Everyone give a nice warm welcome back to the Boston Red Sox. Because this is the team we've been waiting for since April began.
Oh, this is far from a perfect team; not everything was good tonight, no. Daisuke Matsuzaka was particularly awful. One could be forgiven, really, for spending the first five innings considering the symbolic significance of the line drive that caught him hard in the stomach after his first pitch of the game. It resulted in a base hit, but more than that, it seemed to represent the punch in the gut coming to Red Sox fans forced to watch their .500 record ripped violently away one day after they had finally reached it. When he was pulled in the fifth having allowed five runs on seven walks, anyone predicting otherwise was as foolish as they were correct.
So what happened? Down 6-0 (Atchison gave up a run in the sixth), and facing Michael Gonzalez, the Red Sox woke up, and really, it seemed like it was meant to be. A single from J.D. Drew and a double from Jed Lowrie are normal enough, but when Mark Reynolds failed to handle a weak roller to third from Carl Crawford and Jason Varitek followed it up with a single? Now we're talking destiny.
Of course, when Jacoby Ellsbury's line drive failed to find the ground and Dustin Pedroia flew out to center, that destiny may have come into question. But Adrian Gonzalez managed to keep the inning alive with a single cued off the end of the bat to left, giving Kevin Youkilis a chance to play the hero. He followed through, bouncing a ball off the Monster to score both Varitek and Gonzalez, bringing the Sox to within one run at 6-5 after six innings.
Things again got dicey when Alfredo Aceves allowed a homer to Mark Reynolds on the second pitch he threw, but Jed Lowrie got the Sox right back in it by leading off the next inning with a triple, and Aceves held the O's in check for the rest of the game.
Kevin Gregg took the mound in the ninth, and quickly got a long fly out from Jason Varitek. The Orioles were two outs away from escaping with the win, but they would get no closer. Jacoby Ellsbury provided the tying baserunner by taking a five-pitch walk and Dustin Pedroia reached first as the go-ahead run after a nine-pitch war against Greggs ended on a ball in the dirt.
Now, if there's one thing we've learned about Adrian Gonzalez, it's that you probably shouldn't give him any low-and-away strikes. Apparently, Gregg did not get the memo. With 17 pitches already on his arm, Gregg turned to a backdoor slider looking for strike one. Instead, he found Gonzalez' effortless opposite-field swing waiting for him. Trotting to second, Gonzalez watched the ball strike high off the wall, and then raised his hands in victory as Dustin Pedroia raced home well ahead of the throw to complete the comeback win, 8-7.