Historic slam propels Red Sox past Phillies
Nava only second player to hit one on first pitch in Majors
BOSTON -- It was a Saturday that had the Red Sox scrambling at the beginning. Daisuke Matsuzaka was scratched during warmups and immediately placed on the disabled list with a right forearm strain. So there was Scott Atchison, making his first Major League start with just a few minutes notice. But when the Red Sox took the field, there was one player who likely had more nerves rumbling around his stomach than the last-minute starter.
Daniel Nava, an undrafted prospect the Red Sox signed out of an independent league in January 2008, was making his Major League debut. Nerves. What nerves?
- 134 wins
- 118 wins
With Nava belting a grand slam on the first pitch of his career, the Red Sox roared to a 10-2 victory over the Phillies. Nava became the fourth Major Leaguer to hit a grand slam in his first career at-bat, but just the second to do it on the first pitch. Kevin Kouzmanoff was the only other one to pull it off, doing it for the Indians in 2006. The only previous player to hit a grand slam in his first plate appearance for the Red Sox? Rip Repulski on May 10, 1960 against the White Sox.
"It's pretty ridiculous," said Nava. "Fortunately, he threw me a fastball and I was able to put a good swing on it. As I was rounding the bases, I think that's when I kind of said, 'Oh, man, I just hit a grand slam.' That's probably why I was sprinting the whole time because I was so obviously pumped for that moment and that opportunity."
Nava wasn't the only one who was pumped. He had company in the form of 24 teammates, an entire coaching staff and a crowd of 37,061 spectators, which included his father, Don, and mother, Becky.
"I think I'm probably getting old, because we're all getting emotional in there and we're all kind of watching to see how he'll react, and there wasn't really time," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "The ball is bouncing in the [bullpen], gorgeous swing. Obviously it energized us."
It was a dizzying turn of events for Francona and his team.
"When it starts out, you lose your starting pitcher, you have a bullpen day, you have a young kid who's never played a day in the Major Leagues, to do that, the whole ballpark [felt it]," said Francona. "This is probably only something that happens in Boston -- the way the fans reacted to him and his teammates. And again, it was a lot to ask of our team today, but it ends up being a great day. We played with a lot of energy. Everybody did a lot. That's part of us, I think, getting our personality."
The Red Sox are now 37-27 -- their 11-14 April becoming more of a distant memory with each victory.
Atchison didn't figure as prominently in the win, but he did well enough considering the circumstances, giving up two hits and two runs over three innings.
"I was in here dressed, 20 or 25 minutes before the game, I guess, just kind of waiting," Atchison said. "[Bench coach] DeMarlo [Hale] came in and said, 'Atch, get your glove. Let's go.' I said, 'Where we going?' He said, 'We need you out in the bullpen, something might be up.' I was already dressed, so it wasn't that big a deal from that point.
"I got out in the dugout and Tito said, 'Head out to the bullpen. We're not exactly sure what's going on.' So I went out there and Dice was still throwing. I guess they called in and they were like, 'Get going, you're going to start this thing.' It was kind of exciting because I've never started a game in the big leagues. I was able to put a '1' where all the '0's' used to be in the columns."
On a day Boston needed six innings out of its bullpen, Manny Delcarmen worked two shutout frames to earn the win.
"Fortunately, everything went about as well as it could," said Francona. "Atchison gives us three, which is a lot, and then everyone who came in did great."
Though it was long forgotten by even the mid-innings, the Phillies struck first in this one, rallying against Atchison in the second. It started when Ben Francisco was hit by a pitch. Raul Ibanez followed with a single and Greg Dobbs moved the runners up with a bunt. Brian Schneider belted a two-run double to left-center, giving the Phils some short-lived momentum.
Back came the Red Sox in a big way in their half of the second. J.D. Drew got things started with a solo homer. Adrian Beltre (single), Jason Varitek (single) and Darnell McDonald (single) set the table for Nava's memorable first at-bat. Nava is the 10th Red Sox player to homer in his first plate appearance for the club and second this season, joining McDonald, who ripped a pinch-hit blast against the Rangers on April 20.
Nava offered at Joe Blanton's 90-mph fastball and pummeled it into the Boston bullpen in right-center.
"Yeah, I knew it was his first at-bat," said Blanton. "I tried to throw a sinker away. I knew he was going to probably swing at the first pitch. I tried to throw a good one away to get a double play, and I threw it right down the middle and it didn't sink."
With that grand slam, the Sox had a 5-2 lead.
For the second straight game, the Red Sox put together a shellacking of a veteran starting pitcher. After handing Jamie Moyer one of the worst -- and shortest starts -- of his career on Friday night, the Boston bats were nearly as harsh on Blanton.
Marco Scutaro (two-run single) and Dustin Pedroia (RBI single) boosted the lead to 8-2 in the third. Drew smashed an RBI double to left in the fourth.
Blanton gave up 13 hits and nine runs over four innings, walking one and striking out four.
Over the first two games of this three-game set, the Red Sox have outscored the Phillies, 22-4.
It was a day one player in particular won't soon forget.
"I appreciate it a lot," said Nava. "I think when I get back to the hotel room, and I have a chance to maybe sit down and relax and maybe let everything sink in, I think that's when it will really hit me. I think right now, I'm still kind of going to one high to the next."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.