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Wrapping up a fun night of baseball

Posted by Peter Abraham, Globe Staff  April 21, 2010 01:02 AM

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3d9b250db398b306c80e6a7067002c6c.jpgThere are 100 reasons we all love baseball. Guys like Darnell McDonald and nights like tonight are right up there, aren't they?

McDonald was in a hotel in Boston this afternoon, waiting for a call he wasn't sure was going to come. But when Jacoby Ellsbury had a painful round of batting practice, he was put on the disabled list and McDonald was summoned.

He joked before the game about being in an undisclosed location and that he had saved his receipts to bill the Red Sox for the snacks he had while waiting.

McDonald came off the bench in the eighth inning to pinch hit for Josh Reddick and cracked a two-run homer to tie the score. Then in the ninth, he delivered a two-out RBI single off the wall with the bases loaded. How cool is that?

His excited teammates — some who barely knew his name — chased him out to left field in their celebration.

“I couldn’t write a script any better than this,” McDonald said. “A lot happened. A dream come true. That’s why I signed over here to be able to play in this type of atmosphere.”

McDonald is 31 and the Red Sox are his seventh organization since 2004. A former first-round pick of the Orioles in 1997, he has been kicking around pro ball for 13 years. The Sox invited him to spring training as a minor-league free agent. McDonald pulled an oblique muscle and ended up with only 17 at-bats.

Terry Francona was, for him, emotional after the game.

"We played that game with some urgency, which we needed to do," he said. "That wasn't the way you draw it up, except for the end. There's something to be said for persistence. We have a lot of work to do but we hung in there and won a game that was difficult to win."

A few other observations:

* That Mike Lowell pinch hit for David Ortiz in the seventh inning was a bit of a seminal moment. Ortiz has been hit for before but it has been at least five years since he was hit for in a critical spot.

“We’re trying to do everything in our power to win games. … If you ask me if I enjoy doing something like that, no, of course not,” Francona said. “He’s very prideful. I understand that. We’re trying to win games and I think players understand that.”

Lowell was told after the game that he would DH in the second game of the series against lefty Matt Harrison. The Rangers have another lefty, C.J. Wilson, going on Thursday.

Ortiz is 6 of 41 with 17 strikeouts. He's in the final year of his contract, too. Right now, it's hard to see this ending well.

Ortiz was not seen in the clubhouse after the game. But he did come out of the dugout to acknowledge Lowell after the seventh inning was over.

Tell you what, Francona has a lot on his plate handling Ortiz, Lowell and Jason Varitek on the downslope of excellent careers. That is never easy duty for a manager.

* Lowell said this after the game and it was true: Bill Hall's bunt in the ninth inning was a huge play. "It put the pressure on them," he said. Not bad for a guy who was the goat on Monday.

* The Sox have won 100 of the 123 games Hideki Okajima and Jonathan Papelbon have both appeared in.

* Manny Delcarmen touched 96 with his fastball tonight and sat at 94. That was a very good sign.

* As for those stolen bases ...

The nine steals were a Texas record, the most for a team at Fenway Park ever and the most in the majors since the Marlins swiped 10 against the Padres in 2000. Vladimir Guerrero, who stole two bases all last season, stole two in a span of a few pitches in the third inning. Boog Powell is said to be mulling a comeback with the Orioles this weekend so he can steal a few bags.

Tim Wakefield said it was his fault for not holding the runners. Victor Martinez said it was his fault for not making better throws. They're both right. Bottom line: Opponents are 31 of 32 attempts this season including 29 straight. The only runner to get caught by the Red Sox was Robinson Cano of the Yankees on April 7.

“It bothers me a lot,” said Martinez. “They were obviously running every time, everywhere. But I can’t control that. They’re getting on base, and wasted no time to go."

Martinez does not throw well. But at least half the problem is that the pitchers, nearly all of them, do a lousy job of holding runners.

* Speaking of Victor, you have to think the reason the Sox have not yet started negotiations on a contract extension have to be related to his catching skills or lack thereof. Martinez would command a lot more money as a catcher than he would as a DH or first baseman.

It makes sense for the team to want to see more than a month of him as the regular catcher before deciding how they want to proceed.

* Speaking of Wakefield, he pitched well against Kansas City in his first start of the season but has since allowed 11 earned runs on 17 hits and six walks over 11.1 innings. Daisuke Matsuzaka makes his third (and final) rehab start for Pawtucket tonight against those IronPigs of Lehigh Valley.

The Sox haven't said how Dice-K will fit into their rotation. But Wakefield is making himself a candidate to be replaced.

* We had just under 400 comments on the blog today. Thanks to everybody for reading and adding their thoughts.

Please, by all means, have your say.

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