No one can blame Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine for thinking the Red Sox — or possibly the baseball gods — are trying to kill him after a rough start to the season.
The chipper manager even appeared to be inviting certain death when he went to the mound late in Monday night's game against the Twins. Boston had a one-run lead, and closer Alfredo Aceves had just induced a long fly ball out. He had come in after a masterful performance by Daniel Bard and needed just one more out to win the game. What was Bobby doing?
It turns out Valentine was making one of the first truly Bobby V moments of the season. His move to the mound could end up being just as important as the win.
The team has started the year with a handful of bad losses — and a few "you have to be kidding me" losses, where sure victories disappeared over the walls of Fenway Park in the worst ways imaginable.
Valentine's wilting composure said it all in some of those defeats. He shook his head; he put his face in his hands; he frowned glumly. He accepted defeat and booing again and again.
Still, the Red Sox seemed to have hope as they hit the road against a manageable opponent on Monday. Then, any sense of security suddenly disappeared when an Aceves fastball turned into a rocket deep into the outfield.
Valentine could be seen making the "no way" face again. But this long ball settled into the mitt of Cody Ross, and the snakebitten Red Sox had cheated defeat for at least one day.
Valentine made a trip to the mound right after the long fly out — an extremely unusual move for the situation — and after several players could be seen laughing, Valentine returned to the dugout, and Aceves recorded the final out of the game in the 6-5 win.
Everyone wanted to know the reason for the visit, and a finally smiling Valentine was happy to oblige.
"I was just trying to bring a little levity to the situation, if possible," Valentine said. "I just asked [Aceves] if he was trying to kill me, that's all. He said no and got the next guy out."
The loss-battered Red Sox haven’t just needed hits and quality pitches so far this season — they've needed a spark of life. Monday night's win will go a long way toward that, but so will Valentine's signature moment at the mound. Hamming it up with his infield, and a closer who's never looked quite comfortable in his role, could be a huge step toward getting this Boston squad back into the spirit that came along with its winning attitude for so many years.
The Red Sox need the victories, but they also need a happy clubhouse, and Valentine appeared to give them just that on Monday.
There's no telling what can happen now that Valentine and his crew have escaped the kiss of death and defeat.
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