When you manage the Red Sox, most of the time you have a dartboard on your back. You're picked apart, analyzed, dissected. And then sometimes the things you do work out and you have a big hand in your team winning a game.
Such was Terry Francona's night.
Oh sure, the players play. It was pinch hitter David McCarty's 200-foot triple to right in the eighth that allowed the go-ahead runs to score in Boston's 5-3 triumph over the Cleveland Indians. It was Bill Mueller's key double earlier in the inning that scored pinch runner Cesar Crespo to tie it. It was Pedro Martinez, who fanned 11 in seven strong innings, retiring the final 16 batters he faced. And it was David Ortiz, who gave the Red Sox life with a two-out double that started the rally in the eighth.
Maybe the substitutions were no-brainers to some. Maybe taking Martinez out after 115 pitches was a given. But Francona pushed the buttons and his players responded.
That's not to say there wasn't a little good fortune involved. Alan Embree was very thankful for what transpired after he allowed a two-out home run in the top of the eighth by Victor Martinez that gave Cleveland a 3-2 lead.
"Oh yeah," Embree said. "You come into that situation and the guy [Martinez] has pitched a great game and you don't want to mess it up. It's great that we have the lineup we do and that we have a closer like Keith Foulke who can come in and hold the fort like that. I just made a mistake on that one pitch, and I'm glad we didn't pay for it in the end."
Foulke had gotten in an inning Monday, but last night's save, his seventh of the season, was his first since last Thursday. He retired the side in order in the ninth, with two strikeouts, to preserve the win for Embree.
He has been throwing on the side, and has felt strong.
"My job is to throw strikes and get the outs as quickly as I can," Foulke said. "That's what's important for the team."
In the eighth, with runners on first and third after Mueller's double and Gabe Kapler's infield hit, Pokey Reese was due up. With righthander Jose Jimenez on the mound, the lefthanded-hitting Brian Daubach was announced to pinch hit. That prompted Indians manager Eric Wedge to bring in lefty Scott Stewart, and Francona countered with the righthanded McCarty.
McCarty said he's learned how to come off the bench and perform, something he had trouble with earlier in his career.
"The situation was we had a guy on third, so we don't need a home run," said McCarty. "It was a good pitch to hit, low, and I got a good swing and hit it down there. That's a tricky place and it's worked out well for us this season."
"Part of the reason we won tonight," Francona said, "is the respect they have for Daubach. Those things come into play. Having a guy who can make the opposing team change helps. Being able to move Crespo all around the field lets us do some things."
Ortiz was certainly the hottest Sox hitter. In addition to his double that started things in the eighth, he belted a long home run into the bleachers in the fourth inning and singled to left in the sixth.
"I don't think I can hit a ball any harder than [the home run]," said Ortiz, who was dropped to sixth in the order against C.C. Sabathia, who matched Martinez fairly well, also pitching seven innings. Ortiz went the other way on his final two hits. Smart hitting.
Martinez had to deal with a callus that cropped up on his throwing hand in the second inning, but he was unhittable after that. He allowed two runs in the first, similar to his last outing in Cleveland five days earlier, also against Sabathia in a 5-2 Sox win. He knew, because of his high strikeout total, he was also amassing a lot of pitches.
"I was aware," he said. "I took a peek back at the scoreboard and saw 60-something pitches. I was hoping they'd continue to swing at pitches and not try to get ahead in the count and they did that."
While there was a smattering of boos when he was announced before the game, Martinez walked off to a boisterous ovation of which he was appreciative.
"I love when they give me support," he said. "When things go wrong I don't blame them for booing or doing whatever they have to do. I respect that because they are there every day to back you up."
Who knows what might have happened had Francona opted for one more inning out of Martinez?
Sometimes the moves you don't make are rewarded. Last night, Francona didn't miss on many.