|Kevin Youkilis is incredulous after his fifth-inning shot over the Green Monster was ruled foul - twice. He later got some satisfaction when he cranked a three-run blast in the seventh. (Bill Greene/Globe Staff)|
A Sox victory is Green-lighted
Team vaults into first aided by SS
One week before in Seattle, Nick Green stood in front of his locker, his voice shaky, and explained how he had thrown away a potential victory. The Red Sox lost to the Mariners that day after Green's errant throw placed the winning run on second base. The next day, manager Terry Francona spoke with Green.
"You didn't want to throw it away, I didn't want you to throw it away," Francona told him. "Now move on. That's the best way to play."
Baseball often presents opportunities for redemption, and Green seized his yesterday in a 12-5, sweep-preventing victory over the New York Mets. Green stood at his locker, his usual smile returned, and explained how, while making his second consecutive start, he delivered a two-RBI single in the fifth inning that broke the dam on offense.
The Sox finished their homestand with a winning record and boarded their charter to Minnesota for the first leg of a 10-game trip alone in first place for the first time this season. More urgently, their starting shortstop directly contributed to a victory rather than helping create a defeat.
"It's big," Green said. "I had forgot about Seattle. It's good to be able to contribute to a win and do good things for your team."
The Sox scored six runs in the two innings after Green's hit, and a loaded box score made him easy to overlook. There was good: Jacoby Ellsbury extended his hitting streak to a career-best 19 games with a second-inning double; J.D. Drew went 4 for 5; Mike Lowell went 3 for 5 with three RBIs; Kevin Youkilis smashed a game-icing three-run homer.
There was bad: David Ortiz went 0 for 5, dropping his average to .195; staff savior Tim Wakefield earned his sixth win despite allowing five runs on seven hits and three walks in six innings.
There was weird: A near-biblical hail storm in the first inning delayed the game for 36 minutes; Mets reliever Ken Takahashi reared back in the sixth and dropped the ball on the back of the mound before hurling a handful of air; Youkilis had a potential home run called foul on the second replay call ruled against the Sox in two days.
"We saw a lot of things today," Francona said, "that you haven't seen in a while."
Narrow your focus, though, and one moment in the fifth inning, more than any other, decided the game: Runners stood on second and third. There were two outs. The Sox trailed, 5-4. Mets manager Jerry Manuel called for a reliever. Green stood in the on-deck circle.
Green's place in the lineup requires explanation, because little is cut and dry regarding the Sox' shortstop position at the moment. Friday night, Julio Lugo made a flat-footed relay throw that ruined a potential double play, and afterward Francona and other Sox offered that the turn should have been completed.
Green started Saturday night, after Francona intimated he expected Lugo to start yesterday. After the game Saturday night, Francona told Green that, as long as his bruised finger felt OK, he would start at short.
"Go ask Tito," Lugo said when asked about his day off.
"I actually thought Nick played a really good game," Francona said. "That's really kind of what it is. We're trying to play good baseball."
Defensive shortcomings at shortstop influenced two of the Sox' last three losses, and Boston was tied for the major league lead with 12 errors at the position.
Under those circumstances, Green had a chance to change the game yesterday in the fifth. Manuel had summoned Sean Green from bullpen with the outcome in the balance.
In 2007, Nick Green and Sean Green had played together with the Mariners. "I knew he was going to throw a sinker," Nick Green said. "I was just hoping it was up over the plate."
It was. Nick Green swung at the first pitch and laced it the other way into right. Lowell scooted home, and George Kottaras followed. Green circled first and ran for second, ensuring the throw from right would be cut off. "The go-ahead run came in because of that," Lowell said.
The Mets eventually tagged Green out in a rundown, but not before Kottaras slid easily into home and Green had notched "the biggest hit of the game," Lowell said. The Sox entered the inning trailing by two after Wakefield surrendered his fifth run in the top half. They exited up one.
"That was a situation where we could really get down, because things aren't going your way," Green said. "We turned it into a positive."
The Sox piled on the Mets' bullpen from there, adding two runs in the sixth and four in the seventh. Every Red Sox except Ortiz reached base twice and had at least one hit. Kottaras, batting eighth, and Green, batting ninth, combined for five hits and three RBIs.
"There were a lot of people questioning our offense," Youkilis said. "We do have the makeup to have these big games. We have a lot of good offensive players. Getting hits from the guys at the bottom of the order is the key."
Green packed his bag for Minnesota, worries about his mistake last week long forgotten and replaced by a new and better memory.
"It's one of those things, it happens," Green said. "If you dwell on it, you stress yourself and you make life miserable, which it's not. You just have to let it go. Once you get back out there and playing again, it's back to normal."