Rangers - 110 003 000 - 5 7 2Joe Girardi got a lot of criticism for not walking Manny Ramirez intentionally back on April 12. Boston, trailing the Yankees 2-1, had runners at second and third with two outs. Instead of walking Manny and pitching to Kevin Youkilis with the bases loaded, he had Mike Mussina go after Ramirez. Manny crushed a first-pitch double to right center for two runs, then Youkilis brought him in with a single off Brian Bruney. Boston won the game 4-3.
Red Sox - 000 000 24x - 6 15 0
I thought Girardi received too much criticism for that move; maybe if Mussina had battled Manny for seven or eight pitches before giving up the hit, the outcry would have been somewhat muted. It might not have been the best percentage move, but you could argue that it made sense on some level, considering how hot Youkilis has been this month.
Now ... Texas manager Ron Washington is another matter.
The Rangers led Boston 5-0 when the Red Sox -- after having left the bases loaded in both the fifth and sixth innings -- grabbed a couple of runs in the seventh. Millwood allowed a lot of baserunners, but the Red Sox failed to cash in, leaving 14 men on base in the game.
In the bottom of the eighth, Wes Littleton retired Kevin Cash on a grounder to shortstop and caught Julio Lugo looking at strike three. Three runs down and four outs to go. As I wrote in comments, the game was "in the crapper"; I expected this game to go into the loss column.
But Jacoby Ellsbury singled to left (he reached base three times today and stole two bases). Then Jed Lowrie ripped a double into the right-field corner. Ellsbury sprinted home and Texas led 5-3. At this point Washington went with his closer, CJ Wilson. With two outs and a man on second, the logical decision -- the only decision -- was to intentionally walk David Ortiz and face clean-up hitter Joe Thurston.
Yes, Thurston. Manny had been tossed in the second inning for arguing a called third strike. Handing Ortiz a free pass would have put the tying run on base, but considering the drop-off in batting talent, that was the correct move to make. (Thurston was 0-for-2 with a HBP.)
Yet Washington let Wilson pitch to Ortiz. Flo missed a couple of pitches and fell behind 1-2. After ball 2, he fouled off two more pitches. Then he hit a grounder to short right field. Ian Kinsler was out there because of the shift, but his throw was late and Papi beat out a single. The Rangers seemed to forget about Lowrie for a moment and he ran home. 5-4!
Dustin Pedroia -- who was not in the starting lineup for the first time this year -- pinch-hit for Thurston. He drilled Wilson's 2-0 pitch into the gap in right-center, deep enough to score Ortiz and tie the game. Josh Hamilton's throw back to the infield was wild and Pedroia took off for third. Blalock tried a sweep tag halfway to third. but he missed and FY belly-flopped into third.
(Even if, after this BBI to Ortiz that never happened, Terry Francona had not let Thurston hit, Washington still should have flashed four fingers. He would have had a 5-3 lead, 2 outs, men on 1st and 2nd, and Pedroia up.)
Now Washington went to the BBI, putting Youkilis on. Drew fouled off three 3-1 pitches before getting ball 4. Bases loaded -- Wilson was clearly rattled, but Washington stuck with his "closer". Behind in the count 1-2, Sean Casey took two very close pitches inside before walking to force in Pedroia with the go-ahead run.
The lead now gone, Washington went to the bullpen and brought in Jamey Wright, who retired Cash on a fielder's choice.
Jonathan Papelbon needed only seven pitches to nail down the victory. Wakefield went eight innings, throwing only 86 pitches (10-12-10 7-7-15 13-12). And of his 86 pitches, only 18 were balls! For Texas, Millwood threw 17 balls to the first nine Sox hitters.
Pitches out of the strike zone, by innings:
Wakefield allowed a home run to Kinsler on his third pitch of the afternoon and Milton Bradley hit a three-run bomb in the sixth, but he gave the pen some much-needed rest and through Washington's stupidity -- and his resilient teammates, of course -- got credit for the win.133 014 33 - 18
Memo to Me: Never Give Up!
Kevin Millwood (2.42, 175 ERA+) / Tim Wakefield (3.18, 140 ERA+)
Sox against Millwood. Ortiz is 6-for-12 with 3 HR; Varitek, Drew and Casey have all hit him well.
Nice ERA for Millwood, but his WHIP is a Lesteresque 1.46: 28 hits and 10 walks in 26 innings.