In the middle of the 7th inning, the Boston Red Sox had a 10-1 lead over the Baltimore Orioles.
The final score: Orioles 11 Red Sox 10
What in the blue hell happened?
It all actually started in the bottom of the 6th inning when the Sox had a 9-1 lead. Felix Pie grounded out to short. There were two outs. Only pitcher Justin Masterson and the entire infield (Jeff Bailey, Dustin Pedroia, Julio Lugo and Kevin Youkilis) walked off the field thinking there were three outs. Oops!!!
I had an uneasy feeling.
They came back out and Masterson struck out Nick Markakis to end the inning. In the top of the 7th, the Sox added a run with a single by Pedroia scoring Bailey. No harm done. Or so it seemed.
In the bottom of the 7th, Masterson came back out for his third inning of work. Unlike his first two innings, Masterson was not sharp. He gave up singles to Aubrey Huff and Nolan Reimold. Luke Scott doubled to score Huff. Sox led 10-2.
The Orioles sent up Oscar Salazar to pinch hit for Melvin Mora. Salazar hit a three run home run. His first of the 2009 season. Sox led 10-5.
Orioles rookie catcher Matt Wieters then hit a sharp single up the middle. Masterson had given up five straight hits. Red Sox manager Terry Francona took out Masterson and put in Manny Delcarmen. After retiring the first two hitters, Delcarmen surrendered a single to Felix Pie scoring Robert Andino who had reached on a fielder's choice. Sox led 10-6. The Orioles scored five runs in the 7th.
The Sox very nearly scored a run in the top of the 8th but catcher George Kottaras (who had replaced Jason Varitek defensively) was thrown out at home plate on a throw by Orioles center fielder Felix Pie.
The Orioles picked up right where they left off in the bottom of the 8th. Red Sox lefty Hideki Okajima gave up four straight hits to Reimold, Scott, Salazar and Wieters. It was Wieters single that scored Reimold. The Sox lead was cut down to 10-7. Francona removed Okajima in favor of Takashi Saito. Pinch hitter Ty Wigginton drove in a run with a sacrifice fly scoring Scott. Sox led 10-8. Saito then gave up a single to Brian Roberts to score Salazar. Sox now led 10-9.
Tito had seen enough of Saito and put in closer Jonathan Papelbon. Paps managed to strike out Pie. But Markakis hit a triple scoring both Jeremy Guthrie (a pitcher who was pinch running for the slow footed Wieters) and Roberts. The Orioles led 11-10. What an unbelievable reversal of fortune.
Orioles closer George Sherrill came out in the 9th to get the save. Mark Hendrickson, who gave up one run in three innings of relief, was credited with the win. The Red Sox bullpen gave up 10 runs but Saito was tagged with the loss.
The Red Sox haven't blown a 9 run lead in over 20 years. As for the Orioles it was their greatest comeback in franchise history.
Baseball can be very, very good to you. It can also be quite cruel.
Yet oddly enough there were probably more Red Sox fans than there were Orioles fans to witness this calamity at Camden Yards. There was a rain delay in the middle of the 5th inning which lasted more than an hour. With the Sox leading 9-1, many Orioles fans took it as their cue to call it an early evening not knowing what was to come. Good things come to those who wait.
Of course, it is entirely possible the comeback could have happened without Masterson and the Red Sox infield walking off the field with two outs. But with all of baseball's superstition, black magic and tough hops that moment looms large right or wrong.
But tomorrow is a new day and a new ballgame. The Sox and Orioles play the rubber game of this three game series in a little over 12 hours from now.