Red Sox 8-5, FINAL: No drama in the ninth this time, as Papelbon works around a one-out single for his 26th save. The Red Sox desperately needed a victory today, and to get it in such dramatic, comeback fashion can only help going foreward. The team now heads to Baltimore to start a three-city, nine-game road trip that ends with four huge games at Yankee Stadium. It's going to be a long, hot August.
End 8th, Red Sox 8-5: Two enormous insurance runs, courtesy of back-to-back doubles by Drew and Varitek to open the inning, and Jonathan Papelbon once again has a three-run lead to work with. This time, Nick Green is on the bench, so there's hope.
Mid 8th, Red Sox 6-5: Daniel Bard continues to excel as the top setup man in the pen, putting the A's down 1-2-3, leaving the Red Sox three outs away from a stirring — and much needed — victory.
End 7th, Red Sox 6-5: David Ortiz's moment of reckoning is coming soon enough. But not yet. Here in the seventh, Ortiz thrills the crowd with a mammoth three-run homer to the right of the triangle to put the Red Sox ahead. The crowd begs for a curtain call, and he delivers there, too. Allegations aside, he's still Big Papi in this town.
Mid 7th, Athletics 5-3: The A's counter the Red Sox's uprising in the sixth with an insurance run, but the Sox have the top of the order coming up.
End 6th, Athletics 4-3: Adam LaRoche pinch hits for Green and pops out to end the inning. Meanwhile, the Red Sox PR staff has handed out a fascinating statement from Daisuke Matsuzaka, who created a firestorm the other day with published comments critical of the Red Sox for their throwing program.
"I spoke to Tito on the phone yesterday, and I'm very glad that we had a productive conversation," the statement said. "
As for the reports from the past several days, I want to correct some misunderstandings. I did not go public with any complaints and I regret that some of my private conversations were made public without my knowledge or consent.
"Also, I never said in public or in private conversation that: ‘If I'm forced to continue to train in this environment, I may no longer be able to pitch like I did in Japan.’ I had no intention of criticizing the team and we are, in fact, working together to communicate, to exchange ideas, and to try to understand one another's baseball culture as we move forward.
"The team and I have had many meetings and conversations, and after shaking hands with the general manager, manager, and coaches on the 24th, I was able to resume my training in a good state of mind. My goal is to put myself into a position where I can contribute to this team. I look forward to rejoining my teammates and playing in front of the fans at Fenway Park."
3:48 p.m.: The Sox are clawing their way back. With one out in the sixth, Ortiz draws a walk, then advances to second on a wild pitch. Mike Lowell, who had 5 RBI Wednesday night, extends his hitting streak to nine games with an RBI ground-rule double to right. Lowell then scores on a two-out Jason Varitek single off reliever Russ Springer, and it's 4-3.
Mid 6th, Athletics 4-1: Delcarmen finally, and mercifully, gets the last out of the inning, having re-loaded the bases by walking the No. 9 hitter upon entry. Lester made his living for five innings by putting the ball in play, and he died by it in the sixth. Now the bats have to get going against Gio.
3:25 p.m.: As we said, no margin for error. No margin for hits and walks, either. There's been plenty of those here in the sixth, and the A's have stormed ahead 4-1. Lester has walked three and allowed three hits, the most damaging, again, by Rajai Davis, who singles home two runs with two outs for the three run margin. Lester is out and Manny Delcarmen is in to try and stop the madness.
End 5th, Red Sox 1-0: The Sox bats remain silent since the second inning. Ellsbury led off the fifth with a walk, but got caught leaning by GioGo and was thrown out at second, taking the air out of the inning. No margin for error for Lester as we enter the late innings.
Mid 5th, Red Sox 1-0: Lester's season-low for strikeouts is four. He has just two through five innings today, but No. 2 was a biggie: A called strike three on a 3-and-2 pitch to Landon Powell to end the inning and leave Ryan Sweeney, who doubled with two outs, stranded at second.
End 4th, Red Sox 1-0: Gio Gonzalez has settled in after his near-disaster second inning. GioGo has allowed one-out singles the past two innings — the latest by Drew, who remains hot in this series (7-for-12) — but again gets the next two hitters to leave the runner stranded. The Sox have left five men on the past three innings.
