BOSTON, MA - MAY 26: Jarrod Saltalamacchia #39 of the Boston Red Sox reacts after hitting a home run against the Tampa Bay Rays in the bottom of the ninth inning at Fenway Park on May 26, 2012 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Red Sox beat the Rays 3-2. (Photo by Gail Oskin/Getty Images)
From despondency to joy, Jarrod Saltalamacchia took a frustrating night and turned it into the best win of the year with one big swing of the bat.
After the first six innings, things were looking good for Boston. Josh Beckett had allowed all of one baserunner--a single in the third--as he continued his domination of the Rays. The Sox, meanwhile, had finally broken through against David Price in the bottom of the sixth, with Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz reaching base to start the frame. Dustin Pedroia would get thrown out at home on a great throw by B.J. Upton, but Ortiz would end up scoring on what was either a Will Middlebrooks single or Sean Rodriguez error (it was officially scored a hit) to give Boston the 1-0 lead.
Things went wrong in the seventh, unfortunately, with three ground balls finding holes, and Daniel Nava making an ill-advised throw home on a deep sacrifice fly rather than holding the runner at second, ultimately allowing two runs to score and the Rays to take the lead.
Adrian Gonzalez was even out of the game by that point, having been pinch-run for by Che-Hsuan Lin after picking up the hit that saw Pedroia thrown out at home.
But oh, so much can be forgiven with a win. Daniel Nava worked an excellent at-bat to draw a walk--this game saw a good few long at-bats put on by the Sox--and Jarrod Saltalamacchia, after missing the first fastball he saw, took a huge hack at an inside heater and left it past the bullpen and a few rows deep in right-center. It was the sort of walkoff shot deserving of the somewhat slow trot to first Salty allowed himself, with the celebration starting while the ball was still en route.
The Sox could have been two games back of .500 with their momentum robbed and one of the few feathers in their caps so far--their winning record against the Rays--gone. Instead, even if they still don't have that winning record, they end tonight with one hell of a celebration and a lot of good feelings. This was a big one.