Wow. Wow, wow, wow. To say that last night was awesome would be the understatement of the century.
What a thrill! Jarrod Saltalamacchia, ladies and gentlemen! We haven’t seen a walkoff in a really long time; it was our first walkoff win this year and only our tenth comeback win of the year. It was Salty’s first walkoff homer, and it was just what we needed to lift our spirits. I hope the spirit-lift lasts, but in the meantime, we can bask in our own glory. Because it was awesome in every way.
Just because Salty hit a walkoff doesn’t mean that our pitching staff didn’t pull its weight. Beckett delivered a very, very quality start. He gave up two runs on four hits over seven innings while walking none and striking out five. He threw ninety-one pitches, sixty-nine of which were strikes. Good command, good control, good variation of speeds, good heat, good, good, good. He was masterful. He looked like the ace we always expect him to be. It was fantastic.
Even though his line was better in every other respect than that of David Price, Beckett did give up one more run than Price did, and that’s what put us in the position of needing a walkoff. But what kept us in that position were shutout innings from Miller and Hill. Unfortunately, due to the circumstances, Beckett didn’t get the win; Hill got it. But you could argue that both deserved it because without quality appearances from both the starter and the bullpen, the team would have lost, which we know from way too much experience this year.
Meanwhile, the offense did a whole lot of nothing until the sixth inning, but we were actually the first to get on the board. We didn’t even put up much of a fight in those innings either. In the sixth, Pedroia walked, Papi singled, Youk lined out, and Pedroia tried to score on a single by Gonzalez but was thrown out at the plate. Middlebrooks then singled in Papi for our first run. Then, in the top of the seventh, our one-run lead was promptly erased. Beckett gave up two consecutive singles to start it off, and then two runs scored via a sac fly followed by another single.
Obviously we know that both teams kept quiet until the bottom of the ninth with one out. The stage was set. A new pitcher, Fernando Rodney, came on. Nava walked on eight pitches, and then Punto came in to hit for Shoppach. He hit a sac fly, moving Nava to second. (It was fitting, by the way, that Nava was about to score the tying run since it was partially Nava’s fault that the Rays were one run ahead of us; he threw to the plate on the sac fly that tied the game, which ended up moving the runner still on base to second, which then enabled another run to score.) Little did Punto know that that would not be necessary.
It was Byrd’s turn to bat, but Bobby V. had other plans. He put Salty in.
And Salty took a ninety-seven mile-per-hour fastball for a strike and then smacked a ninety-six mile-per-hour fastball, the second pitch of the at-bat, out of the park. It didn’t even land in the bullpen. It landed beyond the bullpen.
The crowd was deafening. The ball was lofting. The record is back at .500. The final score was 3-2.
Clearly Carlton Fisk’s presence during the pregame ceremony was inspirational. It was one of those things where you were least expecting it because you knew that you needed it most. And all of a sudden you knew that you had it. A home run to put us over the top, to slam the door on the game without the Rays having a chance to answer back. As soon as you heard the bat and the ball make contact, you knew that it was going out. And it did. And the team mobbed Salty at the plate, which the team apparently calls “the shredder,” because it was he, after all, who brought the pepper.