When Tim Wakefield is pitching, you never know what's going to happen. He can be cruising, mowing down batters with a dancing knuckleball, and then lose everything - giving up multiple runs in seconds. But on May 7, Tim Wakefield, Man of Mystery,* did not supply the surprises against the Cleveland Indians.
The game started innocently enough. The Red Sox put a quick run on the board when Julio Lugo** led off against lefty Jeremy Sowers with an uncharacteristic triple and scored on Dustin Pedroia's single. Meanwhile, Wake pitched well through the first three innings, but ran into trouble in the fourth and fifth frames. He loaded the bases in the 4th, but squirmed out without allowing a run; unfortunately, his luck didn't last in the 5th, where Cleveland got 2 hits, a passed ball, a hit-by-pitch, a sac fly and a wild pitch. If not for a clutch double play, Wake could have easily been touched for much more than 2 runs.
After the 1st, Sox bats were largely silenced by Sowers, and the bottom of the 5th inning was no different. Wake recovered in the 6th, to preserve the 1-run differential, and the Sox came on to bat. Who better to lead off than our trusty #1 hitter, Julio Lugo? Well, in this case, Lugo was the right man for the job, lining a single through the infield, and Pedroia kept the pressure up by drawing a walk. That put two on for Jason Bay, who promptly doubled to deep left-center, plating Lugo. Tie game. [Click Continue Reading for more]
With Pedroia at 3rd, Bay at 2nd, and no outs, Indians Manager Eric Wedge decided to make a bold move. He instructed the shaken Jeremy Sowers to intentionally walk Mike Lowell, who hits well against lefties. That brought up Rocco Baldelli who
hits well against only hits lefties. With the bases loaded, Rocco lined a single to deep center-left, driving in Pedroia and Bay. 4-2 Sox. Sowers couldn't retire JD Drew, and walked him, and Wedge went to the pen.
On came Kobayashi. (No, not the competitive eater. Not the Star Trek simulation. Both of those probably would have been better options for Cleveland.) Masahide Kobayashi turned a poor inning into one of legend, allowing five straight hits and six runs without recording a single out. And this was against the bottom of the Sox lineup; Jeff Bailey, Nick Green, George Kottaras, the 7, 8 and 9 men, all recorded hits against the righty from Japan. Predictably, the top of the order, Lugo and Pedroia pounded out two more hits. With the Indians down 10-2, men on 1st and 2nd, and Jason Bay on deck, Wedge turned to another reliever, Matt Herges.
Bay greeted the new guy with a hearty 3-run home run to deep right center. Sure, Herges settled down to record the next three outs, but Boston had already put up 12 runs without incurring a single out. Wake went on to win the game, pitching 6 innings of 2-run ball, and the pen pitched well enough to hold the score at 13-3, but it scarcely mattered. The psychological blow of 12 unanswered, unstoppable runs, was too much.
While 2009 may have ended in playoff disaster, it was one heck of a ride to get there. In a disappointing season, gems like the May 7 bash, and Moment #1, shine through the October muck. They remind us of the excitement of baseball, of the promise and potential that rests within each player, from the most talented (Bay, Pedroia) to the least (Lugo and his three hits). Every moment is full of possibility, every player can help hang a crooked number on the scoreboard, and every fan can witness a miracle.
Game Stats on Baseball-Reference.com
* Or, if your name is NG, "Man of Misery."
** BTW, I love Nuthinaboutnuthin's reaction to Lugo's presence in the Sox lineup.