Despite injuries, Sox don't come up short
May, 21, 2012
By Gordon Edes | ESPNBoston.com
BALTIMORE -- Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine grabbed the only piece of paper available on his desk Monday afternoon to jot down his lineup, which was late in coming while he awaited word on whether Ryan Sweeney could play. (Naturally, he couldn’t.)
Fittingly, it was the reverse side of that day’s medical report, which is growing longer by the day with the news that Cody Ross is about to become the sixth Red Sox outfielder to go on the disabled list (nondisplaced fracture of a bone in his left foot).
Ross will be the 15th Sox player to go on the DL, which doesn’t include the catcher (Jarrod Saltalamacchia) who took 12 stitches in his left ear and the outfielder (Sweeney) who sustained a mild concussion over the weekend in Philadelphia.
What’s a team to do? Leave it to the general manager, Ben Cherington, to offer the mantra to sustain the Sox in these short-handed days.
“Our guys in the lineup are our guys in the lineup tonight,’’ Cherington said.
OK, so maybe that lacks a certain inspirational lilt, but as an operative principle, it worked just fine Monday night, when the Sox won for the ninth time in 11 games, rallying for an 8-6 win over the Baltimore Orioles.
"That's the attitude I have, I think he has, we have, collectively -- Hell's bells, we've had it,'' Valentine said. "This isn't a new concept. Ellsbury went down and we started having new lineups. Youk went down, and a new lineup. We'll have a new lineup tomorrow. That's one of the things I know.''
Despite deploying three outfielders who weren’t on the Opening Day roster, the Red Sox reached the .500 mark for the first time this month and drew even with the Yankees, losers of six of their last seven, in the American League East.
All three outfielders, who together comprised the bottom third of the Sox lineup, did their part. Daniel Nava singled twice, scored a run and drove in another with a sacrifice fly. Marlon Byrd doubled and scored. Che-Hsuan Lin, the most recent to arrive (Sunday), singled for his first big-league hit and scored the team’s final run.
And Sox fans can stop fretting about prize rookie Will Middlebrooks returning to the minor leagues to make way for Kevin Youkilis. The kid is here to stay, especially with Ross out for an estimated six to eight weeks, and he gave another display of why he belongs with three more hits, an RBI and a run scored when he bluffed Orioles pitcher Tommy Hunter into a balk while on third base.
Joy R. Absalon/US PresswireWill Middlebrooks stealing a run by forcing a balk was well received by the Red Sox dugout.
How much credit does Middlebrooks deserve for the balk?
"Total,'' Valentine said. "His timing was impeccable. You wait another second, he's already in his windup. You start another second early, he steps off. He went exactly when he was in that no man's land of 'Oh, I should step off, no I can't.' It was a veteran move. A lot of guys think it's a Little League move, actually, and he's the least removed from Little League, that's how come he knew that.''
The Sox overcame a bizarre four-run Baltimore uprising against Sox starter Clay Buchholz, who came a bit unglued in a third inning that featured a bunt single, an infield hit and three walks, two coming with the bases loaded.
David Ortiz parked a ball on Eutaw Street, the 62nd ball to land on the boulevard between the right-field fence and the brick warehouse in which Larry Lucchino used to have an office. ESPN’s HR Tracker estimated that blast, Ortiz’s 10th home run of the season, traveled 442 feet.
“The situation, you don't have much of a choice,'' Ortiz said of the depleted roster. "You've still got to go out there and play the game. I heard the [Ross] news just before the game. Man, how many more things do we have to get through?
"Just things that happen during a season you've got to deal with. Tough job for the GM.’’
The Sox broke a 5-5 tie in the seventh off loser Kevin Gregg when Mike Aviles singled, Dustin Pedroia doubled and Ortiz was walked intentionally to load the bases. Adrian Gonzalez's sacrifice fly scored the go-ahead run, and Middlebrooks followed with a line single up the middle for another run.
"We've still got to find ways,'' said Pedroia, who has hit in 20 straight games against the Orioles. "Guys have to step up and find ways to win games. We've got guys down, we know that, we've got other guys we feel can step right in and perform well.''
And the late-inning combo of Vicente Padilla and Alfredo Aceves were the Untouchables again. Both pitching in the third straight game, they combined for the game’s final five outs, making a winner out of an overpowering Andrew Miller, who collected the victory on his 27th birthday.
Call him "Cada de Dia" (Everyday) Padilla. He has now stranded all 15 baserunners he has inherited. "He takes it personally,'' Valentine said.
Pedroia was asked what he would have thought if someone had told him before the season that Padilla and Aceves would be closing out games for the Sox.
"I'd be surprised because we got Andrew Bailey and Mark Melancon there,'' he said. "I'm sure everyone thought those were our 8, 9 guys. It's crazy how guys step in to certain roles and they succeed. They're throwing the ball great."
Does he say much to the Nicaraguan right-hander?
"Yeah," he said. "Just like everyone else. Why, you scared of him?''
Pedroia smiled. "I'm kind of scared of him. He's a great guy, though, man. He's awesome.''