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April 30, 2008
BY STEVEN KRASNER
Journal Sports Writer
BOSTON – David Ortiz at second. The game tied in the bottom of the ninth.
For the second night in a row.
On Tuesday night, manager Terry Francona decided not to pinch-run rookie Jed Lowrie for his lumbering designated hitter. The strategy worked out, with Ortiz scoring the game’s only run on a two-out single to center by Kevin Youkilis. Toronto center fielder Vernon Wells bobbled the ball, so Ortiz scored without a throw.
Last night, Ortiz once again found himself at second base in a tie game in the bottom of the ninth.
This time Francona sent in Lowrie to pinch run for him with one out.
The strategy didn’t work out. Brandon Moss grounded a one-out single to center but Lowrie was gunned down at the plate on a strong throw by Wells.
Captain Jason Varitek, though, came through the Sox. He drilled a single to center and Manny Ramirez beat another strong Wells throw home, giving Boston its second straifght walkoff victory over the Blue Jays, this one by a 2-1 score.
So why did Francona pinch run last night for Ortiz, who opened the ninth by ripping a single through the right side of the Toronto shift?
“We needed to do that. We have a lot of trust in him in his baserunning. I don’t have any doubt David can get a good secondary lead and score, (but) we ran for him because you could see him limping out there,” said Francona.
Francona said Ortiz looked into the dugout after reaching base on his single, a signal between the two that means he needs a pinch runner. Francona, though, didn’t want to risk losing him in the lineup in the event Ramirez hit a grounder.
But Ramirez worked a walk, pushing Ortiz to second with none out, so Lowrie was sent in. The runners stayed put as Mike Lowell struck out. Lowrie, however, was not successful in his mission. Catcher Rod Barajas pushed him off the plate with his left leg as Lowrie slid to the outside of the plate and applied the tag.
“He might have gotten a bigger secondary lead,” said Francona of the reason Lowrie didn’t score. “He’s not the fastest guy on the team but he was the one with the freshest legs.”
Francona was unable to use speedy Jacoby Ellsbury off the bench to pinch run because Ellsbury is suffering from a sore groin.
This is supposed to be the year that Manny Delcarmen blossoms into a top-flight setup man, a dominant seventh- or eighth-inning guy who can form an airtight bridge between the starters and the dynamic closing duo of Hideki Okajima and Jonathan Papelbon.
There have been signs that, at the age of 26, Delcarmen has arrived.
Unfortnately, there have been too many, such as last night, when he has been a very shaky “bridge.”
The right-hander, called in to start the eighth inning with the Sox ahead, 1-0, threw only two pitches, a 94 m.p.h. fastball for a called strike and a 93 m.p.h. fastball that Adam Lind ripped into center field for a single.
Francona wasted no time. He lifted Delcarmen and brought in Okajima.
“We were going to leave Manny in until someone got on base,” said Francona. “Unfortunately it was the first batter.”
A frustrated Delcarmen slammed his glove on the bench when he reached the dugout and flung an empty plastic bucket back onto the field, most likely not so much irritated with Francona but with himself.
When Okajima allowed Lind to score, it marked the fourth straight outing in which Delcarmen was charged with at least a run. Delcarmen has pitched in 14 games, and in 7 of them, he has given up at least a run.
He has allowed 7 of 12 inherited runners to score. In his 14 appearances, the leadoff batter has reached base against him 6 times.
Delcarmen’s earned-run average now is 6.17 (8 earned runs, 11 2/3 innings). Over his last four outings he has coughed up 5 earned runs on 5 hits in a total of only 2 innings. Delcarmen has worked in three games against Toronto and has been raked for 5 hits and 3 earned runs in a total of 2 innings, including a grand slam to Frank Thomas on April 6 that tacked on three earned runs to Josh Beckett’s line that day.
Toronto manager John Gibbons sent in Marco Scutaro to pinch run at second base for catcher Gregg Zaun in the eighth inning, presumably not only because he had more speed but also because he knows how to run the bases.
Scutaro, though, made a mental mistake on the bases that likely cost Toronto a chance to go ahead.
When Scutaro entered, the Jays had runners at second and third with none out. Toronto was trailing, 1-0.
Alex Rios laced a shot to right-center, a sacrifice fly at the very least that would push home the tying run. Scutaro should have tagged up, too, even though it looked as if the ball had a chance to fall in front of right fielder Brandon Moss.
Moss made a sliding catch, but because Scutaro had gone halfway, he couldn’t tag up. He was stuck at second base with one out in a 1-1 game instead of perched on third base with one of the game’s best bunters and bat-handlers – David Eckstein – coming up.
Scutaro wanted to be able to score on Rios’ ball. But he was trying to do too much. Even if it had fallen safely and he was only able to advance one base, the Jays would have had runners at first and third with none out and the numbers two, three and four hitters coming to the plate.
The Jays were unable to take Scutaro off the hook for his baserunning blunder. Both Eckstein and Scott Rolen whiffed, leaving it a 1-1 game.
"You've got to be on third base on that ball," said Toronto manager John Gibbons. "No outs. You've got to be. If it drops you cruise into third base, but you've got to be in position to tag."
Gibbons had even less luck with his next pinch runner, John McDonald. The ex-Providence College star, running for Matt Stairs after a leadoff single in a 1-1 game in the ninth, was picked off first by Jonathan Papelbon.
"He got away with a balk move there," said Gibbons of Papelbon.
Ortiz has not had many red-hot days at the plate. He seems to have one good swing a game.
Last night, Ortiz had two. After being robbed of a possible slicing double to left and whiffing in his first two at-bats,
In he seventh, Ortiz got enough of a 2-and-0 changeup to get it into the wind and have it float over the low fence in the right-field corner for a homer that broke a 0-0 deadlock. In the ninth, he ripped a single off the glove of second baseman Aaron Hill, who was playing in shallow right in the hole on the right side of the infield.
“It was nice to hear the ball come off his bat with a crisp sound,” said Francona.
The Blue Jays might want to try their luck hitting the ball to Dustin Pedroia’s left because they sure can’t get anything past him to his right.
Last night, Pedroia took a few steps to his right and made a diving grab of Adam Lind’s liner with one out in the second inning. One night earlier, Pedroia made a sensational diving stop of a hard two-out bouncer in the ninth inning and turned it into a run-saving out in a 0-0 game.
The big difference in the plays? Pedroia’s left shoulder popped out after Tuesday night’s grab and had to be slipped back into place. That didn’t happen on last night’s catch.
Pedroia also made a solid play on a ball hit with crazy spin pretty much right at him in the sixth. Alex Rios hit the ball wide of first base. First baseman Kevin Youkilis started after it, but got caught in no-man’s land because it was Pedroia’s ball and he was too far from the bag to race back to it for Pedroia’s throw.
Matsuzaka, though, hustled over to cover the base, as pitchers are instructed to do on any grounder to the right side.
Pedroia made a confident, perfect throw to the bag, leading Matsuzaka as if it were a quarterback-wide receiver hookup, for the out.
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Posted by Steven Krasner at 11:06 PM | Permalink