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Victory à la Victorino

Sunday, June 30, 2013 – Fenway Park, Section 32

Red Sox 5, Blue Jays 4

The Red Sox completed a two-game sweep of the Rockies, then took on the Blue Jays in a four-game set.  Coming into the series, Toronto had heated up, winning 11 in a row at one point to get back to .500, while the Sox were building a 2½ game lead over Baltimore in the division.  Boston had won the first two games of the series, with the visitors taking the third game on Saturday.  On Sunday I drove in and parked at a meter on Comm. Ave., and used my Red Sox Nation card to go in early.  There was no batting practice, but Jon Lester and Allen Webster were throwing side sessions in the bullpen which we got to watch.  It was cool to be so close to them as they threw that we could hear the woosh of the ball through the air as well as the pop as it hit the bullpen catcher’s mitt.

Jon Lester has a fist-bump for bullpen catcher Mani Martinez after finishing his bullpen session.

Jon Lester has a fist-bump for bullpen catcher Mani Martinez after finishing his bullpen session.

It was Family Day for the Red Sox, so many of the players had their children with them.  For the National Anthems, as the starters took their positions in the field, Shane Victorino, Dustin Pedroia, and Ryan Dempster were joined by their kids, while the other players stood with their families in front of the dugout.

Jonathan Diaz (left) with his daughters Maddy, Lilly, and Britney; Clay Buccholz with Colbie; and Jarrod Saltalamacchia (right) with his daughters Sidney, Hunter, and Sloan.

Jonathan Diaz (left) with his daughters Maddy, Lilly, and Britney; Clay Buchholz with his daughter Colbie; and Jarrod Saltalamacchia (right) with his daughters Sidney, Hunter, and Sloan.

Ryan Dempster threw 1-2-3 innings in the first and second, and didn’t allow a hit until there were two outs in the third.  By that time the Red Sox had built a lead thanks to a bloop ground rule double off the bat of Ryan Lavarnway that landed just fair in front of canvas alley before bouncing into the stands, and a big two-run double off the Green Monster for Brandon Snyder.  Snyder had been called up from Pawtucket earlier in the week when Will Middlebrooks was optioned down.  With Stephen Drew at short and Jose Iglesias hitting and fielding so well at third, Middlebrooks wasn’t getting the playing time he needed to get out of his slump.  So he was sent down to play every day, and Snyder was called up to fill a utility role.  But a couple of days later, Drew tweaked his hamstring, and Middlebrooks couldn’t be called up yet because it hadn’t been ten days.  (They don’t have to wait ten days if someone goes on the disabled list, but Drew was still day-to-day and hoping to avoid a D.L. stint.)  So today Iglesias was at short, Snyder started at third, and Jonathan Diaz had been added to the roster as a backup infielder.  (Clayton Mortensen was designated for assignment to make room for Diaz without having to put Drew on the D.L.)  Snyder was already making the most of his chance, and his hit gave the Sox a 3-0 lead.

Brandon Snyder had a good day at the plate and in the field.

Brandon Snyder had a good day at the plate and in the field.

The Jays got a couple of runs off Dempster in the fourth, but the Sox grabbed an insurance run on a double by Jonny Gomes in the fifth.  A walk and two singles loaded the bases against Dempster with no outs in the sixth, but he induced a popup for the first out.  Craig Breslow was summoned in to get out of the mess, and he actually did, with another popup to short and a strikeout of pinch-hitter Emilio Bonifacio to end the inning.  Unfortunately his success didn’t carry over to the next inning, and he gave up a leadoff homer to Jose Reyes which pulled the Blue Jays to within a run.  Alex Wilson picked up the first out of the inning, and then Andrew Miller came in to strike out the next two batters and get out of the seventh.  He stayed for the eighth and benefited from a good play by Snyder at third – a slide on his knees into foul territory to pick a ball that otherwise could have been a double, and a throw in time to the nail the runner at first – and passed the one-run lead to newly-crowned closer Koji Uehara.

Fenway Moment of the Day:  As the Red Sox batted in the bottom of the sixth, a sharply-hit foul skipped right between third base coach Brian Butterfield’s legs.  A guy behind me, obviously still full of hockey fever despite the Bruins’ loss in the Stanley Cup finals earlier in the week, yelled, “Right through the five-hole!  You’re no Tuukka Rask!”

Ryan Dempster was joined on the mound before the game by his son Brady and his youngest daughter Finley. He gave up 2 runs in 5-1/3 innings of work.

Ryan Dempster was joined on the mound before the game by his son Brady and his youngest daughter Finley. He gave up 2 runs in 5-1/3 innings of work.

With Joel Hanrahan out for the season and Andrew Bailey struggling, Uehara had been named the new closer earlier in the week.  He had picked up saves in three straight games, and was starting to restore my confidence in the bullpen.  Fenway Park was pumped up when he came in, clapping along to his walk-in song “Sandstorm” by Darude.  He was greeted by the top of Toronto’s order.  Reyes hit a 2-2 pitch out to right field, and it hooked toward the stands like it was either going to wrap around the foul pole or bounce along the base of the wall.  But Victorino covered a lot of territory and made a sliding, Brunansky-esque catch up against the wall just before it hit the ground.  The catch was even more important a moment later when Jose Bautista launched a homer over the Green Monster.  The game was tied, and Fenway went silent.  Unlike with Bailey’s blown save a couple of weeks ago, I didn’t see this one coming.

With the game now tied and headed into the bottom of the ninth, I walked around to closer seats in Section 24, just like I had done a couple of weeks ago when Bailey had surrendered a game-tying homer.  That night resulted in a Jonny Gomes walk-off homer, and I figured I’d find a seat in roughly the same area today and hope for the same result.  Jose Iglesias grounded out to start the home half of the ninth, but then Snyder continued his big day by knocking a single to right.  After Jacoby Ellsbury walked, Snyder was pinch-run for by Jonathan Diaz, as he now represented the winning run in scoring position.  That brought up Victorino, who was the only Red Sox player who hadn’t reached base yet today, although his game-saving catch in the top of the inning was just as important a contribution.  He sent a hard-hit grounder to first, which was manned by Josh Thole, a backup catcher who had come in to play first base in the third inning when Adam Lind had left with an injury.  Thole got a glove on it, but it bounced through his legs and into right field.  Diaz sped around from second to score the winning run, while the rest of the Red Sox ran out to mob Victorino.

Shane Victorino is congratulated by his teammates for delivering the winning blow.

Shane Victorino is congratulated by his teammates after delivering the winning blow.

It certainly didn’t matter to me that the game-winning play ended up being an error – I’ll take a win however I can get one!  This victory was the Sox’ 50th of the year, making them the first team in the majors to reach that milestone.

June 30, 2013 • Posted in: 2013 Games • Share on Facebook

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