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Give Me A Break

Sunday, July 10, 2011 – Fenway Park, Section 43

Red Sox 8, Orioles 6

When I went to Tuesday night’s game I was excited to be seeing Jon Lester.  I was also thinking ahead to my next game, five days later, when I was hoping to see him again.  But a lot had happened in those five days.  First, Lester went on the D.L. with a strained lat muscle.  Then Friday night’s game featured a bench-clearing brawl between the Red Sox, who had scored 8 runs in the first inning, and the Orioles, when Kevin Gregg threw inside to Papi and then taunted him after a flyout.  (After the game, Papi said that he regretted losing his cool, while Gregg maintained that it was not only intentional but justified because the Red Sox have a higher payroll and a better team.  Adding to the absurdity was the fact that Gregg himself makes a tidy sum of $4.2 million, and he was egged on in these comments by Orioles manager Buck Showalter, who for years had reaped the benefits of managing the high-payroll Yankees.)  The Red Sox had won the first three games of the series by a combined 24-7 score, and the hostility had the potential to spill over into Sunday’s contest.

Kyle Weiland enters the bullpen to warm up before his major league debut.

Kyle Weiland enters the bullpen to warm up before his major league debut.

This was also the final game before the All-Star break, and while Alfredo Aceves had done well in a few spot starts earlier this year, his true value has been in his flexibility out of the ‘pen, and the Red Sox wanted to keep him in that role.  So for this start, Kyle Weiland was called up from Pawtucket to make his major league debut.

I’ve seen Weiland a couple of times in the past two years.  First I saw him at the 2010 PawSox Hot Stove Party.  Then he pitched the Portland Sea Dogs game I went to last year.  Because I knew what he looked like, I was able to call him over for an autograph in Spring Training this year.  And finally I saw him pitch in a Spring Training game this February.  I like seeing guys who I’ve followed through the minors make it to the big leagues, and I was excited to add Kyle Weiland to the list of debuts I’ve been present for – along with Jonathan Papelbon, Clay Buchholz, Justin Masterson, and Felix Doubront.  Here’s a video of Weiland facing his first batter, J.J. Hardy, who popped up to Adrian Gonzalez at first:

Weiland pitched an impressive 1-2-3 first, including a strikeout of Nick Markakis, and the Red Sox put two runs on the board for him in the bottom of the inning.  (The inning ended when Jason Varitek hit a bouncer down the line that was fielded by the first baseman.  Tek and the two Red Sox baserunners thought it was foul and stayed on the field, while the Orioles fielders all believed it to be fair and walked off, before the Red Sox eventually relunctantly agreed.)

The second inning didn’t go as well.  The Orioles sent 11 men to the plate, and 6 of them scored.  Luckily for the Red Sox, they were facing Mitch Atkins, who was making only his second career start (and seventh appearance overall), and they took advantage.  Marco Scutaro and Dustin Pedroia hit solo homers into the Monster seats, and Kevin Youkilis belted a 2-run shot deep to straightaway center, where it bounced on the tarp that covers the Section 34 seats during the day.  Throw in a double by Adrian Gonzalez, and the Red Sox had four more runs and a 6-6 tie.

Adrian Gonzalez had a typical day: 2-for-4 with a walk and two runs scored.

Adrian Gonzalez had a typical day: 2-for-4 with a walk and two runs scored.

From there, Weiland settled down.  He did hit a batter in the third, but the runner was erased on a double play.  He issued a walk in the fourth, but Tek caught him stealing.  While the game seemed to be settling down, it didn’t take much to stir it back up again.  With one out and two on in the fourth, Jeremy Guthrie (who had relieved Atkins) hit Youkilis.  The pitch was a change-up and it didn’t seem like a situation where they’d want to put another runner on base, but the umps were suspicious and issued warnings.  That didn’t seem necessary, and it didn’t leave the young Weiland with much room for error.  But it also loaded the bases, and David Ortiz walked to force in the go-ahead run for the Sox.

In the fifth, Weiland allowed a leadoff triple, and then came inside and hit Vladimir Guerrero.  Was it just an inexperienced rookie battling first-game butterflies and trying to overcome a six-run inning, who was getting a little rattled after giving up a triple?  Home plate umpire Marty Foster (whose official title in my scorecard was “Bum!”) didn’t think so, and he ejected both Weiland and Terry Francona.  I felt so bad for Weiland, who hadn’t even been with the team during Friday night’s altercation and was basically being given a one-game audition to show his future value to the team.  (“Weiland ejected – NOT FAIR! – Tito too,” reads my scorecard.)

But looking at it in retrospect, it may have been the best thing for the game.  It saved Tito from leaving Weiland in too long just to try to get him through the fifth to qualify for the win, and it allowed a more experienced reliver – Aceves, who was called in from the ‘pen – to try to get out of a first-and-third, no-out jam with his team up by just one run.  Aceves proved to be up to the challenge.  He struck out Matt Wieters and Derrek Lee, and got the third out on a flyout to left.  He stayed in the game for the sixth and seventh, and retired all nine batters he faced, saving the whole game for the Red Sox.

Fenway Park as seen from the shady seats on a hot afternoon.

Fenway Park as seen from the shady seats on a hot afternoon.

It was a beautiful sunny day, and it was hot in the bleachers, so I waited until the seventh-inning stretch and walked around to the good seats on the third base side, which also happened to be in the shade.  As I settled into a seat in Section 25, Jacoby Ellsbury drove in an insurance run to put the Sox up 8-6.  Daniel Bard pitched a perfect eighth, and Jonathan Papelbon closed it out in the ninth.

Jonathan Papelbon nailed down the save.

Jonathan Papelbon nailed down the save.

That sent the Red Sox off on a high note for the All-Star break.  They completed a four-game sweep of the Orioles and were riding a six-game winning streak.  The best news of all was that they also held a one-game lead in the A.L. East, a goal that had seemed very distant when they started the season with six straight losses.

July 10, 2011 • Posted in: 2011 Games • Share on Facebook

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