BOSTON — The stretch of 20 games in 20 days wore on Jarrod Saltalamacchia.
After weeks of crouching down at the backstop, the Red Sox catcher had grown dehydrated in recent days. With fatigue consuming his body, Saltalamacchia was hooked to IVs in an attempt to regain lost fluid.
That’s what made Saturday’s walk-off two-run homer in the Red Sox’ 3-2 victory more spectacular. Despite the exhaustion, Saltalamacchia — who pinch-hit in the ninth inning since Kelly Shoppach started — capitalized on his brief breather.
“The IVs helped a little,” the catcher said. “Obviously, not starting [on Saturday], I had a little chance to rest on the bench and was in the cages just getting ready in case they needed me to come in and pinch hit.”
That they did. With one out in the ninth and Daniel Nava on second, Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine tagged Saltalamacchia to pinch-hit for outfielder Marlon Byrd.
It was an opportunity for Saltalamacchia to avenge himself, considering Rays closer Fernando Rodney blazed fastballs past him during their last encounter. This time around, the catcher snapped Rodney’s perfect 15-for-15 save streak with a long ball.
It turns out there was also prediction about a game-winning hit in the Red Sox dugout beforehand.
“It was funny, I looked at [bench coach] Tim Bogar when the inning started, and I said, ‘We haven?t had a walk-off all year,’ ” Valentine said. “He said, ‘It?s a great day for it. Let?s do it.’ Salty did.”
The round-tripper was Saltalamacchia’s eighth of the year, already half of his total from the 2011 season. And the blast off Rodney also marked the catcher’s first career walk-off homer.
It was the team’s first walk-off home run since Jacoby Ellsbury achieved the feat against Cleveland on Aug. 3, 2011, and the first pinch-hit shot from a Red Sox player since Wes Chamberlain did so May 9, 1995.
“I’m just looking to get the guy in somehow,” Saltalamacchia said. “He threw me sinkers away last time I faced him, so I was looking for something away to try to get that run in, get the tie. First one he threw by me and the next one, he left it over the middle a little bit and I was able to put a good barrel on it.”
Amid his drained condition — and the 12 stitches in his ear — Saltalamacchia has still been one of the key stalwarts of the team over the past week. In his last six games, he’s homered three times and collected six RBIs to spark the Red Sox’ recent streak.