BOSTON -- When Darnell McDonald made his first career pitching appearance, it was 2011 B.S. (Before September). The Red Sox were in first place, feeling good about themselves and could laugh off a mop-up performance by their reserve outfielder in what was then a rare loss. McDonald himself joked about having a side session with then-pitching coach Curt Young and being a secret weapon out of the bullpen in the playoffs. (Cue Jim Mora impression.)
The smiles were few and far between after McDonald was forced into duty again Sunday at Fenway Park. He gave up a tiebreaking three-run homer in the top of the 17th inning, the decisive blow in an 9-6 loss to Baltimore that sends Boston to the road reeling from a five-game losing streak.
"I wish [I could appreciate this] but this is a game we needed to win," McDonald said. "We gotta start winning our home games. It's important for us to get home games. It's important for us to get wins here and especially playing a divisional opponent. I'm disappointed and we gotta go on the road and pick it up."
Still, McDonald's teammates appreciated the effort.
"That's tough. There's no good way for anything to go," said Scott Atchison, who threw two scoreless innings. "Unfortunately he went out there but he went out and threw strikes and that's all you can ask for. He's given everything he's got just like the rest of us and he became one of us in the 'pen so we take care of him just like he's one of ours. It's unfortunate but he did a good job."
Manager Bobby Valentine had exhausted all of his relievers with the exception of Clayton Mortensen, who had thrown 57 pitches Saturday and was unavailable. Jon Lester had already thrown his bullpen session and Valentine was unwilling to turn to Monday's starter, Felix Doubront. He was sticking with McDonald until the next shoe dropped, which happened to be the home run by Orioles center fielder Adam Jones.
"I wish there was another option," Valentine said.
The skipper did indicate that Adrian Gonzalez was offering up his services. The sight of their $154 million man taking the hill at the tail end of a six-hour game is not one that would sit well with Red Sox brass. In that way, it's probably a good thing McDonald served one up when he did.
He just can't laugh about it the way he could last August. Too much has changed for the Red Sox since then.