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Red Sox 6, Orioles 5

Podsednik plays a major role in Red Sox’ latest win

By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / May 24, 2012
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BALTIMORE - Scott Podsednik was hitting .203 with one extra-base hit for Lehigh Valley, the Triple A affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies, when the Red Sox traded for him May 11.

It was a move of so little consequence that no press release was typed up to announce it. Once an accomplished player, the 36-year-old Podsednik had gone more than a year without playing in the majors because of injuries.

Most teams believed Podsednik was finished. But the Sox needed outfielders, their depth wiped out by a series of injuries. When Cody Ross broke his left foot last Friday and Ryan Sweeney suffered a concussion a day later, Podsednik was next in line to be called up.

“I try not to be surprised in this game,’’ he said. “But one day I woke up in Lehigh Valley and next thing I know I’m playing for the Red Sox.’’

Podsednik was in the lineup Wednesday afternoon and added his story to the unlikely resurgence of his new team, belting a home run in the eighth inning to help the Sox beat the Baltimore Orioles, 6-5.

That’s 10 victories in 13 games for Red Sox, who took two of three from the first-place Orioles. The Red Sox are 22-22 despite having 13 players on the disabled list. Podsednik is the 39th player to get in a game this season.

The last three hitters in Bobby Valentine’s latest lineup concoction - Daniel Nava, Podsednik, and Kelly Shoppach - were 6 for 9 with four runs and four RBIs. Each hit a home run.

The Red Sox haven’t had the last three hitters all homer in a game since Aug. 3, 2003, when Trot Nixon, Bill Mueller, and Doug Mirabelli did it, also at Camden Yards.

Nava’s home run came with two outs in the sixth inning and gave the Sox a 3-2 lead. Podsednik then singled and scored on a home run by Shoppach to left field.

Nava has 11 RBIs in 14 games since being called up. Like Podsednik, he is an unlikely contributor. A college walk-on who was discovered in an independent league, Nava had a stint with the Sox in 2010 and fell off the roster in 2011.

“With our lineup, nobody has to try and be a savior,’’ Nava said. “When I got here, they just said to do what I had been doing in the minors. There was no pressure. Just go out and be yourself.

“That’s really encouraging. Mentally it just allows you to play free.’’

On Tuesday, Shoppach complained to Valentine about his recent lack of playing time. He had only five at-bats in the first seven games of the road trip.

“He left angry, and I like him playing when he’s angry, I guess,’’ Valentine said.

When asked about that meeting with the manager, Shoppach sighed loudly and refused comment.

“I’m just a link in the chain,’’ he said.

The Orioles got a two-run home run from Nick Johnson off Andrew Miller in the sixth, his second of the game. Podsednik’s home run, a shot to right field, came in the eighth and proved crucial when the Orioles scored a run in the bottom of the inning against Vicente Padilla.

It could have been worse. With runners on second and third and one out, Wilson Betemit hit a fly ball that looked sure to fall in front of Podsednik in center field. But rookie Che-Hsuan Lin raced over from right field and made a diving catch.

A run scored, but the out helped quell what could have been a bigger inning. Lin had entered the game in the seventh, Valentine using him for defensive purposes after Adrian Gonzalez started in right field again.

“He did save the game,’’ said Valentine. “That was a fabulous play. He came out of nowhere. He just closed the gap. I didn’t think he had any chance.’’

Gonzalez later joked that he would have made the play like a first baseman, fielding the ball on the hop and throwing it to the plate.

“What, you don’t think I could have?’’ he said.

Lin, whose defensive skills are Gold Glove-caliber, didn’t think the play was particularly remarkable.

“I just ran and got there,’’ he said. “I felt like I could make the play. I saw where it was going to land.’’

Nava, a teammate for several years in the minors, was first hoping Lin would catch the ball on the run and make a throw to the plate to show off his arm. Then he realized that wasn’t going to happen.

“When I looked at the angle he was running, I was like, ‘This ball’s in the gap,’ ’’ said Nava. “The whole play threw me off because I didn’t think he was in a position to catch it.

“When he laid out and caught that ball, phenomenal play right there, especially in the situation we were in.’’

Alfredo Aceves came in and struck out Johnson to end the inning. The closer then got three ground balls in the ninth for his 11th save.

The Red Sox are 18-12 since the 15-9 loss against the Yankees at Fenway Park April 21 that Valentine said was “rock bottom.’’ That’s the third-best record in the majors in that time.

Podsednik was one of the last players to leave the clubhouse. His next game will be at Fenway Park.

“No doubt, this is fun,’’ he said. “This team is playing well and they were playing well before I got here.

“Hopefully I can keep finding a way to contribute. From what I can tell, a lot of guys feel that way.’’

Peter Abraham can be reached at pabraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.

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