July 13, 2012; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz (34) reacts as he runs around the bases after he hit a solo home run in the first inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE
The Red Sox are winners in the first game of the second half, and it's not for the reasons you might have expected.
Will Middlebrooks did nothing in his return to the lineup, going 0-for-4. Jacoby Ellsbury managed just a weak ground ball single. The Sox received no real help from their returning players, and saw Adrian Gonzalez scratched late, leaving Mauro Gomez in the cleanup role (for no obvious reason) where he proceeded to strand five batters.
Then again, perhaps the reasons are exactly the ones you'd expect, because they're the same guys who've been performing. The difference today is that the Sox actually left with a win! Progress!
It was David Ortiz who got things started in the first. With two outs and a 3-0 count, Jeremy Hellickson inexplicably chose to try to battle back rather than just giving up the walk. He found the corner with his 3-0 pitch, then challenged Ortiz on 3-1. Ortiz responded by hitting one of the hardest homers he's hit all season, crushing the ball towards the back rows in dead center. 1-0, Sox.
Then in the second it was Pedro Ciriaco coming through yet again in particularly satisfying fashion. Jeremy Hellickson, after all, has a reputation for defying the basic laws of baseball, giving up baserunner after baserunner and a fair few homers without ever being punished for it. Not this time, however. Two walks and an HBP loaded the bases, and Ciriaco made him pay for it with a seeing-eye single--one of three hits he'd manage on the night.
The hit scored two more runs for the Sox, and while they'd score no more, that was enough. Franklin Morales avoided a disaster inning after loading the bases with two outs by striking out Luke Scott on a pair of high fastballs, leaving after five shutout frames. One run would score in the sixth thanks to a Mike Aviles error, but the defense made up for it when Ryan Sweeney made a sliding grab to change a line drive single into the first out of the eighth inning, then fired to third to catch Ben Zobrist--on base with a leadoff double--trying to tag-up.
Wasted opportunities and meltdown innings were exactly what sank the Sox before the break. Today, however, they managed to dance around their issues and take a very important win.
1-0, 17 to go.