Red Sox 18, Orioles 9
After a morning game ruined by an umpiring mistake, the Red Sox' offense took out its frustrations on Brian Matusz and the Orioles' bullpen, scoring 18 runs in order to overcome a terrible start from the beleaguered John Lackey.
The Orioles were hot out of the gate against Lackey, with the first thee batters all reaching, and a sac fly and a single allowing three runs to score before he could record three outs. While the pressure on Lackey wouldn't relent, the Sox had more than enough in the tank to respond.
With Jacoby Ellsbury and Adrian Gonzalez both singling to put runners on the corners with one out, Dustin Pedroia grounded into a force out to bring Ellsbury in and put the Sox on the board. David Ortiz doubled into left to keep the inning, bringing Jed Lowrie to the plate. It had been nearly a week since Lowrie last played in a game, and even longer since he made a meaningful contribution. Monday night, he changed all that, launching a three-run shot into the Monster seats to give the Sox a 4-3 lead at the end of the first.
Marco Scutaro and Dustin Pedroia would bring in two more runs in the second, chasing Brian Matusz from the game, but even the six runs wouldn't prove to be enough to sustain Lackey past the third. After a 2-out wild pitch to Vladimir Guerrero turned a strikeout into a baserunner, Lackey allowed a single and a walk to load the bases before a flair to right off the bat of Nolan Reimold left the Orioles down by just one.
That's when the Red Sox pulled away...for the first time. A massive 2-out rally saw the Sox put together six straight hits starting with Darnell McDonald's infield single which bounced off of Chris Davis' glove at first after a low throw from J.J. Hardy, and ended when David Ortiz' infield single (into the shift, but still) brought in the fifth run of the inning.
Somehow, though, John Lackey proved capable of losing most of even that 11-5 lead, giving up a run in the fourth and then two more in the fifth before being pulled (he somehow managed to appear surprised that he was being removed even then). Franklin Morales gave up a walk and a double to bring the Rays within two runs at 11-9, but then the Sox finally put away the Orioles in exciting fashion in the seventh.
It all started with Jacoby Ellsbury. A 2-2 changeup stayed too high over the outside part of the plate, and the young centerfielder launched a long fly ball to right field. As Matt Angle closed on the ball in center, the ball bounced off the wall separating the bullpen from the triangle in center, ending up well to the center fielder's left. Jacoby Ellsbury rounded second, headed to third, and then as the throw came in from the outfield, came into home plate standing up for the inside-the-park home run.
What followed would be something of a Red Sox conga line, as the Sox sent five men onto the basepaths with singles and walks, scoring two and leaving the bases loaded. Up stepped Conor Jackson, and on a 2-1 fastball, the game was put to rest in resounding fashion. The backup outfielder found the Monster seats, unloading the bases for a grand slam and leaving the Sox up 18-9--a score which wouldn't change.
Three For The Road
Ellsbury Boosts MVP Candidacy
While it seems unlikely in the face of Bautista's huge numbers and Verlander's surprising candidacy as a starter, Jacoby Ellsbury's highlight homer is the sort of thing that adds punctuation marks on big seasons. It also doesn't hurt that, even before today's strong performance, the center fielder was leading the majors in Fangraphs' WAR (wins above replacement) figure at 8.5. That number is sure to grow come the morning.
The Problem Of John Lackey
Who will start the fourth game of the playoffs if the Red Sox make it? The answer to that has always been John Lackey, but after tonight's outing, it's got to be hard for the Sox to write that name on the lineup card. Were they allowed a 40-man roster, a bullpen combination might even be preferable. But with just 25, the only thing the Sox can do is sit and hope that maybe, just maybe Clay Buchholz can make a start.
The Red Sox have now scored in double digits five times during their miserable September. The key will be to actually keep their production up for once, as in the fourteen other games they've never scored more than five runs even once.
Red Sox MVP -- Jacoby Ellsbury
Conor Jackson hit a grand slam, Jed Lowrie got them off to the hot start, and Dustin Pedroia went 3-for-4 with a walk and four RBI. But there's something about an inside-the-park homer that, when combined with his single and double, make Ellsbury's night untouchable.
Up Next -- Tuesday, 7:10 p.m. | Erik Bedard (5-9, 3.50 ERA) vs. Rick VandenHurk (0-0, 6.00)
The challenge Tuesday for both managers will be to figure out the bullpen situation after two games full of relievers. The question will be: is Erik Bedard out because he had a bad game, or just because of a low pitch limit for the returning starter. Hopefully, the answer for the inexperienced VandenHurk will be the former.