10 observations after Sox lose marathon

May, 6, 2012
BOSTON -- Roughly one hour after the Orioles-Red Sox game on Sunday, someone dressed as a ram mascot with an unidentifiable blue jersey on was running the bases at Fenway Park with a video crew in tow and Lionel Richie's "All Night Long" blaring overhead. And that wasn't even close to being the oddest sight at Fenway Park on Sunday.

[+] EnlargeMatt Wieters, Chris Davis
Greg M. Cooper/US PresswireChris Davis' sour day at the plate (0-for-8, 5 K's) was sweetened when he earned the win by pitching the final two innings.
In the longest Sox game in terms of innings and time (17 innings spanning 6 hours, 7 minutes) since 2006, Baltimore outlasted the reeling hosts by a 9-6 margin. It was the kind of game that would best be summed up in a "War and Peace"-sized recap. But that's ridiculous. Here is your Cliffs Notes version, 10 observations taken from a wild one at Fenway:

(1) It is so rare to see a position player pitching. It is even rarer to see a position player pitching in a tie game. It is like spotting a unicorn to see position players for both teams squaring off at the same time in a tie game. Such was the case as this one boiled down to Orioles designated hitter Chris Davis and Red Sox designated hitter Darnell McDonald in a matchup for the ages. Or the aged, as the case was by the time the game ended.

Davis got the win with two scoreless frames, showcasing a heater that reached the low 90s and some off-speed stuff that did not look all that bad. Just ask Adrian Gonzalez, who flailed at what looked like a changeup to strike out with two men on in the bottom of the 17th.

(2) That strikeout was part of an awful day at the plate for Gonzalez. He seemed to have broken out of a slump with back-to-back three-hit efforts, but this one will be tough to get past. Gonzalez, who did not speak with reporters, became the first Red Sox cleanup hitter ever to go 0-for-8. Included in that performance were two strikeouts and one double play. He made first-pitch outs in the 10th, 12th and 15th.

Given all that, Bobby Valentine was quick to point out that Gonzalez was offering up his services in the event the manager needed anyone to pitch beyond McDonald.

(3) The silver lining again was the bullpen. Taking out McDonald's one inning, Red Sox relievers threw 12 1/3 scoreless innings. They threw 13 1/3 innings over the first two games of the series. When asked if a move is necessary to survive the upcoming series in Kansas City, Valentine was non-committal. But it seems almost impossible to begin that set without adding a fresh arm. The only pitcher Valentine said was definitely not available was Scott Atchison, who threw 23 pitches one day after throwing 35.

[+] EnlargeMarlon Byrd
Darren McCollester/Getty ImagesThe Sox would have won it in the 16th if Marlon Byrd had been safe on this play at the plate.
(4) When a runner is thrown out at the plate, especially in a big situation, it always seems like a mistake. Why did they send him, the masses will scream. However, it is hard to blame the Red Sox for trying to score Marlon Byrd from first base on a Mike Aviles double in the 16th. When you haven't scored in seven innings and you haven't won since Tuesday and you get a ball in the gap with two outs, why not? The Orioles made a great relay to nail Byrd by several steps. One hesitation or extra bounce in the outfield and the Sox are mobbing Byrd at home and Aviles at second.

(5) In large part because of its quirky dimensions and the close proximity of fans, Fenway Park has so often played into the hands of the Red Sox. Few places in all of sports boast such a distinct home-field (or home-court or home-ice) advantage. The club wins 50 games here on a yearly basis just by showing up.

Not anymore. After dropping 10 of their final 14 games at Fenway last season, Boston has dropped 10 of its first 14 this season. For those of you without an abacus, that's an 8-20 stretch at the Fens. You don't need any adding machines to recognize that as an extreme departure from the norm.

(6) Amid the wonderful performance by the bullpen were two standout jobs by lefties Andrew Miller and Rich Hill. Miller got the last out of the fourth inning after taking over for Clay Buchholz and then struck out the side in the fifth. Consider that in his 10 appearances for Pawtucket, Miller had just two perfect outings.

Also consider the fact that Hill, just four games into his return from Tommy John surgery, worked into a third inning of relief. He never managed an out in that third frame, walking the leadoff man and getting yanked, but the fact that he was sent back out for more was a tad surprising. Don't expect him to be working Monday in Kansas City as well.

(7) Pretty incredible how things are developing between the Sox and O's. With Sunday's win Baltimore is back in first place in the American League East, 7½ games ahead of last-place Boston. And this was a rivalry once so one-sided that the Sox were 64-25 against the Orioles from 2005 through 2009.

Baltimore's sweep is its first of the three-game variety at Fenway Park in nearly 18 years. Yikes.

(8) The term "rookie mistake" was uttered several times after Will Middlebrooks failed to run out a ball that bounced fair down the left-field line in the bottom of the 11th. His lapse in judgment turned a sure double into a single, and with two outs in the inning it loomed large.

However, Valentine is 100 percent correct in referencing the odd wind patterns in that part of the field and how it can fool players who are not accustomed to it. A handful of times every season a left fielder overruns a ball that blows back into fair territory behind him. Nine times out of 10 it is an opposing player. The 10th time it is Jeremy Hermida, or at least it was in 2010, when he made a mockery of such plays.

(9) Just in case you need to be reminded, the winning pitcher was Chris Davis, who also struck out five times and grounded into a double play, and the losing pitcher was Darnell McDonald, who pinch-ran for David Ortiz in the eighth. That's the kind of game it was.

(10) Felix Doubront has yet to last into the seventh inning in eight career starts. With a bullpen in tatters heading to Kansas City, now's the time, Felix.



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