September 17, 2005

G147: Red Sox 3, Athletics 2 (10)

Oakland had a five-man infield (no one was in center field). And the game ended without the ball being put into play.

Tony Graffanino doubled to start the tenth inning. (Ken Macha began the extra frame with Jose Cruz, apparently saving his ace closer, Huston "0.90 ERA in 30 innings since the All-Star Game" for a save situation that never materialized. What a dope.) After pinch-runner Alejandro Machado went to third on Johnny Damon's grounder, Macha pulled left fielder Jay Payton for Keith Ginter, but put Ginter in the infield.

Cruz then hit Edgar Renteria with a 3-1 pitch (the ball three pitch nearly hit him also) and David Ortiz was walked intentionally. Keichi Yabu came in and plunked Manny Ramirez on the left elbow with a 1-1 pitch and Boston walked off with their 24th one-run win (against 14 losses). It kept the Sox 1.5 games ahead of the Yankees, who nearly blew an 11-3 lead in Toronto. New York trails in the wild card chase by .5 games.

Tim Wakefield pitched yet another gem. He held the A's to seven hits in nine innings; four of those hits came in the fourth inning. His only walk was to the game's first batter and he recorded 17 ground-ball outs (a good strategy with Manny, no-arm Damon and Kevin Millar in the soggy outfield).

Ortiz (who tied the game at 2-2 with a solo blast in the sixth) claimed he was surprised at being walked: "I saw a lefty warming up in the bullpen, so I thought they were going to bring him in. ... But I guess they've been watching ESPN a lot."

Terry Francona: "You're sitting there watching, waiting and expecting something. I think it stunned us all." ... The last time the Sox won on an HBP was against the Phillies on June 16, 1997 (Troy O'Leary was hit, also in the 10th inning).

It was a happy ending to a game that was increasingly frustrating in the later innings. In the seventh, Boston got the first two men on. But Kiko Calero came in and struck out Bill Mueller and Graffanino. Damon walked to load the bases, but Renteria grounded out (and is now 1-for-his-last-22). Memo to Tito: Please, please, please replace ER in the #2 spot with Graffanino.)

Then, facing Justin Duchscherer (who ESPN's Rick Sutcliffe referred to as "Duh-sure-sure") in the bottom of the ninth, Trot Nixon, Doug Mirabelli and Mueller all struck out looking. In their last three home games, the Sox are 1-for-24 (.042) with runners in scoring position.

So while all the national and out-of-town announcers say Boston is where they are because of their bats, it's the pitching that has carried the team lately. The club's September ERA is 3.83, well below Cleveland's eye-popping 2.19, but still good for 5th in the AL.

Elsewhere: Wade Miller pitched five one-hit, scoreless innings for Portland (AA) in Game 3 of the Eastern League championship series. He threw 64 pitches and struck out six. Akron went on to win the game 2-0. ... Gabe Kapler left the team yesterday and is scheduled to have surgery on his ruptured Achilles tendon on Tuesday.

Ortiz became the eighth Red Sox player to hit at least 43 home runs in a season.
Jimmie Foxx 50 1938
Jim Rice 46 1978
Carl Yastrzemski 44 1967
Mo Vaughn 44 1996
Ted Williams 43 1949
Tony Armas 43 1984
David Ortiz 43 2005
Ortiz is also closing in on the club record for homers in consecutive seasons. Foxx hit 86 in 1937-38; Ortiz has 84 over the last two years.

Randy Johnson was ejected in the second inning in Toronto for bitching about the home plate umpire's calls. (One annoying thing about the heave-ho: the umpire, Fieldin Culbreth, kept backing away from Johnson while they argued. If Culbreth had stood his ground, Johnson would likely have knocked him over.) David Wells got a six-game suspension for similarly mouthing off. Let's see what Yankee Bob's boys at MLB HQ do with the Big Eunuch.

Arroyo / Haren at 7:00.

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