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To the Victor Belong the Spoils

Wednesday, September 9, 2009 – Fenway Park, Section 35

Red Sox 7, Orioles 5

On the road trip of the past week, the Red Sox had won two of three in Tampa Bay but then lost three of four in Chicago. That had dropped them 9 games back in the division, but they held a 2-game advantage over Texas for the wild card. It helped when they returned home and beat the Orioles 10-0 in a 6-homer game on Tuesday. I always say 10-0 is my favorite score, but hoped they’d be able to continue the fun the next night when I went to the game and Paul Byrd was on the mound. Now that it was September and rosters had expanded, it meant there were plenty of arms in the bullpen, depth on the bench, and even four catchers. On my way to my seat, I peeked out on Yawkey Way, where posters representing the night’s lineup hang in the upstairs windows of the souvenir store across the street. Victor Martinez had the night off, which meant that Jason Varitek was catching, Kevin Youkilis was at first, and Mike Lowell was at third.

Rookie catcher Dusty Brown walks out to the bullpen with Manny Delcarmen and Ramon Ramirez.

Rookie catcher Dusty Brown walks out to the bullpen with Manny Delcarmen and Ramon Ramirez.

Byrd gave up two hits in the first but was able to strand both runners. In the bottom of the inning, Jason Bay drove in a pair with a bases-loaded single. The Orioles got one back in the second, when a run came in the back door on a double play.

Both teams had plenty of baserunners, and strange things happened on the basepaths all night. A rundown ended the second inning for the Red Sox, when Jacoby Ellsbury got thrown out at the plate after Pedroia’s single. It looked like Pedroia was trying to get hung up between first and second  long enough for the run to score, but Ellsbury didn’t break for the plate in time and was gunned down. Then in the fifth, with the Red Sox clinging to a 3-2 lead, Kevin Youkilis was thrown out at the plate after Mike Lowell’s single, ending the inning. But while the fast guys had trouble scoring, their slow-footed teammates got the job done. Big Papi beat out an infield hit in the first. Later, Lowell stole second base without drawing a throw (although that turned out to be a botched hit-and-run on a ball in the dirt that neither the batter nor the catcher could get ahold of). Alex Gonzalez successfully executed two sacrifice bunts, when even one is a rare play in the Terry Francona era.

Paul Byrd begins his distinctive windup.

Paul Byrd, half-way through his distinctive windup.

All that contributed to a 3-2 Red Sox lead at the end of the fifth. Manny Delcarmen came on for the sixth and coughed up the lead, with 2 Oriole runs crossing the plate on three singles, a walk, and Delcarmen’s own fielding error (which I thought was a tough call). It was painful when Baltimore took the 4-3 lead, knowing that two Red Sox runners had been thrown out at the plate. But the Sox weren’t done yet. Varitek led off the sixth with a single and was replaced by pinch-runner Joey Gathright. After a sacrifice moved him to second and a grounder got him to third, Pedroia’s second hit of the night drove home the tying run. (Now that Varitek was out of the game, I was hoping Victor Martinez would take over as catcher. But since this would be only Victor’s second day off since coming to Boston, he probably needed the rest, and George Kottaras came in instead.)

Billy Wagner came on for the seventh, and retired the side in order while striking out two. Youkilis singled to lead off the home half, and after a pitching change, a strikeout, and another pitching change, Bay singled. Lowell walked and was removed for pinch-runner Brian Anderson. That loaded the bases, with Kottaras due up. We all jumped up to cheer when we saw he was called back in favor of Victor Martinez. And we went crazy when Victor jumped on the first pitch and drove it off the base of The Wall in left-center, sending all three runners home.

Victor Martinez takes a lead off second base after his pinch-hit, bases-clearing double.

Victor Martinez takes a lead off second base after his pinch-hit, bases-clearing double.

At the end of the inning, since Lowell and Kottaras had both been removed, Youkilis moved to third base, Martinez took over at first base, and 4th-string catcher Dusty Brown came in behind the plate. This was only the third game of his major league career, and so far he’d only come in defensively late in games, so he hadn’t had an at-bat yet.

Daniel Bard got the first two outs of the eighth, but with two runners on base, Jonathan Papelbon was called in early. His first pitch to Nelson Reimold was grounded to short to end the inning efficiently. In the bottom of the eighth, three straight singles loaded the bases for the Red Sox with one out. That brought up Dusty Brown, making his first major league plate appearance, to face old friend Cla Meredith. Brown smoked a line drive, which looked like it would be his first hit and RBI, but instead it was snared by the shortstop, who flipped to second to double off the runner and end the inning.

Dusty Brown lines out in his first major league at-bat.

Dusty Brown lines out in his first major league at-bat.

Paps allowed a run in the ninth, but he closed out the game. That capped off a fun and exciting win that was a true team effort with contributions from starters and bench guys alike.

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