Saturday, May 5, 2012 – Fenway Park, Section 40
Orioles 8, Red Sox 2
After a day off Thursday, the Red Sox lost an extra-inning game to the Orioles on Friday night, and Saturday I was on my way back in to Fenway again. I usually opt for Sunday games, so I can park for free on the street, but this weekend I had another commitment on the Sunday and I had gotten the Saturday game instead. A lot of times (at least in past years) the team didn’t take batting practice before Sunday games, which meant I didn’t get to see it too often. So I was looking forward to going in as soon as the gates opened and watching B.P. Of course when I got there I found that both teams had decided to skip because Friday night’s game had gone 13 innings. But all the pitchers were out in right field long-tossing, so I went down by Pesky’s Pole and was able to take some good pictures of them as they warmed up.
Today’s game would be Aaron Cook’s Red Sox debut. Cook was a former All-Star with the Rockies who had been hampered by injuries in the past couple of years, and he had signed a minor league contract with the Red Sox over the winter. He had been pitching really well in Triple-A (3-0, 1.89) and had an opt-out clause in his contract if the Red Sox didn’t at least have plans to add him to the major league roster by May 1. While the pitching staff could surely use a lift, there was no obvious opening. Felix Doubront and Daniel Bard were doing well at the back end of the rotation, and the “Big Three” at the front end weren’t hurt… until Josh Beckett threw 126 pitches in a start and then revealed afterward that he had a sore lat. So for this one day anyway, they were skipping Beckett’s turn and giving the start to Cook. It was yet to be determined whether Beckett would need time on the D.L., but I was interested to see what Cook would be able to contribute.
The first inning couldn’t have been more perfect. Cook got three ground ball outs, all to shortstop, on a total of 9 pitches. The Red Sox didn’t score in their half, but they got two runners on and worked Orioles pitcher Jason Hammel for 26 pitches. Cook took the mound for the second and got two quick outs. He gave up a single to Chris Davis and then a double to Wilson Betemit. The trouble came in the next at-bat, when a pitch skipped past Jarrod Saltalamacchia for a passed ball. As Salty went to retrieve the ball, Cook came in to cover the plate, and Davis slid into home. Suddenly Cook was doubled over and the training staff was out to check on him. The run had scored, but Cook had a big gash just under his knee from Davis’s cleat.
Clayton Mortensen was summoned from the ‘pen and given as much time as he needed to warm up. Cook eventually limped off the field, helped by the trainers. A minute later I realized Mortensen had stopped warming, and then Cook came back out of the dugout to a big ovation. He quickly induced a grounder to third and was out of the inning.
Cook came back out for the third with his leg bandaged up, but he couldn’t locate any of his pitches anymore. After a flyout, he gave up a hit, a walk, and a wild pitch. One runner was thrown out in an attempted double steal, but then there were 5 more hits and 4 runs. In retrospect, he never should have come back after the injury – he received 11 stitches after the game and went on the D.L. the next day – but he was trying to help a staff that had just gone 13 innings the night before. Mortensen was called in for real this time, and promptly surrendered a 3-run homer that put the Sox down 8-0.
Mortensen pitched well after that, going 3 more innings with 1 hit and 5 strikeouts, but the damage had already been done. Ryan Sweeney and Cody Ross drove in runs in the seventh as Hammel started to tire, but that was it. And on Sunday, when the Red Sox lost a heart-breaking 17-inning game (in which both teams had position players pitch the final inning) as the Orioles swept, I was able to look back on Saturday’s loss and joke about it being the “best” of the weekend. At least we knew we were out of it early and had plenty of time to adjust to that fact, instead of being strung along and given hope and then repeatedly failing to get it done. And Saturday’s loss was all the result a freak injury, not poor performance, so it wasn’t anyone’s fault.