Things picked up after takedown
Bill Belichick would have loved it.
Kevin Youkilis took a first-pitch fastball in the back, hesitated for a split second, then made a bull rush for 20-year-old Tiger pitcher Rick Porcello. The kid righty was backpedaling when a sprinting Youk flung his helmet at him, then wrapped him up and wrestled him to the ground like a baby calf.
Go Time. Now we know who can take the place of Mike Vrabel.
“At some point you’ve got to protect yourself,’’ said a somewhat chagrined Youkilis. “ . . . I let my emotions get the best of me.’’
The Red Sox were kick-started by Youk’s five-star nutty. Trailing, 3-0, when Youkilis got plunked, they rallied to beat the Tigers, 7-5. But a price will be paid. Sometime soon, the Sox are going to lose Youkilis for a while.
“He’ll be suspended, I’m sure,’’ general manager Theo Epstein acknowledged in the clubhouse after midnight. “He was thrown at. He’s been thrown at a lot. Hopefully, they [Major League Baseball suspension czar Bob Watson] will take all the factors into consideration. Hopefully it will be for a short period and our depth will pull us through.’’
The depth was there last night. Mike Lowell, the man who replaced Youkilis, wound up hitting a pair of home runs.
We’ve been waiting for something like this to happen. There was beanball tension over the weekend in New York. Dustin Pedroia got hit in the first game of the New York massacre and Ramon Ramirez was ejected Saturday for hitting Alex Rodriguez. Yankee manager Joe Girardi said, “We expected something to happen and I think it happened.’’
Back home Monday night, with temperatures rising, there were three hit batsmen in the first game of the Tigers series. Brad Penny and Ramirez each hit a Tiger and Youkilis was plunked by Edwin Jackson.
It continued last night when Sox rookie Junichi Tazawa hit Miguel Cabrera while giving up three runs in the first. Porcello came close to hitting Victor Martinez in the bottom of the inning. When Porcello drilled Youk to start the second (he’d hit only one batter in 20 starts), it was Game On. Youkilis has been hit 10 times this year and decided he’d taken enough.
“In the first inning there was a ball up on Victor,’’ said Youkilis. “Then I got a ball up and in on the numbers. Up high. It looked like there was intent there. Two days in a row, I get hit. It’s something I’ve never done before and never thought of doing. I lost my control there . . . I felt like I had to do what I had to do.’’
“I definitely regret it,’’ he said. “It’s on TV and kids see it . . . It just happened so fast. You don’t realize what you’re doing. I guess they’re saying it got the team going, but hopefully I’ll never have to get a team going like that. Hopefully, it’s the last time it will happen.
“I don’t think there’s any plan when that happens. It’s just reaction. If I was an ultimate fighter, I think I’d have a plan.’’
“I know that’s going to happen,’’ he said.
Porcello would not take any questions on the episode, issuing a statement which read in part, “I was not intentionally throwing at Kevin Youkilis. That’s all I have to say. It was unintentional.’’
There was some interesting activity on the diamond in the moments after the brawl broke up. Sox manager Terry Francona and Tigers skipper Jim Leyland engaged in a face-to-face meeting for several moments. These two have been a mutual admiration society since working together on the American League side at the All-Star Game. Sox pitching coach John Farrell also got into it with Leyland for a few seconds.
Neither manager cared to discuss the fracas. When Leyland was asked about it, he said, “Next question.’’
Former Boston College righty Chris Lambert (also a 2002 veteran of the annual Oldtime Baseball Game which will be held tomorrow night at St. Peter’s Field in Cambridge) came on, surrendered a single, then a three-run homer to Jason Bay and it was suddenly 3-3. One inning later Lowell homered to give the Sox a 4-3 lead.
Lowell homered again in the fifth, becoming the first Sox batter to come off the bench and hit two homers since Joe Foy did it after pinch hitting for Jim Lonborg in June of 1967.
The prime beneficiary of all this activity was 23-year-old Tazawa, making his first big league start.
One year ago, Tazawa was pitching for Nippon Oil in Japan’s 32-team Intercity Baseball Tournament. I’m pretty sure that’s something like pitching for the Hosmer Chiefs of the Intercity League or maybe Mass. Envelope in the old days the Boston Park League.
Tazawa was no Daisuke Matsuzaka back home. He was a member of a Yokohama high school team that played in the prestigious (think NCAA basketball) Koshien Tournament, but he never actually got into a game.
It’s hard to believe Tazawa would have been throwing at any Tigers last night. Hurt by a Nick Green error, he struggled mightily, throwing 35 pitches in the three-run first.
He settled down after the brawl. He struck out five of six batters at one juncture and finished his night by retiring the Tigers in order in the fifth.
It was good enough for his first big league win.
Thanks in large part to the Mad Dash of the Greek God of Walks.
Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.