I would like to think that the seventh-inning stretch of tonight's game was the low point of the 2006 season.
Tim Wakefield had exited after four innings with a "strained upper back", the lowly Royals had gotten every conceivable break on batted balls, using bloops, squibs and bleeders (along with some walks and two HBP) to take a 4-0 lead.
On the other side of the scoresheet, the Red Sox either looked like Little Leaguers at the plate (Lowell's strikeout in the second and myriad other swings by just about everyone else) or hit anything hard right at an opposing fielder (Nixon's hard grounder to first in the 2nd, his line drive at Hudson to end the 4th, and his long drive to deep center in the 7th; Ortiz's line drive to second which ended the 6th when Loretta was doubled off first).
Elsewhere, Toronto had scored nine times in the 4th inning against Texas and the Yankees led Seattle 4-2 and were poised to move into first place in the East.
In the Red Sox 7th, Manny Ramirez led off with a hard single off the Wall. Nixon's drive was caught against the wall in center, but Lowell and Coco Crisp each singled and Boston had scored a run. Luke Hudson was relieved by Joel Peralta.
Doug Mirabelli took a 3-1 pitch outside, which should have loaded the bases for the Sox. But home plate umpire Jim Joyce called it a strike and Mirabelli, who had taken about three steps towards first base, had to come back. Peralta's 3-2 pitch was a fastball and the SWHB drilled it into the Monster Seats in left-center for a game-tying home run. Thanks, ump!
Belli: "I was starting to walk to first base thinking it was ball four. I took a second to regroup and in that situation you're trying to get a pitch, get a strike. Coming from 3-1 and now I'm 3-2, I had no idea what he's going to throw there at that time. I just sold out on the fastball and was fortunate."
Two singles from Loretta and David Ortiz to start the 8th inning put runners at first and third and Ramirez's sacrifice fly to left scored pinch-runner Willie Harris with the go-ahead run. (Also: Ortiz stole second when Nixon struck out. On the replay we saw that Flo had nearly stopped halfway to the bag, then turned it on again and still beat the high throw. Manny and Kevin Youkilis were going nuts in the dugout, pointing, waving and laughing. Standing at second base, Ortiz tried to hide his giggles.)
The bullpen had to work overtime tonight and the combined line of Delcarmen, Hansen, Timlin and the Papelbot was solid: 5-3-1-0-2.
Perfect example of the worthless strike zone judgment of MLB umpires: Delcarmen's 0-2 pitch to Matt Stairs in the 5th: at the belt, right over the heart of the plate. Ball 1. (Too high, I guess.) Next pitch, again at the belt, but a little bit outside, could have caught the corner. Ball 2. ... So while Bud Selig blathers about the sanctity of the All-Star Game, his umpires can't be bothered to (a) know what the fucking rule book strike zone is and (b) enforce it.
late rally > no rally
Luke Hudson (5.79) / Tim Wakefield (4.05), 7 PM
In Hudson's first start of the year, on July 7 against Toronto, he pitched five innings, allowing one run and two hits.