Mid 4th, Red Sox 1-0: More good defense behind Lester, who has traded in the strikeout for the groundout this afternoon. After a Nomar single to open the inning, Lester recorded his first strikeout of the game against noted whiffer Jack Cust — who somehow walked four times Wednesday night. Then Tommy Everidge hit one behind second base that Nick Green backhanded before flipping to Pedroia to start a nifty 6-4-3 double play.
End 3rd, Red Sox 1-0: Adam LaRoche is the odd-man out today on the corners, but a week into the rotation, Terry Francona continues to push the right buttons. Kevin Youkilis, who has played the most of the three, singles his second time up. But there he stayed, as Bay struck out and Ortiz grounded out to first.
Mid 3rd, Red Sox 1-0: Lester gets some help from his defense to maintain the shutout. Sox-killer Rajai Davis led off with a bloop to center that Ellsbury ran down with a diving catch. Later, after a double and single put runners at the corners with two out, Pedroia ranged behind second to grab a grounder up the middle by Orlando Cabrera, then had the presence of mind to hit the brakes and go back and tag second for the force on Adam Kennedy, who was bearing down on him.
End 2nd, Red Sox 1-0: The Red Sox score a run, but they could have had so much more. After Ortiz's double, Mike Lowell struck out and J.D. Drew walked to load the bases. Jason Varitek followed with an RBI single, keeping them loaded with one out. But Gonzalez turned the tables from there, striking out Nick Green and Jacoby Ellsbury to kill the rally.
1:57 p.m.: Ortiz comes to bat to the usual round of cheers. With the news not breaking until about 12:30, it's possible most of the crowd is unaware of what has transpired. Clearly, Ortiz is not affected. He lines Gio Gonzalez's first pitch off the scoreboard for a double, moving Jason Bay to third with nobody out.
Mid 2nd, 0-0: Another 1-2-3 for Lester, and again the A's can't get the ball out of the infield. So far, Lester has allowed four ground balls and two soft liners, one to Dustin Pedroia and one to Nick Green. Ortiz is due up second in the bottom of the inning.
End 1st, 0-0: Back to baseball, and both teams go down in order in the first inning. Neither team hit the ball out of the infield. Lester is making his second start of the season against the A's, allowing six runs on 10 hits in six innings back in April in Oakland.
1:35 p.m.: It is the allegation against Ortiz, much more than Ramirez, that reasonates deeply this afternoon. Perhaps more than any other member of the 2004 team, Ortiz is the one you didn't want to believe was on the juice. His heroics that postseason were to remain untainted for eternity.
Manny, Johnny Damon, Millar, they were the Idiots, and a steroid allegation against any of them would have fit the mold, in a way. Not Big Papi. He was different. He was above such seedy business. At least, that's what we wanted to believe. Today, we are forced to believe otherwise, and it's tough to take.
1:10 p.m.: In case you haven't heard, the New York Times is reporting that David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez are on the infamous list of 104 players that tested positive for performance enhancing drugs in 2003, the same list that Alex Rodriguez, Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa and Jason Giambi, among others.
Asked by the Times before Thursday's game about the 2003 test, Ortiz, who has made strong anti-steroids statements as recently as this spring, said, "I'm not talking about that anymore. I have no comment."
If true, the report — along with Ramirez's recent suspension — casts a very dark cloud over both the 2004 and 2007 World Series championships. The Red Sox have managed to avoid the steroids fallout the past few years. No more. Ortiz is in the starting lineup today, and it will be interesting what kind of reception he gets.
10:45 a.m.: It's time for the Red Sox to Cowboy Up. The Sox dropped their second in a row to the Athletics Wednesday night, slipping 3 1/2 games behind the Yankees in the AL East race.
The two Oakland losses, both frustrating and panic-worthy, recall another pair of losses to the A's at Fenway Park in late August of 2003, which prompted Kevin Millar to utter the iconic catch phrase for the first time.
The next night, Pedro Martinez was scratched from his start with an illness, leaving the fate of the franchise in the hands of a young left-hander, Casey Fossum, who came through with a clutch performance. Another young lefty goes for the Sox Thursday afternoon, and he's a whole lot better than Fossum. It's up to Jon Lester to right the ship and calm frayed nerves in the Nation. Cowboy Up!