Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Red Sox Rebound Against Orioles

Last night, the first place Boston Red Sox blew a 10-1 in the middle of the 7th against the last place Baltimore Orioles who prevailed 11-10.

A colleague asked me if the loss would be any long term impact. I replied that every game is a separate test of a team's ability, cunning and perseverance. OK, so they blew a 10-1 lead. That was yesterday. What are they going to do today?

Orioles rookie pitcher Brad Bergeson outmatched Red Sox ace Josh Beckett. Bergeson pitched 8 strong innings giving up only one run on four hits with six strikeouts and no walks.

The Orioles carried a 5-1 lead in the 9th inning. Jim Johnson came on in relief of Bergeson. He walked Dustin Pedroia and then gave up a two run home run to Kevin Youkilis. The Orioles lead was cut to 5-3.

Orioles manager Dave Trembley removes Johnson in favor of closer George Sherrill who earned the save in last night's comeback win. Sherrill strikes out both Jason Bay and David Ortiz. The Orioles needed only one more out to win two straight over the Red Sox.

Sherrill never got that third out.

He surrendered a single to Jacoby Ellsbury and issued back to back walks to Jeff Bailey and Jason Varitek. The bases were now loaded. Rocco Baldelli came up to pinch hit for Nick Green. An interesting choice given that Green hit a walk off home run for the Sox last Sunday against the Atlanta Braves. But Baldelli delivered with a two run single scoring Bailey and Julio Lugo (who was pinch running for Varitek.) The game was tied at 5-5 and onto extra innings.

Lugo would supply the go ahead run for the Sox with a single in the top of the 11th to give the Sox a 6-5 lead. Jonathan Papelbon recorded the save in the bottom of the 11th to give the Red Sox a come from behind win. The Sox lived to fight another day.

Papelbon's save was the 20th of the season and 133rd of his major league career. He passed Bob Stanley to become the Red Sox all-time saves leader. When you consider that Papelbon attained his first major league save in 2006 his achievement is that much more remarkable. It took Stanley 13 seasons to get 132 saves. Of course, Stanley spent time as a starting pitcher while Paps has only made three career starts (including his MLB debut on July 31, 2005 against the Twins which I saw in person.) To be fair, closers in the late 1970s and early 1980s weren't necessarily expected to get 35-40 saves a season. Stanley's high water mark in saves was 33 in 1983. Meanwhile, Papelbon has never saved fewer than 35 games in a season. A classic case of apples and oranges.

So the Red Sox put last night behind them. The only way that game would have any long term impact is if the Red Sox do not make the postseason. At 48-30, the Sox have the best record in the AL and second best in MLB (only the Los Angeles Dodgers have a better record.) The only way the Sox do not make the playoffs this season is if the team experiences a long term wholescale collapse. In one game maybe but not for any prolonged period.

Yes, I am mindful that it is a long season so we'll see how the next 84 games for the Sox pan out.

As for the Orioles, whatever momentum they had last night evaporated in scarcely half a day.

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