Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Did Somebody Say McDonald?

Well, I was right about the Sox needing to mix things up. I was also right about Reddick being a part of it. En route to Boston's comeback 7-6 win over Texas, Reddick's two-run double in the sixth cut the deficit to 6-4.

What I didn't see coming, what no one saw coming, was a 31-year-old journeyman Triple-A lifer, a former first round pick who never quite made it, coming in to pinch-hit and possibly stopping Boston's slide.

Darnell McDonald was drafted by the Orioles in the first-round in 1997. Since then he has been a part of at least six organizations, including the Red Sox. In those 12+ years, he has played a total of 68 major league games. But in his first game with Boston, McDonald made himself one of those instant heroes that always seem to crop up in Fenway.

With Varitek on base and no outs in the bottom of the eighth, with Boston still down 6-4, McDonald put a two-run blast over the Monster to deep center-left to tie the game at six. And then, with two on and two out in the bottom of the ninth, McDonald came up again and put a ball off the scoreboard to bring in the winning run. And just like that, the Sox had come back from a 6-2 deficit to win the ballgame.

The bullpen looked good. They bailed out Wakes from a rough start and held Texas scoreless over the last three innings of the game. Especially impressive was Okajima's getting the final out of the eighth inning with the bases loaded. Granted, he put two of those guys on base. But he held the line. And Papelbon had a solid ninth, getting his first win of the season in the process.

But this one win doesn't mean everything is hunky-dory in Sox Land once again. First, we have to talk about the stolen bases. No, not the zero stolen bases Boston had, but the nine stolen bases Texas had. Look, I know the stolen bases go up when Wakes is pitching. It's a by-product of the knuckler. Fair enough. But nine? That's a by-product of V-Mart's catching. His arm is starting to become a liability. Yesterday he went 3-4 with a RBI, and that is a good thing. But is it enough to excuse his defense?

Second is that the starting pitching was weak once again. With the exception of Josh Beckett recently, Boston's starters have been remarkably hittable. They are collectively too good to continue this path. But you'd hope someone else would start to step up and lay down a few solid consecutive outings.

The final thing is something we may not fully figure out for a while. In the bottom of the seventh with runners on first and third with two outs, Tito pinch-hit Mike Lowell for David Ortiz. This is the kind of situation Ortiz feasted on in earlier days. Last night he was yanked for Lowell and he was not pleased. I don't see how this can end well. With left-handers pitching for the Rangers tonight and we even see Ortiz with a bat again in this series? How will this play out in the dugout? But it's late April, we're almost 10% of the way through the season and Ortiz is hitting .146 with a .491 OPS. I don't see how the Sox can continue to ride those numbers. Of course, Drew's are even worse. But he has Theo's undying love and an injury-racked outfield to keep him in right.

So tonight it's Beckett taking the mound. If he can lead the Sox to a win, it'll be the first two-win stretch in Fenway where Boston is winning the games. The comeback has to start somewhere. This is as good a time and place as any.

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