Trio of new Sox gave playoff push lift
Bay, Byrd, Kotsay relishing chance at first World Series win
BOSTON -- Hair drenched and slicked back, Jason Bay plunged through the showers of champagne in the Red Sox's clubhouse on Tuesday feeling lucky to be part of such a rare occurrence.
Bay would know. He spent the first 5 1/2 years of his career in Pittsburgh, always going home to watch the postseason instead of partaking in it -- never having a chance to play in the crisp fall air.
But it was his fifth-inning single off the Indians' Cliff Lee that propelled the Red Sox into the playoffs. His game-winning RBI sparked a 5-4 win at Fenway Park, effectively eliminating the Yankees from postseason contention and ensuring another round of autumn baseball in New England for the fifth time in six years.
Bay didn't hesitate to take it in.
"You turn into a little kid again," he said.
Bay -- along with fellow newcomers Mark Kotsay and Paul Byrd -- are about to get the opportunity to see just what type of playoff atmosphere comes with being part of the Red Sox family. The three all joined the club through acquisitions in the final two months of the season.
Make no mistake, this trio of late-season newcomers was a large part of why this team popped danced and celebrated in the clubhouse on Tuesday night.
"I think it's pretty obvious -- especially over the last six or seven weeks," manager Terry Francona said. "I've really enjoyed the way our team has gone about our business. We brought in three new guys, and the way they took to this environment and the way our guys welcomed them in [was great]. ... I really like being around this crew."
The transition came sporadically over the past two months. First came the monumental trade of future Hall of Famer Manny Ramirez -- a move that undoubtedly changed the complexion of the clubhouse dynamic while simultaneously taking perhaps the most feared bat in the game out of the Sox's lineup.
The tradeoff? A talented, complete left fielder in Bay. With Boston, he made his presence immediately felt by drilling a 12th-inning triple in his first game with the club, then coming home to score the game-winning run.
He'd hit safely in his first seven games and has used his athleticism to run the bases and snare fly balls along the way. He's hitting .305 with nine homers and 37 RBIs since coming to Boston.
|"It's a heck of a lot better when you go through it. I couldn't have scripted it any better."|
-- Jason Bay|
on his making the
playoffs for the first time
Byrd was the next addition, acquired on Aug. 12 from the Indians as a way to bolster an injury-plagued rotation with a reliable, veteran presence.
Since the All-Star break, Byrd has shown his best stuff on the mound. He's 4-2 with the Red Sox, combined with a 4-0 record he harbored with Cleveland since the break.
After coming within one game of the World Series last year, Byrd gets another shot this time around to make another run at his first championship.
Needless to say, he's happy to have this opportunity.
"It means everything to me," Byrd said. "I'm so fired up. When I left, [the Indians] were in last, and seeing the struggles and then coming over here and have everything count, it's just phenomenal."
Last came Kotsay, who arrived in Boston from Atlanta on Aug. 27 to bolster an outfield filled with talent while sometimes lacking in health. He's become immeasurably valuable to the Sox in September while J.D. Drew missed time with a herniated disk in his back.
Kotsay has been versatile. With third baseman Mike Lowell missing time and Kevin Youkilis filling Lowell's place, Kotsay has -- on occasion -- taken Youkilis' spot at first. To Kotsay, having a chance at postseason play in Boston is an exciting opportunity.
"It's definitely a special place to play," Kotsay said. "I'm just trying to enjoy it as much as I can."
This new trio was all part of the havoc inside the Red Sox's clubhouse after that pivotal win Tuesday night, screaming and running among the players, coaches and media on hand. But trying to pinpoint where they were was like finding the needle in that haystack.
They were completely engulfed by their new team, seamlessly part of a tightly woven crew.
They feel it. In their own individual ways, these three joined this team and became one with the whole.
"It's a heck of a lot better when you go through it," Bay said. "I couldn't have scripted it any better."
Mark Remme is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.