Thursday, July 24, 2008

Sox Sweep Seattle to End Road Trip

That was a close one, and also a timely win. Both the Yankees and the Rays won yesterday, and when your competition wins, you want to win and keep step with them.

Clay BuchholzClay Buchholz was much improved over his past two outings, and that is a good sign. Clay went 5 1/3 innings and gave up 3 runs, but he held the line early on, and did not fall behind quickly like he has in his last two outings. In fact, entering the 6th inning, he had only surrendered a solo home run to that point. In the 6th, he started to unravel giving up a two run home run and putting two men on base with one out before turning the game over to Justin Masterson. Masterson is working out of the bullpen for the Sox and this was a big test. How does he handle coming in to the inning with 2 men on and one out? Simple. He strikes out the next two batters to end the inning.

Masterson did not stop there. He went on to record a 1-2-3 7th inning, followed by a 1-2-3 8th inning! So far, whoever thought he'd work well out of the bullpen looks like a genius. Also, since Masterson had been training all year as a starter, he can be used (at least for a while) in long relief situations very effectively. Masterson did a nice job of getting to the ninth inning for Jonathan Papelbon, but the problem was that the game was only tied 3-3.

Ichiro Suzuki Robs JD DrewIn the 3rd inning, Ichiro Suzuki kept the game from getting out of reach when he leaped high on the right field wall to rob JD Drew of a sure 3 run home run. It was an amazing catch, and the Sox may have been able to use that to build a comfortable lead. But, as strange things always happen in baseball, the next batter, Kevin Youkilis, laced a line drive to right field. As Ichiro chased it down and bent to scoop it up, the ball snuck under his glove and rolled to the wall for an error, allowing two runs to score. That's baseball. Once play you are a hero and a sure web gem, and the next play you make an error that could cost the game.

More great pitching for Boston came after the 8th inning as Hideki Okajima and Manny Delcarmen combined to pitch two scoreless innings. In an interesting move, with the game still tied, Terry Fancona went to Papelbon to pitch the bottom of the 11th inning. Papelbon finally got a strikeout (he's had fewer of those lately) and induced a double play to end the 11th.

Mike LowellThe 12th inning, the Red Sox had had enough. Time to end this thing. They worked the bases loaded with one out, and Mike Lowell became the designated hero with a line drive single to left. Jacoby Ellsbury scored from third, and JD Drew showed some speed sliding in safe at home from second base. Sean Casey singled in an insurance run to bring the score to 6-3. So, now we're thinking Papelbon will be back out and end this, right? Wrong. Francona, perhaps not feeling Papelbon has enough bullets left in the gun, and also thinking a 3 run lead should be comfortable enough, sends in none other than Craig Hansen to close the game out. Hansen did it, but he did not do it easily. With two outs and a runner on first, Hansen surrendered a single and a walk to load the bases. White knuckle time, folks. So, Jose Vidro steps to the plate and watches the first three fastballs go by, none of them is a strike. Bases loaded, three balls, no strikes, two outs. Next pitch, called strike. Next pitch, Vidro tops the pitch for an easy bouncing ball to Dustin Pedroia who flips the ball to first to end the game. Phew! Close one there Hansen!

Tomorrow, the dreaded Yankees come to town. Stay tuned...

(Photos Courtesy of ESPN)

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