August 11, 2009
No one imagined Boston Red Sox rookie Junichi Tazawa would make his major league debut in the bottom of 14th inning at Yankee Stadium in a 0-0 game.
And no one imagined that he'd wind up giving up the game-winning home run to Alex Rodriguez in the bottom of the 15th with Derek Jeter on and two outs in the inning.
Despite the ending outcome, Tazawa was very impressive in one of the most high-pressure situations. He got Hideki Matsui to line out to Jacoby Ellsbury in centerfield for the first out, but then allowed Jorge Posada and Robinson Cano reach on back-to-back singles.
J.D. Drew made a spectacular play in right field that robbed Eric Hinske of a game-winning hit, then Tazawa struck out Melky Cabrera to end the inning.
In the 15th, Derek Jeter singled, but Tazawa retired Johnny Damon and Mark Teixeira, which is no easy task. Then A-Rod came up to the plate.
He was so close.
The 23-year-old is getting a second chance however, as Tazawa is starting against the Detroit Tigers Tuesday night at Fenway Park. He'll face Rick Porcello, who comes in with a 10-7 record, 4.30 earned run average, and has given up 17 home runs in 111 innings pitched.
This is a crucial start for the rookie pitcher, as the Red Sox are in desperate need of good pitching. They finally notched a win Monday night to kill off a six-game losing streak and would like to continue their winning ways to stay afloat in the American League Wild Card race.
Currently, Boston is holding onto a half game lead over the Texas Rangers. Behind them are the Tampa Bay Rays, who are two and a half games back.
Right now, it's not about the AL East, it's about securing a playoff spot. If the playoffs were to start today, prior to everyone's game, the Red Sox would play the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and New York would face the Tigers.
And with the playoff history between Boston and Los Angeles, Boston is heavily favored.
It should be an interesting ride.
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