Flick (of Red Sox wrists) turns on power again
One of the few phrases 2 1/2-year-old Addison Bay can muster is "Home run, dada," which gets brought out constantly while the Red Sox are playing. As Jason Bay said last night, "She says it 50 times a day when the game's on. She's bound to be right sometime."
She's been right quite often this season, nine times over the first 30 games. The problem, though, is that the times Bay is most likely to hit homers are past her bedtime. Because it seems every time Bay is up in a big situation in the late innings of a game, including in the sixth inning last night, the left fielder has managed to convert.
Through it all - through the comparisons to Manny Ramírez, and the questions about Manny Ramírez, and the steroid allegations against Manny Ramírez - Bay has done nothing more than become Manny Ramírez at the plate.
He did it again last night, his three-run homer in the sixth tying the game at 3-3, with the Sox taking the lead on a two-run shot by J.D. Drew shortly after that. Having lost five of their last six against the Rays, the Sox were eager to prevail in front of the 37,745 at Fenway Park, doing so in a 7-3 triumph in which the sixth inning provided the margin of victory for the second straight night.
"I don't think he is intimidated by the situation," Mike Lowell said of Bay. "He's a legitimate home run hitter. It's not like he's coming out and doing things that he hasn't done in the other years in his career. But it does seem he has kind of a flair for the dramatic home run. That's a good sign for us."
With James Shields generally mowing down the Sox through five innings - and Brad Penny unable to contain Carl Crawford yet again - the Sox entered the sixth trailing by three runs. It was, of course, the sixth inning in which the Sox exploded for 12 runs the night before. The outburst last night didn't quite match that for intensity, but it wasn't bad.
"He's going right through us and he's pretty economical in his innings," manager Terry Francona said of Shields. "All of a sudden we get a couple base runners, and there's Jason Bay again."
Yes, there was Bay again. After Dustin Pedroia earned an infield single on a ball that went off Shields's glove to second base, the pitcher walked David Ortiz. He then faced Bay, who blasted an 0-2 pitch out to left, which hit the Sports Authority sign and bounced back onto the field. As Shields watched the pitch head out he vented his frustration. He spun around, his pitching hand striking the mound, kicking up some clay. It would get worse, and quickly.
Lowell tried to stretch a single into a double for the second time in as many at-bats. And after being thrown out in the fourth, he got lucky with a bad throw in the sixth, making it safely. Drew followed with a home run into the Rays' bullpen, giving the Sox five runs before the first out of the inning. Over the past two sixth innings, the Sox have scored 17 runs on 14 hits and four walks.
"Maybe the sixth inning is our lucky charm there," Lowell said.
So as four hits by Pedroia - all singles - were lost amid the momentous moments of Bay and Drew, the offense certainly has been clicking recently. It took a nice at-bat from Ortiz to get the Sox to that point, a full-count, seven-pitch walk noted by multiple people in the clubhouse, so the new clutch threat could perform his magic.
"Good players certainly go through stretches where they're feeling good about themselves," Francona said. "Sometimes they last a long time. I hope it does. When you see guys that are walking, hitting for power, there's a pretty good chance they feel good about themselves. And with his average where it is [.323], that's a pretty good combination."
By the time the fifth inning rolled around, that plan for Crawford already had been torn to shreds. The best way Francona and the Sox could think of to deal with Crawford's wheels was to keep him in the batter's box and the dugout. Not on the bases, so he wouldn't replicate the six stolen bases from last time the teams had played.
"The best way we can stop them is by not letting them get on," Francona had said before the game. "If we can get the first out of an inning, that really sort of sometimes slows them down."
They weren't successful last night. By the fifth, Crawford already had three-quarters of a cycle (just missing a homer), had scored two runs, and had a steal, his 24th in a row against the Sox. The last time Boston caught him was Sept. 21, 2005. He hasn't been caught by anyone in his last 23 attempts.
But the Sox were able to overcome the steals and the three early runs, as Penny turned in his second straight quality start. He hasn't exactly been stellar, but he has quality starts in four of his six outings this season, continuing to shrink his ERA to 6.90, still an ugly figure. But he's 3-1, and this one easily can be credited to the left fielder and the right fielder.
"I think that anyone would like to be in those situations, and like to come through," Bay said. "It's not going to happen all the time, you realize that. But I've just kind of been on a bit of a roll. It's been fun."