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War Of Attrition: Crawford, Drew, Aceves Help Sox Outlast A's After 9th Inning Meltdown

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If you want a blow-by-blow recap of this game, I will direct you to my SBN Boston recap. A warning, however: this game was long. 1176 words long.

Here, however, we shall take a more...condensed look at things.

Making a start that would be long forgotten by the time the game was over, Josh Beckett was solid. In fact, he was downright good for the first five innings, holding the A's scoreless while keeping his pitch count down. But he came up wild in the sixth and seventh, allowing two men to come in to score before being pulled for Matt Albers, who allowed another run in Beckett's stead. It was Tommy Hottovy who provided the big double play to end the inning.

The Sox bats had his back in a big way, though, putting up two runs before the sixth, three more after he blew the lead in said inning, and then tacking on two insurance runs in the eighth. The 7-3 lead should have been plenty to get the win, but then came the ninth.

It's hard to say how a ninth inning like today's happens.First, Terry Francona has to decide to bring Jonathan Papelbon into a four-run game despite having used his closer in Friday's match and having a game that is rather unlikely to be a blowout in favor of the Sox tomorrow. He also has to do this presumably knowing that Jonathan Papelbon switches rather rapidly between dominant and terrible depending on whether a save is on the line.

Then Jonathan Papelbon has to actually go out there and be terrible, giving up two singles, a double, and a walk to the Athletics, of all teams, recording just one out along the way.

But even that isn't worth four runs. No. To get to that point, you need to add Dustin Pedroia pulling a Bill Buckner on a ball that could well have provided the game-ending double play.

Just to cap it off, both Jason Varitek and Jonathan Papelbon were ejected for arguing with the umpire. While they didn't have much justification--the pitches were off the plate, albeit in an inconsistently called area--and Tek's ejection was completely justified, what happened with Papelbon was ridiculous. After getting a called strike on the first pitch after giving up the lead, Papelbon seemed to make a comment, and then turned back to the mound. 

Should he have made the comment? Probably not, even though he claims it was to Saltalamacchia. But what happened next was ridiculous. With Papelbon turned and walking back to the mound, home plate umpire Tony Randazzo came onto the field and started shouting at Papelbon, which set the understandably upset closer off. Papelbon came off the mound and, was immediately thrown out, leading to a face-to-face shouting match. Umpires get a lot of abuse from players, sure. A lot of it is earned, some isn't, but that's 100% irrelevant, because in no way is it ever appropriate for them to instigate a confrontation like Randazzo did with Papelbon. 

All-in-all, this was the stuff of nightmares. Tthe Sox did blow it completely, leaving the game tied at 7-7. The next five innings were something of a terrible blur, but there are things to note:

  • Bobby Jenks did a terrific job in relief, striking out three in 1.2 scoreless.
  • After Alfredo Aceves let up a run in the eleventh, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Jacoby Ellsbury provided back-to-back hits with two outs to tie the game.
  • Speaking of Aceves, it's hard to say enough about what he did today. Four innings when he didn't expect to be pitching, even finishing the game with a cut on his throwing hand that left his uniform leg bloody. Schilling's ankle it was not, but a gritty performance none-the-less.
  • The Red Sox received two at-bats each from Drew Sutton and Mike Cameron. The first is slightly understandable, since Sutton came in to pinch-run after a leadoff single in the tenth from Adrian Gonzalez, with the Sox needing just one run to win the whole thing. The second is not, since it was necessitated by Josh Reddick running for David Ortiz back in the eighth. 
Finally, though, things went the Sox' way in the fourteenth inning. With two outs already on the board, Clutch Carl came up to bat, and provided another big hit for the Sox, doubling to left field, and setting up Jed Lowrie with a RISP. Surprisingly enough, though, the Athletics elected to walk Jed, who had been 0-for-6 (albeit with at least one hard-hit ball) in favor of the 1-for-6 J.D. Drew, who had struck out in four straight at bats.

Big mistake.

Drew took pitch number one, and then swung at pitch number two, shooting it into the gap in right, and letting the Sox fans go home happy after one very long game with a 9-8 win and a rather higher blood pressure.

Today was an ugly win, but a much-needed win. We've got Lackey - Anderson tomorrow, but we've already got the series win under wraps today.