Third helped them go forth
Thirty-eight games to go. Time to get serious.
All the stupid stuff has to be out of the way. The loss in Baltimore with the 10-1 lead? Can’t have any more of those. The loss to Oakland when Jonathan Papelbon couldn’t hold a three-run lead? Sorry. Can’t have any more of that, either. When you get a game you should win, you’ve got to win it. Period.
Like last night. You get Jose Contreras on the mound, so you must beat him. This is Jose Contreras, who has some very bad Fenway memories. This is 37-year-old Jose Contreras, who came in here at 5-11 with a bloated (5.13) ERA. You must make Ozzie Guillen pay for putting Jose Contreras on the mound in Fenway Park. You must.
And they did. The Red Sox beat the White Sox last night by a 12-8 score, and Jose Contreras did not get out of the third inning. Make that the amazing third inning.
It was one of those hang-around-long-enough-and-you’ll-see-everything innings in which the Red Sox produced six more two-out runs on a pitcher’s error, a walk with the bases loaded, a wild pitch for another run and a three-run homer by Mike Lowell, turning a 4-1 Chicago lead into a 7-4 Red Sox advantage. And that was after scoring their first run on a perfectly-executed double steal attempt on which J.D. Drew stayed alive long enough between first and second to allow Jason Bay to score from third. Conventional, this wasn’t.
Oh, and here’s a surprise. Ozzie Guillen was not pleased.
“We didn’t lose the game,’’ he fumed. ‘We gave it away. All my respect to those guys, but when you make those mistakes, I guess [with] that type of ball club you’re going to get hurt.’’
The Red Sox had 13 more hits, and it’s a good thing because Clay Buchholz did not exactly build on that nice start in Toronto. “He was pretty inconsistent,’’ declared manager Terry Francona. Buchholz was given a 9-4 lead but he couldn’t even stick around long enough to be eligible for the W. Francona had a ballgame to save, and he couldn’t be worried about Buchholz and his stats when, after giving up a hit to Scott Podsednik and walking Jim Thome, he gave up a three-run homer to Paul Konerko that made it a 9-7 game in the fifth. Sorry, kid, but the skipper had seen enough.
The Red Sox had to work for this one, and things really didn’t get comfortable until they came up with a three-run eighth inning uprising off Octavio Dotel. There were two outs and no one on, which is generally the case these days, when Drew homered, Alex (3-for-4) Gonzalez doubled, Jacoby Ellsbury tripled into the left field corner and Dustin Pedroia doubled into the alley in left-center.
So this offensive uprising continues. The Red Sox have scored 65 runs in their last seven games.
“It’s nice to feel that if they score first, or if we’re down a few, that we have that feeling that we can put some runs on the board, because there was a period there when we weren’t doing that,’’ said Francona. “It doesn’t guarantee that we’re going to continue, but certainly the feeling is prevailing in the dugout that we can go hit, which is a good feeling.’’
By the time there were two away and Gonzalez on first with a solid single in the Red Sox third, Ellsbury already had about 800 feet worth of outs (the first to deep right and the second to even deeper center) off Contreras. The Cuban was working with a 4-1 lead, but he wasn’t exactly a mystery.
An out away from sanctuary in the dugout, Contreras walked Victor Martinez. Then he hit Kevin Youkilis. That brought up David Ortiz, who ran the count to 3-and-0 before swinging at the next pitch, visions of a granny in his head. But all he could produce was a harmless dribbler along the first base line. The inning would be over, and the big threat would be history. And it would have been, had Contreras been able to field the ball. But he made a mess of it, Papi chugging into first and Gonzalez scoring the second run. The Boston fun was just starting.
Contreras walked Bay, forcing in the third run. He went to 1-and-2 on Mike Lowell, before bouncing one through A.J. Pierzynski’s wickets to bring home Youkilis with the tying run. He got to 3-and-2, and, well, you just knew.
You could feel the bomb coming. You just could. “The whole bench sensed it,’’ confirmed Rocco Baldelli. Contreras delivered the 3-2 pitch and Lowell hit it over the AAA sign and out into the night for a three-run homer.
Contreras was done for the evening, and perhaps for a whole lot longer. “Jose’s going to be in the bullpen, and I don’t know who’s taking his spot,’’ said Guillen. “I feel for him, but our job is to win games, not to do people some favors.’’
The inning certainly made an impression on Guillen.
“I think I’ve seen it all in baseball,’’ he sighed. “I thought I’d never see it all, but I did. I think, hit by pitch, walk, a wild pitch, an error, and a home run in two-thirds. That’s a record . . . It was a rough outing for him. The home run came three hours later after we should have been out of the inning.’’
The Red Sox would need some good pen work from Ramon Ramirez, Hideki Okajima, and Daniel Bard in order to nail it down. And Papelbon had not worked since last Tuesday in Toronto, so it was a good night for him to air it out. He got Jermaine Dye on a 96 m.p.h. heater and Thome on a 97 m.p.h. gasser during a scoreless ninth.
But it still came down to the fact that this game was set up for them to win. They simply could not allow Contreras to beat them, not here, not now. Thirty-eight left. You must win the gimmes.