The Red Sox took the field Tuesday night with a five-game losing streak, looking like an aging team that was sorely lacking energy. Two nights later, that old Fenway magic is back. A player who wasn't on the 40-man roster when he woke up Tuesday morning began Wednesday as the hottest hitter on the roster. Maybe even the American League.
Meet Darnell McDonald, human energy drink.
McDonald was the improbable hero Tuesday night, hitting a pinch-hit, two-run homer in the eighth inning to tie the game with the Rangers, and then adding a little walk-off production in the ninth. Needless to say, it was rough getting much sleep when the whole world wants to talk to you about your return to the big leagues.
"I'm just glad I got that unlimited plan from AT&T," McDonald said after a night of replying to texts from friends. "I definitely got a lot of texts."
AT&T executives could do worse than grab McDonald as a spokesman for their New England promotions.
It has been a long journey for McDonald. Prior to his unexpected arrival in Boston, he played more than 1,300 minor league games. That's 12 seasons riding buses and calling places like Rochester, N.Y., Durham, N.C., and Louisville, Ky., home.
But before he was Crash Davis, he was one of the most highly sought-after prospects in the game. Baseball America rated him as the best high school position player in the 1997 draft. Some were shocked that he fell as far as 26th overall in the first round that season.
He spent more than six seasons in the minors before getting his first shot at the Show. He played in 17 games with the Orioles that season and didn't get another shot for three more years. That was a four-game stint with Minnesota.
Last year, two years after his time with the Twins, he got his next crack at the big time. He hit two homers with the Cincinnati Reds before signing a minor league deal with the Red Sox in November.
Minor league deal. Not exactly what a 31-year old wants to hear.
So McDonald went to Pawtucket and got back to work. He hit .341 with two homers and eight RBIs in 10 games with the PawSox. He hoped for a chance.
When he got it, he made the most of it. A home run in each of his first two games with the Sox. An important outfield assist to gun down a runner at home. A role in two straight walk-off wins. Reaching base in his first five plate appearances, scoring four times. The adoration of Red Sox Nation.
"Every offseason, I'm not going to say I didn't get frustrated that I didn't get the call," said McDonald. "That's just another thing that kept me motivated and kept the fire inside of me."
That's good news for the Sox. They've been looking for a little fire. For the past two nights, McDonald has lit the fuse for that offense.
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