08/26/09 12:31 AM ET
Bay ends weird night on positive note
Slugger's homer ignites decisive rally in eighth
By Ian Browne / MLB.com
All in all, for the Red Sox it was a nutty night that had a little bit of everything. A lead was lost on a Jon Lester strikeout that turned into a wild pitch. A popup was mishandled by reliever Hideki Okajima. A throw back to the mound by catcher Victor Martinez sailed into center field. Third baseman Mike Lowell had a line drive slip out of his glove.
In spite of it all, the Red Sox won for the third time in four days, chipping their American League East deficit to the Yankees down to six games while maintaining a 1 1/2-game lead over the Rangers in the Wild Card standings.
"That's a big win for us," said Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek.
Also a strange win.
In most bizarre fashion, it appeared the White Sox were about to take the lead in the top of the eighth.
Carlos Quentin hit a popup just behind the mound that Okajima tried to make a basket catch on, only to have it drop behind him. Things got even stranger moments later when Martinez, in the seemingly routine act of throwing the ball back to the mound, missed Okajima, allowing Quentin to go to second.
Paul Konerko's single to right put runners at the corners with nobody out. Jermaine Dye popped to shortstop and A.J. Pierzynski struck out on a pinch in the dirt. With Alex Rios coming up, the Red Sox went to Delcarmen, and the righty got a popup to second base, ending the threat, and setting the stage for Bay's 28th homer of the season to be a big one.
"At that point, it definitely didn't feel like momentum was in our favor, but at the same time, when we got out of that inning without giving up a run, I think it kind of felt like it shifted back," said Bay. "It was just one of those weird innings. Weird game, really. Weird all the way around."
Things reverted to normalcy when the ball blasted off Bay's bat and into the third row of the Monster Seats, eliciting roars from the crowd of 38,059 at Fenway.
"It was a constant battle and you go up there and you get a pitch you can drive and it's kind of nice to do it when it matters," said Bay. "It's something I had done a little earlier in the year with the big hits and then kind of struggled for a month and a half. It's nice to get back and have a big hit for the team when we needed it."
The Red Sox didn't stop after Bay's blast. After a one-out single from Nick Green, Martinez, who started the game on the bench, delivered his second clutch hit of the night, an RBI double off the wall in left.
Jacoby Ellsbury -- who set a Red Sox stolen-base record with No. 55 in the first inning -- added more insurance, smoking a single up the middle to score Martinez.
"The home run was nice, but the two [runs] after were probably even better because we could let out a little sigh," said Bay. "I think early on, and the way things are going, especially with Jonny [Lester] going, we had a good shot to win and then there was a bad bounce, and it was like, here we go. But ultimately we weathered that."
Lester, turning in another strong performance, had a 2-1 lead with two outs in the seventh. Even with two on, it appeared as if he had escaped trouble, striking out Alexei Ramirez on an 0-2 curveball.
The only problem is that the pitch bounced, perhaps on the plate, and off of Varitek's leg for a wild pitch, tying the game.
Jayson Nix stung a liner off third baseman Lowell's glove for an infield hit that scored the go-ahead run. It was the 18th quality start of the season for Lester, surpassing ace Josh Beckett for the staff lead.
"I wasn't able to keep the ball in front of me on the one and the other ball just hit the top of Mikey's glove, but that ball was hit well," Varitek said. "Jonny threw the ball great."
And that's why the Red Sox were especially happy he didn't wind up with the loss.
The comeback started immediately. Varitek stung a one-out double to center in the bottom of the seventh on Freddy Garcia's final pitch of the game. Martinez came on to pinch-hit, and drilled a game-tying single to left against reliever Matt Thornton.
Following the drama-filled eighth inning, Jonathan Papelbon came on in the ninth to notch his 30th save, marking the fourth time in as many seasons as Boston's closer he has reached that milestone.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.