08/13/08 2:22 AM EST
Youk's blast saves Sox from shame
Decisive eighth-inning homer negates blown 10-run lead
By Mark Remme / MLB.com
This "Fenway Park Fiesta" had about everything. A 10-run outburst in the bottom of the first inning from a team that was unable to stroke a base hit until the seventh the night before. Then, of course, there's the fact that the Red Sox had two separate 10-run leads and somehow headed into the bottom of the sixth down by a run.
So naturally, a lone walk in the bottom of the eighth inning to a pinch-hitter changed the complexion of the evening.
Jacoby Ellsbury walked with one out in the eighth and crossed the plate with a Dustin Pedroia double to tie the game, and Kevin Youkilis hit his second homer of the game to propel the Sox to a 19-17 win over the Texas Rangers.
"The roller-coaster ride in Boston is always fun," Youkilis said.
Just how wild was it? After the final out was recorded, the official scorer in the press box uttered, "The scoreboard totals, I think, are correct."
"I don't think I've ever played a four-hour game that's 8 1/2 innings long," Jason Bay said. "A win's a win, but it was definitely one of the more interesting games I've been a part of."
The 36 runs for which the two teams combined tied an American League record, set between the Red Sox and Philadelphia Athletics on June 29, 1950.
It started about as out of control as it ended. With 28-year-old starter Charlie Zink making his Major League debut, an early 1-2-3 inning was more than enough to make the sellout crowd of 38,004 electric from the start.
At that point, with a 10-run bottom of the inning, those in the dugout were feeling as though Zink's first tilt in the Majors would be a memorable one for the young hurler. They had no idea.
"I was just excited for Charlie," said catcher Kevin Cash of his emotions during the early big inning. "We were giving him a lot of run support, let his emotions calm down a little bit."
The first-inning tirade by the Red Sox would have put the 1927 New York Yankees to shame. David Ortiz smashed two three-run homers in the inning, as Boston put up a 10-0 lead before Texas starter Scott Feldman could blink.
It marked the first time a Red Sox player knocked two out of the park in the same inning since Nomar Garciaparra did so in 2002, and the six RBIs in a single frame made Ortiz the third to do so in Red Sox history.
For a moment, nothing seemed to go wrong for the Sox. They couldn't produce an out if they tried.
Then, it all turned around.
A 10-0 lead turned into a 12-2 advantage. Suddenly, it was 12-10. Then 14-12. And then, in an unspeakable turn of events, the once seemingly insurmountable lead turned into a 15-14 deficit.
"We had some really good at-bats," Pedroia said. "Hitting the ball well; seemed like everything was falling for us. And then, later in the game, everything was falling for them. It was a wild game.
"Shoot, it seemed like everything they hit was right on the barrel and in the gap. And we came back and won; it was huge for us."
Pedroia was right in the middle of the offensive juggernaut that Boston sent to the field on this night. He went 5-for-6 with five runs scored and two RBIs. In fact, in the first four innings alone, Pedroia, Ortiz and J.D. Drew -- the top three hitters in the Sox's lineup -- accounted for eight runs crossing the plate.
Ortiz's 3-for-4, six-RBI effort chipped in enough in the early frames, but Youkilis' two big homers in the fifth and eighth set this game apart for the Sox.
"Both teams were as frustrated as the next, but you just have to play it out," Youkilis said. "You've got to play until you get that 27th out."
All this happened around Zink, who might be lost in this whole equation when onlookers think back at this wild ride through the Fens years down the road. Despite retiring the side in order in the first and fourth innings, Zink was tagged with six runs in the fifth, and was yanked by manager Terry Francona after 4 1/3 innings of work.
Francona mentioned before the game how Zink had battled through the Minors "without getting anything handed to him," and that he earned this chance to start. For Zink, it was a matter of letting the night slip away.
It's the same game, just throwing strikes and having those guys get themselves out," said Zink, who was demoted after the game to Triple-A Pawtucket in order for the club to make room for newcomer Paul Byrd on Wednesday. "But in the fifth inning, things really sped up on me, guys kept getting more and more hits and I couldn't really slow myself down at that point."
That, and the fact that both these clubs are stacked with an arsenal of quality hitters. Along with the scrolling list of numbers the Red Sox's hitters put up, Rangers right fielder Marlon Byrd notched a 5-for-6 game of his own.
"I didn't expect this kind of offense," Zink said. "When I'm down in Triple-A [Pawtucket], we don't really pay attention to what's going on up here. But this offense is amazing."
On this night, it was exceptional. And considering this hard-fought win coupled with a Tampa Bay loss brought Boston within three games of the AL East lead, it was the type of contest that Ortiz said might springboard this club to where they want to be come October.
"We needed it," he said. "We need that kind of game, the way everybody relaxed and loosened up. We've got two more months to decide where we're going to be at the end of the season. So that's the kind of game that puts you in the mood and gets you going."
Mark Remme is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.