Orioles closer Kevin Gregg was having serious control issues tonight. With Baltimore clinging to a 7-6 lead in the bottom of the ninth inning, he walked Jacoby Ellsbury and then Dustin Pedroia.
As he watched Pedroia jog down to first base, Adrian Gonzalez told himself to be ready. He figured Gregg would be desperate to get ahead after two walks and would throw him a strike.
“He likes to get ahead on the outer half with certain pitches,” said Gonzalez, who has put in time studying American League pitchers after spending the previous five years of his career in the National League with San Diego. “He threw me a slider, one of those get-me-over sliders, and I was able to put a good swing on it.”
The ball sailed through weather better suited for November than May and struck the wall. Thanks to a funny bounce, Ellsbury scored and Pedroia was right behind him. It was the third walk-off victory of the season.
“There’s something to be said for just keep continuing to play,” said Terry Francona, whose club was down 6-0 in the sixth inning. “We got to hit last and we had a really good hitter up at the plate.”
Gonzalez has 37 RBIs in 41 games. He comes to the plate with a clear sense of purpose every time and has the amazing ability to hit the ball to any field almost at will. It’s like he’s playing jai-alai with the wall in left sometimes.
“Adrian is one of the top guys in the league. I’m glad to be playing with him. I think every single guy on the team likes to be with him,” said Alfredo Aceves, who allowed one run in three innings to get the win.
That’s four wins in a row and victories in seven of the last nine games for the Red Sox, who moved into a three-way tie for second place in the American League East.
They had 15 hits and drew seven walks tonight. Until that double, the Sox were 5 of 22 with runners in scoring position. Two weeks ago, they lose a game like this. Not now.
“It’s been fun lately,” Pedroia said. “We’re climbing, man. We’re going to get on the elevator and just go.”
A few other notes:
• According to Francona, the Red Sox decided just before game time to place John Lackey on the disabled list. That’s a bit of a stretch given that Scott Atchison was at Fenway Park at 3:30 p.m.
Regardess of the timing, it’s probably a good idea. Lackey is 2-5 with an 8.01 earned run average over seven starts. In his last two starts, against the Angels and Blue Jays, Lackey lasted a total of 10.2 innings and gave up 17 earned runs on 19 hits and eight walks. He is, statistically, the worst starting pitcher in the game right now.
Whether it’s actually a strained elbow or just a mental break, Lackey would probably do more harm than good by going out to the mound.
“If we don’t do something about this now, it’s probably not going to get better,” Francona said.
• Tim Wakefield will enter the rotation in place of Lackey. But the Red Sox may need to give serious thought to Aceves. He’s a screwy dude — Jason Varitek talked forcefully after the game about “cleaning up some things” with the righthander — but he can pitch. Aceves has a 2.60 ERA in 17.1 innings with a 1.04 WHIP.
• Daisuke Matsuzaka allowed five run on five hits and seven walks over 4.1 innings. He was brilliant in back-to-back starts against the Blue Jays and Angels in April, throwing 15 shutout innings. He has reverted back to his usual level of untrustworthiness since, allowing 12 runs on 16 hits and 14 walks over 15.1 innings.
“We’re going to sit and talk to him a little bit to try and figure out more what’s going on because it didn’t look completely right,” Francona said.
• Kevin Youkilis has eight RBIs in the last five games. What a weird season he is having. He has 18 extra-base hits (but only 15 singles) and 27 RBIs with 40 strikeouts. In time, his average will get there, It usually does,
• Varitek was 2 for 5 with two RBIs tonight. He is 10 of his last 36.
• The development of Jed Lowrie (.320 with 18 RBIs) makes me wonder what the Red Sox can get for Marco Scutaro closer to the trade deadline. Once Yamaico Navarro is healthy, Scutaro could go.
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