That's a wrap
Green's homer pushes Sox to the finish
As Nick Green pulled around second base, the baseball having tucked itself into the right-field corner behind the Pesky Pole, he noticed a commotion at the plate. Amid the mist and fog and wind that turned a Sunday in June into a day ripped from March, the player doing his best to excise the interim tag from his position had lofted the first pitch he saw from Jeff Bennett into the elements.
He didn’t know that it had the means to get out, at least not off the bat. But the wind was drawing it deeper, the fly ball yielding to Fenway Park’s quirky dimensions and lifting the crowd of 37,243 in celebration.
It took until second base, when Green saw his teammates gathering at home plate, for the shortstop to fully understand what he had done.
“To be honest with you, I didn’t realize what was going on,’’ Green said. “I didn’t even comprehend the fact that I had swung at the first pitch and it was a walkoff. I just knew that we still had to hit. When I hit second base, everybody’s standing at home plate, then I realized what was going on.
“The last thing I really wanted to do was hit the ball in the air right there because the wind was so bad. I thought I hit it decent to right field, but I thought it was going to be an out because the wind was so bad. Fortunately it was blowing to the right. Blew it right where it needed to go.’’
Manager Terry Francona was equally confused - the home dugout is about the worst place in the park to see home runs in the right-field corner. He had spent the previous minutes wondering whether George Kottaras would be able to bunt Green to second base.
“Leaves Greenie’s bat, and then it gets out there and you can’t see it,’’ Francona said. “Just waiting for a reaction. I mean, I enjoyed it. Didn’t see it.’’
He didn’t need to worry. Green’s homer gave the Red Sox a 6-5 win on Father’s Day, a good way to end a homestand and head into an offday.
“It was kind of like old Candlestick [Park], where the fog rolls in and you’ve got mist in the air. Winds howling and blowing the ball all different directions,’’ J.D. Drew said. “An interesting day, to say the least. But in that last inning there where Greenie hits the home run, I think it may have actually helped. He hits the ball down the right-field line and it pushes it just enough where it hits the pole in the shortest part of the park and gives us the big win.’’
For a while, it looked iffy. Both teams had started off shaky in the first - with Tim Wakefield giving up two runs, and Jair Jurrjens giving up three - and the Sox held a two-run lead before Wakefield faltered again in the seventh.
“The conditions, it’s hard to figure out some nights if the conditions are in Wake’s favor or not,’’ Francona said. “I think when the wind’s blowing like that, you’ve got to figure that knuckleball’s going to be all over the place. At the same time, it’s such a touch-and-feel pitch. But he threw strikes.’’
His outing was bolstered by another good sign from David Ortiz. On an afternoon where a squared-up ball mostly resulted in a fly ball to the outfield, Ortiz crushed a Jurrjens pitch in the first inning into the Monster seats.
Two batters prior, Jurrjens botched a comebacker, allowing Kevin Youkilis to reach. After Jason Bay’s sacrifice fly brought home Dustin Pedroia (leadoff double), Ortiz launched his sixth homer of the season, all in the last 33 days.
“For David to do what he did, that’s dead against the traffic,’’ Francona said. “I didn’t think you’d see a ball leave the ballpark today.’’
Wakefield started unraveling in the seventh. Garret Anderson singled to right, Martin Prado singled to left. With two outs, Gregor Blanco singled home a run, and that was it for Wakefield. Ramon Ramírez came on, and Nate McLouth tied it at 4 with a single to right.
The Sox came back in the seventh as Kottaras (double) and Drew (single) combined for a run, stirring in some controversy.
It appeared Drew might have been given an extra strike by plate umpire Bill Hohn. As Braves manager Bobby Cox said, “It was a ball that was right down the middle for strike three, it was obvious . . . it cost us the ballgame.’’
Reliever Eric O’Flaherty was ejected, and so were Cox and Chipper Jones, who continued the argument with Hohn up the third base line. Drew said he thought the controversial pitch was “down a little bit.’’
The Sox’ lead didn’t last long, though, as Jones’s replacement in the lineup, Kelly Johnson, doubled to open the eighth. Johnson came home on an Anderson single to right, but the Braves stranded two. In the ninth, the Braves loaded the bases against Jonathan Papelbon, but Papelbon wiggled out of the jam by getting Matt Diaz to strike out on a pitch that was very high and outside.
Then, in the bottom of the ninth, came Green.
“It’s gotten to the point where he’s just been a really good player,’’ Francona said. “It’s not been a really good nonroster player. It’s been a really good major league player. Hopefully on a winning team.’’