Few things are more embarrassing than premature exhilaration. That's what the Red Sox were guilty of last night at the Fens when they came storming out of their dugout to celebrate another apparent walkoff win, only to have plate umpire Sam Holbrook stop them short when he signaled that Jed Lowrie was out at home, the left leg of Toronto catcher Rod Barajas blocking Lowrie from his destination in the bottom of the ninth.
Instead of being in the vortex of a swirling bunch of delirious teammates, Lowrie was staring at a monitor in the runway behind the Sox dugout, watching a replay of the throw from Blue Jays center fielder Vernon Wells that deprived Brandon Moss of a game-winning hit.
"I got done with my clip, and on live TV [Jason] Varitek was hitting the ball," the Sox rookie said.
Not quite deja vu all over again. This time, on Varitek's hit to center, Manny Ramírez beat another Wells throw to the plate, sliding around Barajas, then popping up and slamming his helmet to the ground to punctuate another last at-bat win, by a 2-1 score, over the dazed Blue Jays.
"I didn't see that," Moss said of Ramírez's helmet dunk. "I was too busy screaming."
Along with 37,710 other folks in Fenway Park. If the last inning of the season's first month is any barometer, Sox fans are in for another enchanted summer. This was the Sox' second walkoff win over the Jays in two nights, and their eighth last at-bat win since Ramírez started that ball rolling with a two-run, 10th-inning double in the Tokyo Dome season opener in March.
"Late heroics are better than no heroics," manager Terry Francona said after watching David Ortiz homer to break a scoreless tie in the seventh, then hit a single through the Toronto shift that handcuffed second baseman Aaron Hill and began the winning rally in the ninth. "Our pitching has managed to keep us right there and allow one big hit or two to win a game for us."
And for the second straight night, the winner was closer Jonathan Papelbon, who punctuated his outing with the first regular-season pickoff of his career. Unlike his pickoff of Matt Holliday in Game 2 of the World Series, the brainstorm of bench coach Brad Mills, Papelbon did this one on his own, nabbing pinch runner John McDonald after Matt Stairs had opened the ninth with a single.
It should have been called a balk, said Toronto manager John Gibbons, whose team has lost eight of its last nine games in a rapid descent to the bottom of the AL East. Papelbon "flinched" his front leg, Gibbons said, before whirling and throwing to first.
The former Providence College star agreed with his manager, but said that didn't absolve him of responsibility.
"You just can't get picked off in that situation," McDonald said. "It can't happen. Not in a tie ballgame. I've got to be able to get back."
How about the pressure facing Tim Wakefield, who takes the mound tonight against the Blue Jays after a bedazzling conga line of high-stepping Sox starters?
The last four pitchers to start for the Sox have taken a one-hitter into the eighth (Clay Buchholz), struck out a career-high 13 (Josh Beckett), pitched eight scoreless innings of one-hit ball (Jon Lester), and pitched seven shutout innings of two-hit ball (Daisuke Matsuzaka last night). You have to go back 11 years to find the last time four consecutive Sox starters went seven or more innings and allowed two or fewer runs.
"I thought the results spoke for themselves," Francona said of Matsuzaka, who had missed his previous scheduled start because of the flu, but last night gave up only a two-out single to Stairs in the fourth and Scott Rolen's two-out double in the sixth.
"Even in this weather, he's got a little more ease in his delivery, which I think is allowing some more life on his fastball. He kept us right where we needed to be because we weren't doing a lot offensively."
Meanwhile, there was no margin of error for Sox reliever Manny Delcarmen. Francona, mindful that the Sox had won just one of their three previous pitching gems, yanked Delcarmen after he faced just one batter, Adam Lind, and gave up a single to open the eighth.
Francona summoned Hideki Okajima, and Okajima had not yet made it to the mound when a snack container came flying out of the Sox dugout, tossed by the miffed Delcarmen, who had allowed runs in each of his last three relief appearances and six of 13.
"We were going to let Manny stay out there until they got a runner on," Francona said. "Unfortunately, it was the first batter."
Delcarmen made a quick exit from the clubhouse after the game.
"I was on the mound," Francona said when asked about Delcarmen's pique. "We're just trying to win a game. I don't turn around to see how guys react."
It's a fair guess that Delcarmen's humor did not improve when Gregg Zaun lined a double into the left-field corner, only the third extra-base hit allowed by Okajima in 39 plate appearances, and Alex Rios brought the tying run home with a liner to Moss in right.
The game remained tied, Okajima striking out David Eckstein and Rolen. The Sox profited from bad base running by pinch runner Marco Scutaro, who should have advanced to third on Rios's fly ball but had advanced too far to tag upThe Jays could have had runners at first and third and none out with Eckstein, a terrific bunter, at the plate.
Ortiz's home run, which reached the first rows of the right-field grandstand, was his first hit since he homered off Scot Shields of the Angels in the ninth inning last Thursday, a span of 14 at-bats. It was also Boston's first extra-base hit in 39 innings since Ramírez's fifth-inning double against the Rays last Friday night.
Ortiz's home run came off Jays starter Dustin McGowan, who had allowed just one hit, Ramírez's single to open the second, and set down 16 in succession until Ortiz hit a 2-and-0 pitch for his fifth home run of the season.
But after Ortiz singled in the ninth, Francona did not permit him to run the bases, like he had in Boston's 1-0 win the night before, when Ortiz scored from second on Kevin Youkilis's base hit to - who else? - Wells, who bobbled the ball. Ortiz told Francona his right knee was too sore to try that again last night. The pinch runner, Lowrie, failed to score after taking a cautious secondary lead, but Ramírez rumbled in when Varitek delivered.
"Pretty incredible," Papelbon said, "for the simple fact it's different people every night."
Gordon Edes can be reached at email@example.com.