Sox show some fight
Brawl spices up win over Detroit
It took a benches-clearing brawl and the ejection of Kevin Youkilis to get Mike Lowell into the game, but what a welcome tradeoff for the Red Sox in a 7-5 win over Detroit last night at Fenway Park.
Lowell has been spending more time on the bench lately after the team acquired Victor Martinez from the Indians in a trade deadline deal. Lowell has played in 17 of 23 games after returning from the disabled list July 17. While the classy third baseman, who has been red-hot since his return, loves to play, he keeps his mouth shut and makes the best of what he calls an “awkward situation.’’
Last night he belted two home runs after entering the game in the second inning following Youkilis’s ejection. Youkilis charged the mound after Rick Porcello hit him in the back with a fastball. After the benches emptied and Youkilis, who threw his helmet at Porcello before tackling him, got thrown out, Lowell entered as a pinch runner. The gimpy Lowell joked that pinch running could become his specialty. But right now his job is to hit home runs and because he still can do it, the Red Sox are still 5 1/2 games behind the Yankees, who beat Toronto last night.
“It was pretty crazy,’’ Lowell said of the events that led up to him entering the game. “Emotions were running high. It feels great to be able to get ready and get into a game like that and do something to help win a game. The situation I’m in is both unique and weird. I’m trying to get myself ready.’’
With Porcello gone, Detroit manager Jim Leyland had no choice but to go with reliever Chris Lambert, who promptly allowed a single to David Ortiz and a homer to Jason Bay, wiping out Detroit’s 3-0 lead. Lowell homered over the Green Monster in the third to give Boston its first lead, 4-3, and then blasted a two-run Monster shot in the fifth to extend the lead to 6-3.
Lowell became the first Red Sox to come off the bench to hit two homers in a game since Joe Foy on June 9, 1967. While Lowell has been the good soldier during his recent time on the bench, it’s evident he’d prefer to play every day, an impossibility because of Boston’s excess of corner infielders.
Terry Francona, who was ejected in the second for arguing another call, said of Lowell, “I do think it shows a lot of professionalism. That’s not an easy thing to and he comes in and directly impacts the game twice. I think he would like to play more, I completely understand that. I would hope his hip feels better as he doesn’t grind on it as much, but I don’t think we need to take credit for him being a good hitter. He’s been that for a while.’’
The ill-will between the teams seemed to resonate from Monday night when Brad Penny hit Tiger star Miguel Cabrera with a pitch and Edwin Jackson, a veteran of the old Tampa Bay-Boston wars, retaliated by striking Youkilis with a pitch.
The Red Sox have been a frustrated team lately, with Ramon Ramirez getting thrown out of Saturday’s loss in New York for throwing at Alex Rodriguez.
Last night Cabrera was hit by Junichi Tazawa and eventually had to come out of the game with a left hand contusion. Porcello came inside on Martinez, who stared him down before striking out to end the first. In the bottom of the second, Porcello took aim at Youkilis and hit him.
“No way we were trying to hit Cabrera,’’ said Martinez. “That’s what they have to understand.’’
Porcello hit the ground fairly hard and was fortunate not to injure his shoulder. “There was no intention on my part to hit Kevin Youkilis,’’ Porcello claimed.
Both benches emptied and after the pushing and shoving ended, Leyland and Francona had a chat and smiled. When the dust cleared, the Red Sox got the better of the deal. Porcello and Cabrera were gone but the Sox got to replace Youkilis with Lowell.
The brawl got the Sox back in the game. Asked whether Youkilis’s action spurred the team, Lowell said, “Sure.’’
Tazawa, making his first major league start, allowed three runs in the first inning. It was not all his doing. Shortstop Nick Green was charged with an error on a bad throw to second on a potential double-play grounder that would have gotten Tazawa out of the inning.
“I think if we had turned the double play, Tazawa would have pitched longer,’’ Lowell said. “I think he really pitched well after that and he could have kept his pitch count lower and pitched deeper into the game if we turn that.’’
Tazawa allowed consecutive singles to Placido Polanco and Clete Thomas before hitting Cabrera on an 0-2 pitch to load the bases. That’s when Carlos Guillen’s grounder befuddled Green, scoring the first Tiger run. The Tigers got another on Magglio Ordonez’s fielder’s choice, and after Alex Avila walked, Brandon Inge stroked a single to left field, driving in the third run.
Tazawa settled in after that threw four scoreless innings. The first inning did a number on his pitch count and he left after throwing 98. He struck out six and walked two, allowing four hits in what turned out to be an impressive outing for the 22-year-old righthander.
“I think I’m going to get better slowly over time,’’ said Tazawa through an interpreter. “It’s a process and I’m in the middle of that process.’’
Same for Lowell, who’s processing how to handle no longer playing every day. So far, he’s handling it with exceptional results.