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McDonald’s Here and I’m Lovin’ It!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010 – Fenway Park, Section 37

Red Sox 7, Rangers 6

The miserable weekend was made even more depressing when the Rays finished off a four-game sweep with another blowout in the Patriot’s Day matinee on Monday.  So when I went back on Tuesday and Tim Wakefield spotted the Rangers a run in the top of the first, it felt like we were down by a lot more than one run.  The Red Sox tied it on a Victor Martinez single in the bottom of the inning, but they also stranded two runners in the first and two more in the second.

Wake throws long-toss before Sunday afternoon's game. On Tuesday he was once again taking one for the team to save the worn-out bullpen.

Wake throws long-toss before Sunday afternoon's game. On Tuesday he was once again taking one for the team to save the worn-out bullpen.

The third is when it got ugly.  There were three walks and an astounding five stolen bases, but amazingly only one run crossed the plate, courtesy of a groundout.  As bad as that inning was, the fourth was even worse.  A hit-by-pitch, two (count ’em, two) wild pitches, plus another walk, two more stolen bases, and a couple of hits brought three more runs home.  In the fifth, it felt like we were watching a blooper reel; this time there was a balk mixed in, and of course another stolen base.

Through all these mishaps, no one was warming in the ‘pen.  John Lackey had been knocked out of the game early the day before, and they had played extra innings over the weekend.  So Wake did his usual job of taking one for the team and sticking it out through 113 pitches over 6 innings.  As the game headed into the bottom of the sixth, the Rangers had a 6-2 lead, but it felt more like an unsurmountable 12-2 score.  The 9 stolen bases was a record, but I thought back to the time in 2004 when the team gave up a record 7 home runs, including 6 by Wake, but they still won the game.  Why not do the same tonight?  With the score 6-2 and a runner on base, I noted that a home run would make it 6-4, and if we could get close we could come back and win.  (I don’t know if anyone believed me, because I felt compelled to add, “Well I can dream, right?” but for the record I did say it.)

In the sixth, two runners were on base when Josh Reddick, just called up today when Mike Cameron went on the D.L. with an abdominal strain, came to the plate.  He hit one down the left field line, and Josh Hamilton drifted over and reached up… and it landed, fair!  Both runners came around to score on the double.  Texas manager Ron Washington came out to argue, and we weren’t sure why.  They didn’t show us any replays in the ballpark, but when I got home I saw that it had hit the ground fair, then bounced into the stands, then bounced back onto the field.  It probably should have been a ground-rule double, with one runner needing to hold up at third, but the ruling stood with both runs across.  I had my 6-4 score, and was now convinced they could come all the way back.

It was still 6-4 in the eighth, when Reddick’s spot came up again with a runner on base and a lefty on the hill.  A pinch-hitter was announced – #54, Darnell McDonald.  I immediately realized that meant that Jacoby Ellsbury had also been placed on the D.L. with his bruised ribs still bothering him.  The announcement must have come out after I left work, but I knew that they had been considering the move for several days.  People around me asked who Darnell McDonald was.  I remembered seeing him in Spring Training, and knew that he was a journeyman minor leaguer who was new to the organization this year.  The guy behind me actually looked it up on his phone, and told us he was 31 years old and had had a little major league experience with three different teams.

I first saw Darnell McDonald in Spring Training earlier this year.

I first saw Darnell McDonald in Spring Training earlier this year.

It wasn’t long before all of New England knew who Darnell McDonald was.  He worked a 2-2 count, then slammed the next pitch over the Green Monster for a game-tying home run.  After that impressive introduction, we gave him a standing ovation when he came out to center field the next inning.  Jonathan Papelbon pitched a quick scoreless ninth, in his first appearance since the birth of his son Gunner earlier in the week.

In the bottom of the ninth, Kevin Youkilis led off with a single, moved up to second on a wild pitch, and was sacrificed over to third by Bill Hall.  Mike Lowell was intentionally walked, and Adrian Beltre popped up, leaving runners at the corners with two outs.  Jason Varitek had gotten off to a hot start to the season, so it seemed promising that he could come up with something now, but he ended up walking on four pitches, loading the bases.  That left it up to our newest hero, Darnell McDonald.  Everyone rose, cheering.  Some kids behind me even tried to start an “M-V-P, M-V-P” chant.

As Don Orsillo would say, "Fenway Park stands as one" as Darnell steps to the plate.

As Don Orsillo would say, "Fenway Park stands as one," as Darnell steps to the plate.

He took strike one, then hit one in the same direction, toward The Wall.  Off the bat it looked like a grand slam, but then following its arc, it seemed like the wind was knocking it down, and it might be caught on the warning track.  But it kept going, and scraped the wall just above a leaping Josh Hamilton.  Game over!  Red Sox win!  Darnell’s teammates rushed to meet him at second base.  The mob caught up to him behind the base and chased him into left field, where they tackled him.  By the time I jumped into the row behind me so I could see and focused the camera, McDonald was on the ground being “congratulated” by his new, happy teammates.  Here’s the celebration:

McDonald feels the brunt of his teammates' love.

McDonald finds there's no escaping his teammates' love.

Welcome to Boston, Darnell!

Welcome to Boston, Darnell!

All’s well that ends well.  Suddenly the 9 stolen bases were forgotten, the 5-game losing streak was over, Wake was off the hook, Paps picked up the win for his baby boy, and Darnell McDonald became the latest Fenway legend.

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