Monday, September 04, 2006

Returning Sox contribute to walk-off win

Hometown boy Pena hits his first Boston HR in the 10th to lift Sox past Chicago, 3-2
The boys are back in town and all is right with the ballclub-for 1 night.
We knew the return of Manny,Tek, & Trot would provide a boost to the struggling Bosox lineup, but I don't know if anyone expected it to be this dramatic- and this quick.
On the first night of the Return of the Walking Wounded (minus Papi), Boston staged a good old- fashioned "come-from-behind-in-the-9th-and-win-it-in-the- 10th" Fenway victory, and the returning players contributed mightily to the win.
Trot Nixon, who missed 33 games with a strained biceps, got the team on the board in the 6th with an RBi single that scored Youk, who had singled ahead of Loretta's single and moved to 3B on Hinske's DP. And that looked like it might be enough because, lo & behold, Gas Can Tavarez had held Chicago's potent lineup (avg 5.5 rpg, 2nd in MLB) scoreless through 6 innings of 4 hit ball.
But somehow you knew it wouldn't last, despite Julie's animated antics after he got the last out of each inning. No, in the 7th, with 1 out, he faced Mr. Jim Thome, he of the 37 homers in his first season w/ Chicago, and he promptly swatted a Tavarez offering back into the upper Monster Seats for a demoralizing game-tying shot. As if that wasn't bad enough, he then gave up a double to Konerko and was lifted for MattapanManny Delcarmen. And wouldn't you know, on a magical night like this in Fenway, Julian Tavarez got an ovation from the crowd- and it wasn't a sarcastic one!
The joy didn't last long however as Delcarmen gave up a single to Crede after inducing A.J. Pleasepunchme to ground out, and Konerko came across with the deflating go-ahead run; 2-1 Chicago after 7.
It would stay that way until the 9th, and that's when another returnee contributed to the mix. Man-knee led off with a 4-pitch walk from fireballing closer Bobby Jenks to get the rally started, and by the time Lowell doubled him home 1 out later, it was like old times in the Old Ballyard again- you know, circa July 1st; it was only Jenks' 3rd blown save all year. Now the tone was set.
Bottom of the 10th and Haverhill's own Carlos Pena, batting a robust .233 w/ no HRs or RBI in 6 games, stepped up to the dish to face promising Chicago righty Brandon McCarthy. As he had done so many times in his backyard growing up, Pena crushed a fastball into the rightfield seats for the game-winning homer for his hometown team, which sent the weary crowd and beleaguered team into a joyous frenzy not seen around these parts in quite some time.
So with a bunch of guys back, Papi sure to follow tonight, and Papelbon and Schilling expected to return within a week or so, there is still a glimmer of hope for a Wild card berth; Boston now trails Minnesota by 6 in that race, with Chicago between them, 1/2 game out. These next 2 with Chicago and the 3-games vs. Minny on the 19th will be the key games in deciding if there are any postseason plans in The Hub.
But for right now, we'll take a healthy nucleus and a feel-good walkoff win to put some of the bad memories of the past 3 weeks behind us. Who knows, maybe Papi will walk-off tonight?

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