The Boston Red Sox fell behind by two, 7-5, after the Anaheim Angels scored four two-out runs in the seventh inning. They were down, but not out–the story of the game for both teams. So, it was almost a forgone conclusion that the Red Sox would make the Angels rusty bullpen sweat and battle to regain the lead. On cue, they rallied, with a little help from the baseball gods and home-plate umpire Rick Reed.
Anaheim scored the game's first three runs off Boston starter Paul Byrd, and scored the third on a home-run by the red-hot Torii Hunter that led off the sixth inning.
Byrd pitched effectively throughout his outing, but couldn’t make it through this frame. Joe Saunders, Anaheim’s counterpart, couldn’t either.
The Red Sox, in front of their raucous home crowd, were unfazed by the Angels increased lead. Jacoby Ellsbury singled to begin the bottom of the sixth, took third on a double by Dustin Pedroia, then scored easily on a single by Jason Bay that also plated Pedroia. Now the Red Sox were within one run, just like that. Mike Lowell kept the rally going, helping Boston continue their sixth inning success.
He hit a groundball to second baseman Howie Kendrick, who double-clutched before firing to shortstop Eric Aybar. Aybar, with ball in glove, tapped second base to apparently retire Bay, but Bay was called safe because second-base umpire Tim Timmons ruled that Aybar lost possession before he touched second base. Aybar was livid, and had reason to be. Neither he nor manager Mike Scioscia could change Timmons’ mind. The Red Sox rally was alive and well.
David Ortiz gave Aybar and Kendrick a chance to redeem themselves, but though the Angels managed to record the first out of the inning, this infield combination made another mistake. Ortiz, who is very slow, hit a hard grounder to Kendrick. Lowell can’t run either, so a double-play seemed inevitable. But Kendrick, once again, inexplicably double-clutched before throwing to Aybar. Lowell was easily out at second, and Ortiz would have been out at first if Aybar hadn’t prematurely given up on the double-play possibility. Ortiz was still rumbling down the line, strides away from first, but Aybar just faked a throw.
Rocco Baldelli, the next hitter, made Kendrick and Aybar pay, singling through the left side of the infield. The ball evaded a diving stab by third baseman Chone Figgins, then Aybar, who dove as well. Bay scored the tying run.
Saunders was frustrated. His anger was just, considering Pedroia’s double was the only hard hit ball in the inning, and, if not for Aybar and Kendrick’s gaffes, the damage would have been kept at a minimum. He finally dug himself into a hole by walking Jason Varitek, who is struggling to bat above .200 on the season. He retired Casey Kotchman with the now loaded bases, but couldn’t send down Alex Gonzalez.
His hit was the softest of all, a sawed off looper that dropped between Kendrick and right-fielder Juan Rivera. Both Ortiz and Baldelli scored. Suddenly, Saunders night was done as a three-run deficit for Boston turned into a two-run lead.
It was a lead they couldn’t hold, however. Anaheim answered Boston’s five-run sixth inning with a four-run top of the seventh. They scored all four runs after the Red Sox made a mistake of their own. Ramon Ramirez uncorked a slider to Kendry Morales with two outs and nobody on. The offering snuck between Varitek’s legs and traveled all the way back the dugout. Morales swung at the pitch for strike-three, but the strikeout that have ended the inning didn’t, as Morales scampered to first, extending the frame.
Kendrick followed with a single, driving home Vladimir Guerrero, who was hit in the ribs with a Ramirez fastball earlier in the inning. Ramirez continued to throw batting practice, as Rivera plated in tying and go-ahead runs with a double that barely evaded Ellsbury’s outstretched glove at the center-field wall. Mike Napoli proceeded to rake a double as well, adding insurance.
Now it was the Angels turn to waste a two-run lead. Ortiz singled to begin the bottom of the eighth, and pinch-hitter J.D. Drew walked. Young outfielder Josh Reddick hit a grounder to Kendrick, who fielded it and threw to Aybar. This time an out was recorded, but thanks to Reddick’s speed, only the one out was made. A wild-pitch by the usually reliable Darren Oliver moved Reddick to second, so now a single could tie the game. Kotchman didn’t single, but accomplished the next best thing. He scored Ortiz from third with a groundout, cutting the Angels advantage to one. By making the second out of the inning, though, he put the pressure on Gonzalez.
