal. The steal was coming - just one batter later, with JD Drew at the plate, Ellsbury stole third base and the throw got away, allowing him to score the first run of the day. JD Drew scored the Red Sox' second run in the fourth inning when he roped a triple to deep left field, and two batters later, snuck home on a wild pitch. Leading 2-1 in the 8th inning, JD Drew got things going again in the 8th with a lead off double, and scored on a Mike Lowell single to center field. Unfortunately, third base coach, DeMarlo Hale, thought Lowell was one of the team's speedsters and sent him home from first on a double by Kevin Youkilis. Predictably, Lowell was easily thrown out.

Tim WakefieldBut, with a 4-2 lead, the Sox looked to be in good shape. Tim Wakefield had a very good game, only allowing two solo home runs in 7 innings to go with 6 strike outs. But, the bullpen was not able to keep the lead for Wake. The one time sure thing, Hideki Okajima, replaced Wakefield in the 8th inning. He faced three batters allowing a single, a strike out, and a walk. But, Terry Francona, wisely keeping Okajima on a short leash for a while, decided to change direction and brought in Manny Delcarmen. Manny immediately gave up a single to Javier Valentin, scoring a run from second base. But, before things got out of control, he thankfully induced Ken Griffey, Jr., to ground into a double play.

So, ninth inning, 4-3 lead, no problem, right? Well, almost. Jonathan Papelbon got the first two batters of the ninth out on consecutive ground balls. Then, Edwin Encarnation stepped in and waged a fierce battle with the Sox closer, fouling off some very good pitches. Papelbon, hoping to catch Edwin looking for a 98 mph fastball, opted for an 89 mph slider. Unfortunately, the slider did not have enough bite on it, and Encarnation sent it into the left field seats for a game tying home run. Papelbon finished off the 9th, but earned his 3rd blown game of the season.

Kevin YoukilisThe Sox needed runs, and the got them in the 10th on back to back solo home runs from Youkilis and Coco Crisp. For the Sox to get a rare road win, they needed someone to take care of the Reds in the 10th. Enter, Craig Hansen, and begin some National League roster moves. With the pitcher due to lead off, Corey Patterson was sent in to pinch hit, and Hansen got him to ground out, and then struck out Jay Bruce for two quick outs. But, to keep things exciting, Jolbert Cabrera singled to center field, and was then allowed to steal 2nd base, and then 3rd base with no throw from Kevin Cash. With a two run lead, the batter was all that really mattered. The batter was Ken Griffey. Hansen wisely was careful with Griffey, but maybe a bit too careful, walking him on 5 pitches. To speed things up on the bases, Bronson Arroyo, our old pal, was sent in to pinch run for Griffey. But, all the interesting strategies went for naught when Brandon Phillips flied out to JD Drew to end the game, which earned Hansen his very first save as a major league pitcher! Congratulations to Craig Hansen!

This afternoon, the Sox will attempt to take 2 of three on the road, a rarity these days. But, there are a lot of fathers out there looking for joy on Father's Day. With Josh Beckett starting for the Sox, you would think this was a sure thing, but Beckett has not been dominating lately. But, he has pitched well enough to keep them in the game. The Sox will again be dealing with a weakened lineup, so look for more of the same today - aggressive base running, low scoring game, and attack the bullpen.

(Photos Courtesy of ESPN)

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