Sunday evening's game just had that sinking feeling by the time Alfredo Aceves gave up a game-tying single to Yankees catcher Russell Martin in the bottom of the eighth inning. Not to be a pessimist, but the momentum was clearly on the Yankees side, they had home field advantage and the Red Sox were desperate.
So, leave it to manager Bobby Valentine to get the Sox fired up.
We'll probably never know whether it was an earnest reaction or a contrived, calculated attempt to give some life back to a bench which had the life sucked out of it the inning prior. Either way, the Red Sox responded, vindicating their manager at least for one night.
On replay, it appeared pretty obvious that Yankees reliever Rafael Soriano had hit Will Middlebrooks with an errant pitch. Unfortunately, that errant pitch also caught home plate umpire Brian O'Nora off guard, too, and the umpiring crew was unable to make the correct call, even after a lengthy meeting.
So credit Valentine for not only protecting his player, who was robbed of a free base, but for having pulse on the team and knowing whem to get the embers burning by spewing a little fire in the form of unprintable words aimed at the men in blue.
"He heard it. That's what I take exception with," said Valentine after the Red Sox 3-2 win. O'Nora claimed he heard the ball hit Middlebrooks' bat. "No one saw anything. He just heard it. What are you going to do? I'm not going to say anything that's going to get me fined any more."
It was a great scene to see Valentine tossed from the game. Players on the bench rushed to vocally defend their skipper — Josh Beckett got so livid he was also tossed from the game for screaming from the dugout. Valentine's athletes gave their much-maligned manager pats on the back, showing their appreciation.
It was quite a stark contrast to the continuous reports of bad communication and tension in the Red Sox clubhouse.
And whether or not you believe there was any connection, Middlebrooks sure looked determined back at the plate, rifling a single to left field on the first pitch after the incident. The Red Sox responded as a whole, too, with Pedro Ciriaco providing the go-ahead RBI and Aceves confidently refusing to give up the ball in preserving Boston's razor-thin one-run lead.
Discord? What Discord? For one night, at least, the Red Sox looked like a happy family.
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