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Red Sox 9, Angels 8

Prayers answered

Sox stun Angels by rallying with two runs in 9th

By Amalie Benjamin
Globe Staff / September 17, 2009

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There was little Nick Green could do, having kept quiet for three days about his injured right leg. And so, after he stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and the Red Sox down by one run in the ninth inning last night, he felt powerless. He was, he said, “fighting for my life.’’ Incapable of putting a good swing on the ball, Green was down, 0-2, to Angels closer Brian Fuentes.

“I don’t even think I could have put the ball in play, and it was right there,’’ Green said of batting with a leg that collapsed every time pressure was exerted. “Go look at the replay. Go look at all the swings, and maybe you can figure something out. I couldn’t really swing. Physically, I was not healthy. I don’t know what it is. I didn’t feel right, that’s for sure. I should have put one of those balls in play.’’

He fought, fouling off three pitches, and seeing eight before the final one. The one that, to the Angels, looked like a strike. But Green didn’t swing, thinking the ball was low, thanking a good bit of luck that he was able to work that walk. As he tried to leave the batter’s box, tried to walk to first base, the knee buckled again.

So, as the Angels in the dugout voiced their displeasure, pinch runner Joey Gathright trotted in from third base. The game was knotted at eight runs apiece. Then, Alex Gonzalez took his place at the plate. He wasn’t there long. Gonzalez fisted a soft liner into left field, dropping just in front of Juan Rivera, and prompting Gonzalez to lift his fist as he rounded first.

J.D. Drew scored as the Sox pulled out the improbable 9-8 win. It marked Boston’s seventh straight win overall, as the Sox stretched their lead in the wild-card race to 6 1/2 games over the Rangers, who once again lost to the A’s, their fourth straight defeat. The Sox’ magic number for clinching a playoff spot now stands at 12.

Not only was the win improbable, but so were the final three batters. There was Jed Lowrie, whose last at-bat in the majors came a month ago. There was Gonzalez, who was brought in for his glove and has shown his bat to be a revelation. And before Gonzalez, there was Green, who worked a walk when little else was possible.

“That’s why I checked like that,’’ Green said of a close checked swing call earlier in the at-bat. “I almost collapsed every single swing, and almost collapsed walking down to first, and almost collapsed when I was leading off. I don’t know what’s wrong with it.

“I thought it was fine, but it was different once you get in a game . . . I seriously did not think I could get a hit.’’

This is usually the way it goes for the Angels against the Red Sox. These are the games they lose, giving away two leads on their way to a tie heading into the ninth inning, and then yet another lead in the ninth. Judging by John Lackey’s comment after Tuesday night’s game - “It felt familiar,’’ he said - last night’s loss seemingly was inevitable for the Angels, for it was a game that mattered in Fenway Park.

“We have to win games so we can get to the playoffs,’’ David Ortiz said. “That’s what is happening right now.’’

The ultimate rally began with two outs in the ninth, with the Sox down by a run. Ortiz walked, followed by Drew’s single, Lowrie’s single, Green’s walk, and Gonzalez’s game-winning single.

“I never saw anything like that before,’’ Ortiz said.

With the Angels staked to a three-run lead against Paul Byrd, the Sox hadn’t mounted anything against Joe Saunders. Then came the sixth inning, in which the Sox sent 10 men to the plate, scored five runs, and took a two-run advantage, including a pair of RBIs by Gonzalez.

The Angels came back in the next half-inning, scoring four unearned runs with Ramon Ramirez on the mound and Jason Varitek behind the plate. The strikeout of Kendry Morales would have been the third out of the seventh. It would have preserved the lead for the Sox, ended the inning, and perhaps sent them on the way to an easy win. But Morales ended up on first on a passed ball by Varitek, with Vladimir Guerrero heading to third. A single followed, then a double, then another double, and by the end of the inning the Angels had scored four runs.

Then the Sox scored two in the eighth to tie the game, before the Angels got the tiebreaking run off Daniel Bard (with Jonathan Papelbon unavailable) in the ninth.

Then came the bottom of the ninth, which demonstrated just how well the Sox are playing. At that point, Byrd was long gone. “I was in the clubhouse screaming at the TV with ice on my arm,’’ he said. “I can’t believe what a great game that was. It wasn’t just the superstars like Big Papi that came through.

“That’s a great team over there. For us to be able to come back using all different kinds of players is just a testament to the way this team is put together.’’

A team that, at the moment, is playing about as well as any in baseball. Or, as Ortiz said while laughing, “We’re kicking [tail].’’

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