Yesterday was an upside-down day for the Red Sox that saw the following:
David Ortiz released from Massachusetts General Hospital.
Jon Lester, also at Mass. General, being diagnosed with enlarged lymph nodes.
David Wells being shipped to the San Diego Padres, an indication that a 2006 pennant push is a pipe dream for the Sox.
And, oh yeah, a home date before 36,238 fans against the third-place Blue Jays, a showdown whose outcome -- a 6-4 Boston win -- was irrelevant even before its commencement, although Toronto right fielder Alex Rios turned heads with an unusual play in the seventh inning.
Rios, going back toward the warning track, batted an Alex Cora fly ball off his right hand and into the bleachers for a two-run handball homer that scored the shortstop and Dustin Pedroia and snapped a 4-4 tie. Had Rios not fielded the ball, it would have likely bounced into the seats for a ground-rule double, keeping Pedroia at third and Cora at second.
``We finally got a nice break," third baseman Mike Lowell said of Cora's first long ball in 245 at-bats. ``We need something like that to turn things around."
As expected, the tilt between Boston and Toronto turned out to be an afterthought, as righthanded reliever Julian Tavarez was pressed into starting duty after Wells's locker was cleaned out earlier in the day. Last night, only a framed Buddy Guy print was left in Wells's locker in the corner of the Sox' clubhouse.
Behind Tavarez (3 innings, 3 earned runs, 5 hits, 3 strikeouts, 64 pitches), two infielders (Kevin Youkilis and Eric Hinske) played the outfield corner positions, a banged-up former left fielder (Coco Crisp) manned center, and a rookie (Pedroia) played second base. It's been that kind of stretch for the Sox, losers of six straight heading into last night.
Because of their shocking collapse -- they lost 21 games in August, the most in one month since they dropped 21 games 21 years ago -- general manager Theo Epstein pulled the trigger on Wells for a player to be named. Epstein admitted that as an organization, the Sox didn't want to be in a position to sell off a starting pitcher.
But the move signaled that the future acquisition, expected to be catcher George Kottaras, was a more valuable asset than the month-plus of starts the lefthander would have made in Boston.
``It's not where we expected to be and not where we wanted to be," Epstein said of the club's eight-game deficit to the Yankees in the American League East. ``We're not immune to that kind of month. We played poorly, had a rash of injuries, and we don't get breaks. In short, we don't get the job done. Any team can find itself in this position. This is the reality right now. We're going to work awfully hard to make sure it doesn't happen again."
The trade was one of two the Sox made yesterday, as they also acquired minor league pitcher Kevin Jarvis from the Arizona Diamondbacks for a player to be named. Epstein said there were five teams bidding for Wells, and other clubs made inquiries about other players on the Sox' roster that Epstein declined to name. But given the holes already punched through the regular lineup, Epstein didn't think it was worthwhile to pursue deals other than sending Wells west.
``On this road trip, we didn't get the results we were looking for and the health of the club was further compromised," Epstein said. ``We made an objective assessment of where we were. It doesn't mean that these games aren't important."
While the Wells trade (Lenny DiNardo was activated from the 60-day disabled list to take the roster spot) may be the white flag on the 2006 season, the Sox didn't show any quit on the field last night. Lowell gave Boston a 3-0 lead when he thumped a Roy Halladay pitch over the Green Monster and off the Sports Authority sign in the first inning. Tavarez, who gave up a run in the second inning, saw the Blue Jays tie the game in the third when Lyle Overbay doubled home Frank Catalanotto and Vernon Wells.
But for the first time in recent memory, the marshmallow-tossing bullpen clamped down, allowing only one run over six innings. Bryan Corey relieved Tavarez in the fourth and threw two scoreless innings, striking out Rios, Catalanotto, and Overbay. Manny Delcarmen, who was credited with the win, yielded one run over two innings while striking out two, Mike Timlin pitched two-thirds of an inning and gave up two hits, and Jonathan Papelbon pitched the ninth and earned his 35th save.
``There were a lot of emotions today," said manager Terry Francona, who hasn't had many options in his toolbox because of injuries. ``Saying goodbye to Boomer, seeing guys in the hospital, then coming out and seeing guys play their fannies off. It was very gratifying. To see how much they cared about winning one single game meant a lot to me."
Said Lowell, ``Despite the injuries, whatever we have going on, everyone's giving the same effort. We're still coming to play. We're still going to keep grinding it out."