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A Ray of Hope

Tuesday, June 29, 2010 – Fenway Park, Section 40

Red Sox 8, Rays 5

After a sweep of the Dodgers, the road wasn’t as kind to the Red Sox.  They went 3-3 on a trip through Colorado and San Francisco, but their record wasn’t what everyone was talking about.  The day after a 5-hit, 3-homer “laser show”, Dustin Pedroia fouled a ball off his foot and was out 6-8 weeks with a broken foot.  The next night, Clay Buchholz pulled a hamstring running the bases after picking up his first major league hit, leaving the game in the hands of the bullpen and putting his next start in jeopardy.  The following day, when we were certain we couldn’t take any more, Victor Martinez suffered a broken thumb and also had to go on the D.L.  This was coming with Jacoby Ellsbury, Jeremy Hermida, Josh Beckett, and Mike Lowell already on the disabled list, not to mention Mike Cameron and Daisuke Matsuzaka having missed significant time.  But somehow, not only had they escaped the west coast with a series win, but they had moved past the Rays into second place and trailed the Yankees by only two games.

Gustavo Molina was called up when Victor Martinez went on the D.L.

Gustavo Molina was called up when Victor Martinez went on the D.L.

Before the game, I went down behind the bullpen to get some pictures of new catcher Gustavo Molina, who had been called up when V-Mart went on the disabled list.  He’s not related to the Molina brothers trio (Jose, Bengie, and Yadier) who are all catchers in the majors, but he has played in a handful of games for the White Sox, Orioles, and Mets, and I had gotten his autograph in Spring Training.  While there was some concern over who would catch Tim Wakefield’s next start on Friday, there were no worries tonight, as Jason Varitek would be behind the plate for John Lackey.

Our seats were in the back of Section 40, behind the Red Sox bullpen.  We were up against the wall and in a row with only three seats, so it felt like our own private little corner of the park.

Our seats were in the back of Section 40, behind the Red Sox bullpen. We were up against the wall and in a row with only three seats, so it felt like our own private little corner of the park.

For the first four innings, Lackey and James Shields traded goose eggs.  Both teams had their share of baserunners but hadn’t come up with that big hit yet.  In the top of the fifth, the leadoff batter hit a popup down the third base line, and Lackey, Varitek, and Adrian Beltre converged.  Beltre had already fractured the ribs of both Jacoby Ellsbury and Jeremy Hermida in collisions, so I was horrified when Tek hit the ground as Adrian made the catch.  It turned out everyone was OK – Lackey peeled off at the last minute, Tek’s dive was just to get out of the way, and Beltre joked later that there was no way he’d go after someone wearing catcher’s equipment, but the thought of another key injury was a pretty frightening idea.

The game was still scoreless in the fifth, when David Ortiz came to the plate with two out, two on, and first base empty after Marco Scutaro’s double.  After a brief conference on the mound, the Rays decided to pitch to Papi, and he instantly made them regret that decision.  He launched a towering shot over the visitors’ bullpen and into the bleachers (right near where my Tenth Man Plan seats are, but I was in a different seat tonight).

Big Papi waits on the manager's bench for his next at-bat. He certainly did his part to take control of the game!

Big Papi waits on the manager's bench for his next at-bat. He certainly did his part to take control of the game!

That blast put the Red Sox on the board, but they didn’t stop there.  They tacked on two more runs in the sixth, with Varitek and Daniel Nava doing the RBI honors.  The Rays finally got one run in the seventh but Nava threw out Carl Crawford trying to go first-to-third on Evan Longoria’s hit to end the inning.  The backups who were in for injured players were certainly making their mark.  Nava, of course, was in left for Ellsbury, and Tek was catching with V-Mart out.  Bill Hall had taken over second base for Pedroia, and after Tek picked up his second RBI of the day with a sac fly in the eighth, Hall drove a 2-run homer into the Monster seats.  Earlier in the game, he had come all the way over from second to catch a popup down the right field line by reaching into the stands over near Canvas Alley.

Hideki Okajima warms up in the 'pen. He came into the game in the eighth, but really struggled.

Hideki Okajima warms up in the 'pen. He came into the game in the eighth, but really struggled.

It was great to see the bench guys who were thrust into starting roles doing so well.  With all the injuries, it would have been understandable if the team had dropped out of contention, but instead they were gaining ground in the division.  This band of scrappy underdogs was really coming together, and that was making them fun to watch.  The only cause for concern was the bullpen.  When Lackey left at the end of 7 innings, the Red Sox had an 8-1 lead.  But Hideki Okajima struggled in the eighth (walk, 2-run homer, triple) and they needed to bring in Daniel Bard to get the final out of the inning.  Scott Atchison started the ninth, but put two runners on and only got one out.  Lefty Dustin Richardson came on and got the left-handed Carlos Peña out, but then gave up a hit that scored two more Rays runs.  That made it a save situation, and Jonathan Papelbon had to come in to strike out Willy Aybar to end the game.

June 29, 2010 • Posted in: 2010 Games • Share on Facebook

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