Red Sox and the Texas Rangers
ON THIS DATE (August 12, 2008) ... The Red Sox had won this game, and lost this game, and won it again.
You could almost feel the slowing of Charlie Zink's heart, as the ones around him started racing. Sitting in the Red Sox dugout, watching the outsized persona and swing of David Ortiz, one could imagine Zink's breathing slower, his fears melting away, as that second arc rocketed toward the triangle in center field. Whew. Thank you, David Ortiz.
The first Ortiz home run was majestic, soaring into the seats in the right field corner, scoring Drew from second and Pedroia from first. There, in a matter of minutes, was a three-run lead for Zink, a chance to relax in his major league debut. It was a gift from the baseball gods, who gave Zink far more than his share in that first inning. Because, after four more runs had come across the plate, the same men stood on first and second, and Ortiz strode to the plate again. And again it happened, the ball blasting off Ortiz's bat, smoked to center field this time, a second three-run home run in as many at-bats. It was magical. It was perfect.
And it almost happened again. Though that one, coming in the fifth inning, was ruled a fan-interference double, it didn't erase anything. It didn't erase the fact that, despite all that clicking of his wrist in Kansas City last week, Ortiz's power hadn't gone anywhere. For anyone with fears about his wrist or his ability to lead the Red Sox offensively, it was less than half an hour before that opinion were smashed to bits. Much like those two baseballs, both of them crushed.
Poor Scott Feldman, really. He hardly knew what he was getting into, as 10 runs crossed the plate for the Red Sox in the first inning, then two more in the third. It was a rollicking start to the homestand.
Especially when the Rangers came back. Given a 10-0 lead, then a 12-2 lead, Zink wasn't able to hang on to it. His knuckleball wasn't quite knuckling enough, with two runs coming in the second, and the disaster waiting until the fifth. Zink allowed six hits in that inning, four of which went for extra bases, including three straight doubles to end his evening, as the Rangers shockingly played themselves back into a game that seemed all but lost. Ian Kinsler, who began the inning with a double to left field, capped it with his own three-run home run off reliever David Aardsma to bring Texas back within two.
So Zink, who didn't last the requisite five innings, could not get the win, even if the bullpen hadn't let the Rangers tie the score in the sixth. It seemed he might be able to get through the fifth when Coco Crisp appeared to make a nice play on the warning track in center field. But the umpires ruled that Crisp didn't make the grab, even as the center fielder was saying he dropped it on the transfer. Francona took some time with the umpires, and when the ruling went against him, he walked directly to Zink to relieve him of the baseball.
Still, the Sox got yet another boost when Youkilis followed the Ortiz double with his 21st home run of the season, extending the lead to four runs, not enough of a cushion for a beleaguered Sox bullpen.
With 12 runs already scored by the Red Sox, the Rangers stepped to the plate in the fifth inning against Zink. Eight runs scored. They stepped to the plate in the sixth against reliever David Aardsma. Five runs scored. It was, in a word, horrific.
When Frank Catalanotto crossed the plate in the sixth, it was stunning. Chris Davis's grounder had bounced off Youkilis, a rare error for the first baseman, to Pedroia. In a move that seemed desperate, Pedroia threw home, but the ball came in high, not leaving Kevin Cash enough time to get the tag down, and the Rangers had tied the game.
It was their 14th run of the evening, tying the Red Sox 14-14, and marking a remarkable comeback from a 10-run deficit in the first inning. And the Rangers weren't done, a sacrifice fly by Ian Kinsler relieving the Red Sox of their lead for the first time. It was now 15-14, in favor of the Rangers, and there were boos.
The 16th run brought more jeering, and Francona out of the dugout, leaving a dejected Manny Delcarmen to fend for himself in the wilds between the pitching mound and safety. He was just another failed arm out of the bullpen, turning what had been a possible turnaround stretch for the relievers (three runs in the last 26 innings) into a chance for the paying public to vent its frustrations.
Now, with the score knotted at 16 in the eighth inning and David Ortiz having just been walked intentionally, Kevin Youkilis laced a pitch off the pillowy facade of the Sports Authority sign in left field for yet another three-run home run. It bounced off the sheeting, lifting Youkilis and the Red Sox and a crowd that had its boos turned to cheers to a ridiculous 19-17 win over the Rangers at Fenway Park in front of 38,004 dazed fans.
Not that it stopped there, of course. Even Jonathan Papelbon couldn't make it easy, allowing an extra run for the Rangers in the top of the ninth. But a liner to second base finally closed it out, relief flowing through the park far more than joy.
The total of 36 runs tied the American League record, one the Red Sox helped set themselves in 1950. With the save, Jonathan Papelbon tied Dick Radatz with 104 saves, second-most in Sox history.