Cracking the code
Three-run homer by Ortiz in 6th helps Sox break through and they hold on to tip A’s
The Red Sox didn’t need the defensive drama Nick Green provided, or Jonathan Papelbon’s ninth-inning nail-biting performance in earning his 22d save in a 5-4 win last night. What they did need, and got, was a four-RBI night by David Ortiz, who stroked his 299th home run to help support Tim Wakefield’s 11th win, and a couple of defensive plays that literally saved the day.
What was a comfortable 4-1 Sox lead after six innings became a tight game. Green’s failure to find the second base bag after first baseman Mark Kotsay caught a popup in the seventh and threw to attempt a double play led to a two-run single by Kurt Suzuki off Manny Delcarmen. But that led to second baseman Dustin Pedroia saving the tying run with a nice diving stop and throw from his knees on a Jack Cust fielder’s choice. Then in the ninth, with Papelbon struggling, J.D. Drew made a nice play in right, holding Orlando Cabrera to a single and also helping the Sox hold their slim lead.
Wakefield earned his major league-high 11th win (tying him with Colorado’s Jason Marquis) and left after he’d allowed two hits in the seventh to a rousing ovation from a crowd of 37,981.
“It’s tremendous,’’ said Wakefield. “You know the fans are so good here and they have treated me so well. I’m just happy to get out there to perform well enough for them.’’
Nobody appreciated Ortiz’s three-run shot over and to the right of the A’s bullpen in the sixth more than the knuckleballer. Ortiz blasted it off rookie righthander Trevor Cahill, who had shut out the Sox on one hit for five innings before Drew led off the sixth with a homer. That threw the pitcher’s rhythm off, and eventually up came Ortiz, who homered through a stiff wind.
“I hit it good,’’ said Ortiz. “It was a good time to do that. We needed that. I’m glad I could make that happen.’’
While Ortiz, who also knocked in what proved to be the winning run with a ground out in the seventh, spoke about how great it was that Wakefield will be an All-Star, Wakefield said of Ortiz, “All of us in the clubhouse have so much confidence in him even though he was struggling the first month or two. He’s a presence at the plate and we need that bat in the lineup every night. He’s the man, that’s for sure.’’
Wakefield surrendered 10 hits and was charged with three earned runs. The official scorer originally ruled an error on Green for failing to step on second base, but because one cannot assume the double play and because of Green’s positioning on the play, the change was made. The two runs that scored pushed Wakefield’s ERA to 4.31.
“Obviously, I slammed the ball on the ground, so I wasn’t happy,’’ said Green. “The baserunner [Bobby Crosby] didn’t make a great decision . . . When Kots threw it, I was still on the run. I knew I was right near it but I didn’t know where the base was, so when I went to tag it, I thought it was beside me and it wasn’t. It’s just so frustrating when the next guy gets a hit.
“I was mad at myself because I think I can make every play, but it’s still tough.’’
Drew, whose homer in the sixth was his 12th of the season, walked in the seventh and advanced to third on Pedroia’s double - his third hit of the game. Ortiz’s grounder to second pushed Drew across.
The rest was in the hands of the bullpen. Delcarmen got out of trouble in the seventh, Hideki Okajima had a clean eighth, and the ninth wasn’t so clean for Papelbon, but he earned the save.
Papelbon walked leadoff hitter Adam Kennedy and allowed a single to right by Cabrera. Drew kept Cabrera at first as Kennedy raced to third. He scored on Scott Hairston’s long fly ball to center, tracked down by Jacoby Ellsbury.
“It wasn’t easy at all,’’ said Papelbon. “A lot of different things came into play for me tonight. A quick turnover in the inning [before]. The ball also felt slippery in my hand. But it all boils down to preserving the win and staying one step ahead.’’
Papelbon felt that Hairston’s fly “was gone. It was gone. But then again the wind came into play at so many points in the ballgame. In that situation I have to go more into a mode where they can’t sit on my pitches. I have to keep them off balance where I just can’t pound the strike zone.’’
Papelbon struck out Matt Holliday but Suzuki singled up the middle. Runners were now at first and second with Cust, who had three hits, up. But Papelbon struck him out on a 2-2 fastball.
Wakefield’s first blemish came in the second inning when Cust singled to center, scoring Holliday. But he retired the next three batters, two on strikeouts.
Wakefield stranded runners at second and third with one out in the third. There were two runners on in the fourth and sixth, but none scored. He eventually earned the win - with a little help from his friends.