Martinez comes off bench to deliver a win for Red Sox
Given how Victor Martinez has reacted in the past - the pleas, the text messages - Red Sox manager Terry Francona knew he shouldn’t even take the chance. So, after alerting Martinez that he wasn’t going to be in the lineup for last night’s game against the Orioles, Francona added a message.
“I told him I wasn’t going to answer my phone,’’ Francona said. “I said, don’t even try.’’
That was how Martinez came to be sitting in the dugout in the seventh inning, as his teammates loaded the bases with one out, with the Sox in dire need of runs in a tie game. No need to worry. This is where Martinez shines.
It didn’t take long, either. Martinez went up there looking to hack, and hack he did. The pinch hitter blasted a pitch by Danys Baez to left-center field for a double, clearing the bases, and leading the Sox a 7-5 win at Fenway Park.
“Mikey Lowell walked on four straight pitches,’’ Martinez said. “I told myself that he’s going to try to throw a strike right here. Just look for the good pitch to hit. Don’t try to do too much. Just put a good swing on the ball. That’s what I did. When you put a good swing on the ball, anything can happen.’’
Martinez improved to 11 for 27 (.407) in his career as a pinch hitter, and 6 for 12 this season with the bases loaded with 15 RBIs.
“Pinch hitting is not for everybody,’’ Jason Bay said. “I was once told by someone who pinch hit quite a bit, just said there’s no working the count as a pinch hitter. You’ve got to be ready to hit right from the get-go. You’ve got to hit that first pitch because it might be the only one you get. For him to do that, to come in in that situation, boom, and hit a ball to the opposite field, I think just the type of hitter he is. It’s definitely not easy, I can tell you that.’’
With the Sox putting up two first-inning runs, it appeared this game might go the way of Tuesday’s, a lopsided Sox win. But the Orioles cut their deficit in half in the second.
With Paul Byrd having gone five innings and allowed two runs, the Sox went to Manny Delcarmen with a 3-2 lead in the sixth. It didn’t go well. After a Wall single and an error on Delcarmen, Cesar Izturis added a single to load the bases. That came on a bizarre play as Alex Gonzalez picked up a grounder at shortstop and went tearing after Matt Wieters advancing from second to third. Gonzalez was too late, and the bases were loaded for Brian Roberts. Delcarmen then walked Roberts to tie the game at 3-3, earning boos from the crowd of 37,712.
The reliever was relieved of his post, giving way to Ramon Ramirez, who promptly allowed Felix Pie to untie the score. Pie singled up the middle, bringing home Ty Wigginton. But that was it, as Ramirez struck out Nolan Reimold looking, then got Nick Markakis swinging on a 96-mile-per-hour fastball to end the inning.
The Sox came back to tie it, 4-4, in the bottom of the sixth, as Dustin Pedroia singled off pitcher Matt Albers to bring in Joey Gathright, who was pinch running for Jason Varitek (single).
And then came the seventh, and Martinez’s clutch double.
“When you’re in the race, it’s always interesting,’’ Martinez said. “Every game means something, every play means something. When you’re going to the ballpark and you know you’re really playing for something, it’s great.’’
The win was crucial, and not just because every win is crucial in a close wild-card race in September. The Rangers already had beaten up on the Indians, a fact the Sox knew before they stepped on the field. They would have to win to keep their lead at two games.
“It makes it a little bit different,’’ Bay said. “You try to take care of your own business, but having known before the game even started that the team’s already won, I think everybody in here was very aware of that.
“It was a huge win for us. It was a game we were up early, it looked like it may get away from us at one point, and we come back, get that hit. Especially with Texas winning and us knowing it, there were a lot of factors that made that a big win for us.’’