"This [expletive] team is cursed." - David Ortiz
Kevin Youkilis and Carl Crawford came back to Fenway Park but the night belonged to Adrian Gonzalez, David Ortiz and Aaron Cook. Gonzo finally delivered a clutch home run for Boston in 2012 but Ortiz couldn't get around second base without damaging his right Achilles. The MRI is Tuesday and Oritz will miss at least a few days.
The Red Sox almost have the entire varsity lineup in place. Dustin Pedroia appears ready to return Thursday. The Red Sox might reach full varsity status in a week or so, assuming Ortiz's injury is not nearly as bad as it could have been.
Maybe Papi needs to call up his old pal Pedro Martinez. On May 30, 2001, Martinez beat the Yankees 3-0 and gave us this quote for the ages:
"I don’t believe in damn curses. Wake up the damn Bambino and have me face him. Maybe I’ll drill him in the ass."
Grady Little was another story.
Monday night, Gonzalez and Cook were the key ingredients in Boston's victory. The real curse that has affected the Red Sox this season - starting pitching - has been reserved since the All-Star break. Forget chef Gordon Ramsay. This Cook, whose 3.38 ERA is the lowest of any current Red Sox starter, turned Fenway into "Hell's Kitchen" for the White Sox. Cook served up seven innings with no earned runs. John Lackey couldn't do that on MLB 2K12. Cook had everyone on the Chicago's roster mesmerized by his 86-MPH sinker except his old high school rival Kevin Youkilis. The burr in Bobby Valentine's backside - that would be Youkilis - got three of the White Sox five hits (A.J. Pierzynski got the other two) and received a spectacular standing ovation in his Fenway Park return.
Youk was full of class, humility, humor and professionalism in defeat. So he probably wouldn't be a good fit in the Red Sox clubhouse after all.
Monday's 5-1 victory came on a mid-summer's night that Red Sox fans dream about all winter. The legitimate sellout streak stands at 1 as a season-high crowd of 38,334 followed Larry Lucchino's e-mailed suggestion and came out to Fenway Park. Crawford went 1-for-3 with a walk and two runs scored. There was also solid starting pitching. Base-theft by the Red Sox with a four-run lead. A nice game-ending double-play. Sounds like four more plaques to me.
And then there was the big three-run blast to left-center field by Gonzalez in the eighth inning. 2013 Home Run Derby anyone? Lucchino sent an e-mail to Red Sox fans after the game giving the credit to "Sweet Caroline." No he didn't, but he probably wishes he had. It was certainly the most-appropriate and well-timed rendition of that tune all year, setting the table for Gonzo's game-winning shot.
Assuming Ortiz's injury is minor and brief, the Red Sox will have no more excuses for being 9.5 games out of first place in July. With a repaired Ortiz and Pedroia, all the essential pieces of Boston's $146 million payroll will be on the same lineup card. Imagine the possibilities. Second place never seemed so close. And before you get too excited, the only teams not in contention for the second wildcard are the Mariners, Royals, Twins and Dolphins.
Thanks in large part to Cook's effectiveness, Monday's game took a mere 160 minutes. "I like to get it over quick," he said. That was about half the time Josh Beckett spent in-between pitches on Sunday. The Z-Pack must have been swapped out for some dextromethorphan. Next time Beckett is sick, he should stick to fried-chicken soup. Cook (7IP, 5H, 1R, 0ER, and 66 strikes on 97 pitches) became the first Red Sox pitcher (noted WEEI's Alex Speier) with two starts of five-plus innings that featured neither a walk nor a strikeout since Bob Stanley in 1979. And the last Red Sox pitcher to do so at Fenway Park since the legendary Ted Wingfield in 1925.
All that for a no-decision. But that's also four straight quality starts for the Red Sox. It's Jon Lester's turn to make it five straight Tuesday night.
Curses be damned.
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