Sox walk off with another win, in 12
They spilled out of the dugout, bleeding into the infield as they had the night before. It was a more subdued celebration, lacking the emotional release, the urgency of the streak-breaking, sanity-saving, Darnell McDonald-crowning pig-pile Tuesday night.
And still, the Red Sox leapt out onto the field last night, crowding around Kevin Youkilis, joyous at moving another step away from their ignominious start to the season.
“I got beat up a little bit,’’ Youkilis said after his double off the Wall in the 12th inning gave the Sox an 8-7 win over Texas. “It’s good. I’d rather get beat up than beat myself up in the dugout after getting out. That’s one of those things that you enjoy and take a couple shots to the ribs, move on to the next day.’’
Though it was Youkilis with the big blow, the win started two at-bats before. With the Rangers bullpen having shut down 18 straight batters, dating to a Josh Reddick walk in the sixth, Marco Scutaro finally broke through with a single to left.
J.D. Drew stepped to the plate. The right fielder already had a grand slam that got the Sox back in the game after an early deficit. This time, he flied to center, though not particularly deep. Scutaro retreated — and then he went.
“I think people would have said that was the worst decision of his career if he got thrown out,’’ Youkilis said. “He didn’t.’’
As manager Terry Francona said, “That’s just good baseball. He did a good job, kept his head up. You go hard. That was just great base running.’’
The shortstop made it, barely scooting in ahead of the throw on a play he called “do or die.’’ He stood up, the breathing having gone back to normal for the 37,518 at Fenway Park. He was in scoring position, and when the Rangers elected to intentionally walk Dustin Pedroia, who was 5 for 11 against reliever Dustin Nippert, Youkilis was next.
“A win is a win,’’ Youkilis said. “Sometimes it’s a little more emotion and a lot better of a game when you walk it off, but we’d rather play nine innings and win by 10. Those will come. We’ll have hopefully a lot of those down the road.
“You’ve just got to go out there and battle. This team is battling right now. We’ve had some injuries, guys aren’t playing up to the top of their game. It’s still so early that there’s time to bounce back and figure things out.’’
Though if this is the way the Sox will win this season, heartrates all around New England might just go haywire. After a five-game losing streak, and a six-game losing streak at Fenway, the Sox have won a modest two in a row. Two nights, two walkoff celebrations.
And it was all the fault of Josh Hamilton or Josh Beckett, take your pick. The Sox led by three entering the seventh, when an error and a walk put two men on base. That was followed by Hamilton’s blast to center field, his first home run of the season, tying the score at seven runs apiece.
“Fastball right down the middle,’’ Beckett said. “I knew as soon as I threw it that it wasn’t going to be a good outcome.’’
It was one pitch that victimized Beckett, after he had recovered from a slow start. He allowed four runs over the first two innings, and walked four in that span. He got out of the second thanks to a nice diving stab by Pedroia, leading to a stretch in which he allowed just two hits over the next four innings, though he needed some help to do that, too.
With Julio Borbon on third base in the fourth, Michael Young hit a ball to center that seemed likely to score a run. But McDonald threw home, with Jason Varitek grabbing the ball on the hop and blocking the plate skillfully enough that Borbon missed the plate and was tagged out.
“Darnell’s throw was solid, close enough where it gave Tek a chance to knock him off the plate,’’ Francona said. “But that’s just hard-nosed, good baseball from Tek. We’ve seen him do it before. He sticks that leg in there, man, it’s hard to get to the plate.’’
Beckett was helped by other teammates. Substitute designated hitter Mike Lowell hit a solo home run in the second off lefthander Matt Harrison. Then, with the Sox down by three runs, the slumping Drew stepped to the plate with the bases loaded in the third.
Having ended 2009 as one of the hottest hitters in the major leagues, Drew certainly hadn’t shown up in Boston with the same thunder in 2010. He entered last night’s game batting .133 and had been moved up in the lineup specifically to help him get more fastballs to hit. It hadn’t exactly produced a change, until he curled one around the Pesky Pole for the grand slam.
He got just enough distance to erase the Rangers’ lead.
“J.D.’s swing got things going in a hurry,’’ Francona said. “He stayed back enough, used his hands, and hit it right where we needed him to hit it. That changed the game in a hurry.’’
The Sox got two more runs on a solo homer by sudden cult figure McDonald and an RBI single by Lowell. Then, nothing. They were shut down by the Texas pen, including some searing fastballs by Neftali Feliz. That is, until Nippert threw that curveball to Youkilis, and the Sox got their win.
“They’re valuable in the win column, they’re valuable any way,’’ Francona said. “That was a tough, grinding win. We’ll take ’em any way we get ’em.’’