Red Sox Report: Despite Loss, Things Are Looking Up!
Sunday, May 27, 2012
They’re still in last place in the American League East, but the 2012 Boston Red Sox are demonstrating something we weren’t quite sure they were capable of just a few weeks ago – that this team does have heart.
Sunday’s loss to the Tampa Bay Rays prevented Boston from getting over the .500 mark for the first time this season (23-24), but with the way the team has played as of late, you have to believe it’s just a matter of time before that happens.
What we saw and what we heard from this team over the weekend may be a sign that this team will fight hard this season which is something we had serious questions about not too long ago.
When division rival Tampa Bay arrived in town for a weekend series on Friday, the Sox knew that they would be in for a battle. The Rays have pretty much had their way with Boston recently, a fact that they have been all too willing to share with anyone who will listen.
This didn’t seem to bother the Red Sox. In fact, it may have actually provided a rallying point for the team, galvanizing what we assumed was a fractured clubhouse.
The Sox dropped the opener to the Rays Friday night, but the result of that game wasn’t what mattered on that night. Instead it was about an ongoing feud between these two franchises which reached another boiling point.
In the 6th inning of that game, Rays’ starter Alex Cobb planted a pitch between the shoulder blades of Dustin Pedroia, the man many believe is the heart and soul of the Red Sox. It didn’t take Boston long to retaliate.
In the top of the 9th inning, Franklin Morales drilled Tampa’s Luke Scott setting off a bench-clearing skirmish between the two clubs. Nasty words were exchanged during and after the scuffle, but no one was ejected.
Did Morales drill Scott because he was told to by manager Bobby Valentine as a retaliation for Pedroia’s plunking? Or did he simply take the initiative on his own sending a message to his teammates that he has their backs? Valentine would have you believe that it’s the latter, but even that is somewhat insignificant.
So, too, was the motive for plunking Scott. Even if Pedroia had not been drilled, Scott warranted some cowhide on his backside from Boston pitching following his offseason comments about the Red Sox and their fans. A member of the Baltimore Orioles in 2011, Scott talked about the great pleasure he and his teammates had in ending the Red Sox season at Camden Yards on the final day of the regular season and how he enjoyed seeing what he called “obnoxious Red Sox fans” suffer after the game. He also criticized Fenway Park calling it a “dump.” So let’s face it, this kid deserved to get drilled. And drilled he was.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia immediately got in the face of Scott preventing him from making his way towards Morales. And while it wasn’t tatamount to Jason Varitek’s catcher’s mitt to the grill of the Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez, it was a welcome sign of how this team is apparently much more unified than many of us think.
After the game was over, Rays’ manager Joe Maddon pulled no punches in criticizing Valentine and the Red Sox for their decision to intentionally hit Scott. He used his postgame press conference to publicly criticize Valentine (whom he didn’t mention by name) and even went so far as to continue his pointed criticism via his twitter account after the game.
Valentine responded in kind on Saturday calling the Rays’ coaches “really aggressive, unprofessional and immature and out of control” for their roles in the bench-clearing incident Friday night.
Later on Saturday, Josh Beckett and David Price squared off in what was a terrific pitchers’ duel at the Fens. The game went to the bottom of the 9th with Tampa leading Boston 2-1.
Maddon understandably brought in his closer Fernando Rodney to shut the door on Boston, but the Red Sox had other ideas.
Daniel Nava walked to lead off the inning before being sacrificed to second by the pinch-hitting Nick Punto. Valentine then went for another pinch hitter – Jarrod Saltalamacchia – in place of Marlon Byrd. Just 24 hours after his involvement in the on-the-field scrum with Tampa, he dealt another blow to the Rays by knocking a Rodney fast ball over the bullpen in right-center for a walk-off 2-run homer.
After the game, Valentine praised Saltalamacchia but it was something that he, himself, said that gave us some insight into what this team may be all about. “Obviously, tonight was awesome,” he said. “We’ve been working so hard and this team is so close that it was just an awesome feeling to come into home plate with those guys just pumped up.”
It was Boston’s first walk-off win of the season, something not lost on Valentine. “I looked at Tim Bogar when the inning started, and I said, ‘We haven’t had a walk-off win all year,’ and he said, ‘It’s a great day for it. Let’s do it.’ Salty did.”
Is this team more unified than we thought it was in the first month of the season? Does it have more heart than we have given it credit for? It would appear so. Whether it’s this past weekend’s events, or Adrian Gonzalez’s selfless decision to tell his manager that he would play in the outfield if it will help the team, or even what appears to be Josh Beckett’s sudden dogged determination to be the best pitcher he can be for this club, it’s all good. And that’s no small accomplishment for a team that much of Red Sox Nation had become disenchanted with not too long ago.