Less than 24 hours after the Baltimore Orioles had completed the greatest comeback in the history of their franchise at the hands of the Red Sox, coming from 10 runs behind using just their final six outs, Boston got themselves a little redemption in a similar fashion.
Just one game prior to the events that led to OTM's #8 moment of 2009, the Orioles staged a 10-run comeback stunning the visiting Red Sox at Camden Yards, leaving closer Jonathan Papelbon still searching that elusive save that would leave him alone atop the franchise's list of career saves leaders.
Watching this game, I remember for a short-period of time almost rooting for the Orioles as they closed the once insurmountable gap, impatient and excited about the opportunity to see Papelbon become the Red Sox's all-time saves leader. After the game, I felt guilty, regretful, and somewhat responsible for what had transpired. Needless to say, the game for which this article is based on was a relief for not only Papelbon and the rest of the Red Sox, but myself as well.
The Red Sox had to enter the game with a little bit of a hangover-effect, and despite having their ace Josh Beckett slated to start, the first inning seemed to be a continuation of the last few innings from the nightmare that occurred the night before. After the Sox left Dustin Pedroia stranded in the top half, lead-off man Brian Roberts did his job by drawing a walk and advancing into scoring position via a theft of second base, ultimately scoring on a Felix Pie RBI-single. 1-0 Orioles after one (sigh, I thought we were playing Baltimore?).
Inning number two was accompanied by more anguish, in both halves of the frame. In the top, the Red Sox were again victimized by a struggling offense and added another zero to the scoreboard. Luke Scott wasted no time in adding to the lead starting off the bottom of the second, blasting the first pitch that he was offered from Josh Beckett over the center field wall to make it 2-0 in favor of Baltimore.
Boston would finally get on the board in the third, albiet adding just one run, only to continue the trend that was evident to this point. 'Anything you can do, we can do better,' seemed to be the home club's motto in the beginning of this particular contest. And that they did scoring two runs in response to Boston's one by way of a Nick Markakis 2-RBI double. 4-1 now, Orioles continuing their domination.
Baltimore would add yet another run in the following inning, making it four straight frames in which Beckett surrendered at least one run, and bringing the two teams to the 5-1 score that would remain until the 9th.
The top of the ninth began with the Orioles' decision to remove Bergesen (8 inngings, 1 run, 6 strikeouts, 0 walks, and only two base-runners advancing past first base) in favor of reliever Jim Johnson. This is where everything started to go wrong, or right depending on where your allegiance lies in relation to these two teams.
Johnson proceded to walk Dustin Pedroia, serve up a 2-1 fastball that Kevin Youkilis sent into the seats, then take a walk to the dugout giving way to George Sherrill. Sherrill started off in a positive way, striking out David Ortizfor the first out, but that's about where his success ended in this outing. Ellsbury singled with one out, Bailey and Varitek both drew walks, and with the bases loaded pinch-hitter Rocco Baldelli plated two with a single knotting the score up at 5-5. After walking Drew, Johnson exited much to the appreciation of Orioles fan everywhere, and new pitcher Danny Baez got Pedroia to foul out ending the inning.
After a rather uneventful following inning and a half, the Red Sox offense struck again in the 11th. Ellsbury led off the inning with a double, subsequently moving to third on a Bailey sacrifice fly. In steps defensive wiz and always potent offensive threat Julio Lugo. Sure, maybe a little too much credit awarded in the previous sentence (or a lot depending on how strong your grip on reality is), but during this particular at-bat you wouldn't know it. Lugo shocked the world, mainly the fans who watched him play with the Red Sox on a regular basis, by coming through with what would eventually become the game-winning RBI single.
Lugo's hit in the top half of the inning set the stage for Papelbon's most notable save to this point in his career, number 133, surpassing former Red Sox saves leader Bob Stanley.
Papelbon and the rest of the relievers involved in this game were the biggest reason that Boston was able to come back and get the victory (sorry, Julio). After Beckett turned in a sub-par outing, the first four frames in particular, Red Sox's pitchers retired the game's final 24 hitters to give the offense a chance to complete the epic comeback.
All-in-all, this game was memorable for several reasons. One, Boston completed an impressive come from behind victory, made even more notable by the previous night's events. Also, the 24 straight retired by the Boston pitching staff to end the game was astonishing to watch. But most of all, this game's significance lies with Jonathan Papelbon and his place in the Red Sox's record books.