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Top Moments '10: No. 6 - Darnell's Debut

Box Score (courtesy of ESPN) OTM Recap (courtesy of The Artist Formerly Known as USG)

Some of the greatest moments in sports are the ones you least expect.  You can look at these moments as shining jewels in an otherwise regrettable and forgettable season like 2010.  One of them happened on April 20, 2010, when Darnell MacDonald almost singlehandedly snatched victory from the jaws of impending defeat.

The game before Darnell's apppearance was in some ways a microcosm of the failings of the entire 2010 season: horrible pitching and lackluster defense.*  But in this game, at least, the team's strength all year - offense - carried them through to the end. And Darnell McDonald was at the head of the pack in timely-run production on that night in April.

A minor-league journeyman on the wrong side of 30, nobody thought Darnell McDonald would accomplish anything when he was called up from Pawtucket. He was a Crash Davis with tattoos, just there to kill time until the outfield was healthy (as it was, he stayed with the team the rest of the season). In his 140+ major league at-bats prior to that night, he hadn't shown any real promise, and his power was almost non-existent, with just two homers.

So when McDonald took the field in the 8th with the Sox down 6-4, pinch-hitting for prospect Josh Reddick with Tek on second, nobody expected much. McDonald's out-of-the-blue 2-run homer blew away all those not-so great expectations.  Suddenly, a lost-cause game was tied and the Sox were positioned to win, with Papelbon pitching a solid 9th inning.

But Darnell was not done. In the bottom of the 9th, with the bases loaded and two outs, McDonald launched a Frank Francisco pitch off the base of the monster for the game winning RBI. In the process, he became the first Red Sox to hit a game-winning RBI in his debut (per Elias Sports Bureau as quoted in the Globe).

When Darnell's heroics continued the next game, with another critical homer and a laser throw to tag a runner at the plate. At the time, it seemed that a legendary figure had appeared.  Unfortunately, McDonard couldn't maintain that torrid pace all season. Nevertheless, he still produced a decent showing for someone who had done almost nothing of interest to that point: a 103 OPS+ and 0.8 WAR (good for $3.3 million).

This illustrates one of the beauties of baseball: on any given night, any player, no matter how unsung or underrated, can be a hero.  So in this bitter winter, as you savor the pricy new acquisitions that Theo is making, remember that at some point in 2011, the hero will not be Adrian Gonzalez or Carl Crawford, but someone completely unexpected, unheralded, and unknown.  Someone like Darnell McDonald was on April 20.

* In the context of current concerns about catching, it was amusing to reread Ben's commentary in the postgame about the late Victor Martinez: "The fact that the Red Sox ended up winning the game should not obscure the fact that Victor Martinez simply cannot catch. Something needs to be done behind the plate." And Something was