What constitutes a routine baseball game? Nine innings? Reasonable scores, something between maybe three and seven runs for each team? No huge performances, no great disasters?
Whatever a routine game is, tonight's--scratch that, Monday night's game between the Red Sox and Rays was not one of them.
For one half inning, it was a light-hearted affair for Red Sox fans, who saw their first eight batters reach base against Alex Cobb in the first. It might seem like this is glossing over a huge inning and a 6-0 lead--not exactly the sort of thing that's relegated to a single sentence--but at this point it seems so long ago, so removed. What happened in the first inning did not decide the game. It simply set the stage.
That stage would play host to a tragedy for the Red Sox. John Lackey's second pitch in the bottom of the inning was a home run to Matt Joyce. From Clay Buchholz, that would've been unfortunate. From Ryan Dempster, it would've been concerning.
For John Lackey, good as he's been this year, that sort of thing is an...omen. It was there to set the tone. This game was not over, and it would not be pleasant. Three batters later, when Evan Longoria clubbed a solo shot of his own, well, we could have seen it coming.
At that point, though, all that was needed from the Red Sox was more runs. Some extra breathing room to help John Lackey out. But, as we'e already covered, this was no routine game. The same Cobb who had taken so long to get one out recorded three in quick succession, and the race to the finish line was on. The only question being how long the Sox could hold off the Rays.
The answer, simply put, would wind up being not long enough. After stranding a pair of baserunners in the second, Lackey surrendered a third run in the third inning, and then a fourth in the fourth. If the fifth was remarkably painless, it just led into a sixth where Lackey had to strand two more baserunners to escape unharmed.
One way or another, Lackey handed the ball off to the bullpen with a 6-4 lead. Still, inevitable is inevitable, and so when Andrew Miller gave up the fifth run to James Loney, and Junichi Tazawa made it an even six-a-side with, of all things, a wild pitch, it wasn't so much surprising as just plane depressing.
If the Red Sox had given away their big early lead, however, they were at least able to hold the tie and send the game to extra innings. And for a while, it looked as though they would only need one. A huge two-out single from Jarrod Satlalamacchia in the top of the inning brought two runs home, and put the pressure on the Rays to respond or lose.
Of course, the Rays responded. Andrew Bailey, coming out on less rest than idea, was wild. He tried to rely on a slider down-and-in that was catching no corners, and a fastball that was putting him behind in the counts every time. The only part of the inning that was not predictable was the magnitude. Andrew Bailey would surrender the lad in a hurry, loading the bases with noboby out and even walking the tying run home. But a huge double play managed to extend Boston's night, ultimately giving them the chance they would need in the fourteenth.
There, after innings from Koji Uehara and Franklin Morales, Shane Victorino led off the frame with a single, then tagged up and advanced to second on a long fly ball into the right field corner from Dustin Pedroia. That allowed the Rays to intentionally walk David Ortiz, but Daniel Nava was there to come through, flaring a hit to center field that brought Victorino home. Jarrod Saltalamacchia once again came through in extras to make it a two-run lead, and Morales finally, mercifully put an end to things in the bottom of the inning.
It was a game which stayed a game about 13 innings longer than it should have. That the Red Sox let it get to that point at all makes it one of the season's worst wins. But after so much awfulness, to walk away with a victory all-the-same, it's hard not to also love it just a little bit.
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