The pressure carried over to Ellsbury, as Gonzalez worked a two-out walk. Ellsbury delivered, singling through the right side to score Reddick from third. The Angels lead was gone.
But not for long: after hard-throwing Daniel Bard retired the first two hitters of the ninth inning, Figgins and Aybar singled, then Bobby Abreu did as well. Three two out singles and once again Anaheim had the lead.
And once again, they would lose it. Anaheim’s rally in the top occurred once two were out, and so would Boston’s in the bottom. Bay popped out and Lowell flied out, but Ortiz kept the game going by walking on four straight balls. After two more balls thrown by Fuentes began the at-bat against J.D. Drew, the right-fielder singled pinch-runner Joey Gathright over to second base. Now, the Red Sox were in business.
Jed Lowrie, fresh off wrist surgery that repaired a bone fracture, pinch-hit for Varitek’s replacement, catcher Dusty Brown, and lined a groundball down the third base line. Figgins dove towards the line and knocked down his hot shot, but that’s all he could do, as Lowrie, a fast runner, reached to load the bases. The pinch hitters kept on coming, as Nick Green batted for the struggling Kotchman.
Green, who’s playing time has greatly diminished since Gonzalez’s arrival, had perhaps the best at-bat of the night. It didn’t start promising, as he swung through two fastballs from Fuentes to climb into an 0-2 hole. He looked overmatched, but stayed alive: after he managed to narrowly check his swing on ball-one, he barely got a piece of the next three pitches, fouling each defensively back. He had been in this position many times before, and had done very well: entering this at-bat, he was hitting .359 and had driven in 16 runs with runners in scoring position and two-out. Given this tremendously successful history in the clutch, there was little doubt that he would do something positive.
Fuentes, frustrated at his inability to put away Green, overthrew two more fastballs, and missed badly with both to bring the count full. With nowhere to put Green, he threw his ninth fastball of the at-bat. The heater right down the middle at knee level. Green, for some reason, layed off. The Fenway Park crowd, Boston’s dugout, and the three Red Sox on the basepaths waited for Reed to signal strike-three, but he didn’t.
Napoli jumped out of his crouch, turned around, and began barking at him. Scioscia was doing the same from the dugout. He was mad about the check-swing, and absolutely furious about this second close call. Green trotted to first base and Gathright to home.
Fuentes last pitch to Green was a strike. I don’t know what Reed was looking at, but to let that go in that situation was incredible. He wasn’t done infuriating Scioscia, either.
Gonzalez fouled off a first-pitch fastball, then watched a curveball cross the plate low. (To determine if a pitch is a strike, it’s not where the ball is caught, but where the pitch crosses the plate.) The curveball was tantalizingly close, but was let be by Reed, keeping the fire burning under Scoscia. Gonzalez fouled off the next pitch, then came the fireworks, the moment that should have never happened.
Gonzalez waited on a changeup and looped it into left field. It was a lazy flyball, one that appeared could be tracked down by Rivera. But the left-fielder puzzlingly pulled up and let it drop a mere three feet in front of him. He grabbed the one-hopper dejectedly and walked off the field.
Those in the Red Sox dugout ran onto the field as Drew touched home-plate. They sprinted towards Gonzalez and jubilantly celebrated with the fourth hero of the inning. Boston would have been the ones hanging their heads if either Aybar or Kendrick could field, if Ortiz hadn’t walked, if Drew hadn’t singled, if Lowrie hadn’t beaten Figgins’ throw, if Green hadn’t checked his swing, if Reed hadn’t been blind on ball four, or if Gonzalez’s flair hadn’t dropped. But, though the baseball gods and the umpiring crew were on their side, the Red Sox grit, patience, and clutch play ultimately decided one of their wilder wins of the season.