The home run that tied Jason Varitek with Carlton Fisk for most home runs by a Red Sox catcher (157) flew right past us in Loge Box 150 last night, a homer I didn't even stand up for, so sure was I that it was foul. Instead, it lodged at the top of the Monster in the corner right beside the Fisk Pole. You can't make this stuff up.
My standout thought as the Sox took the field last night was one I've had a few times since the trading deadline - just who are these guys, anyway? Of course I don't mean that literally. But last night Paul Byrd took the hill for the Sox; Jeff Bailey followed up Varitek's homer to tie the game at 2. Jason Bay patrolled left field; Jed Lowrie shortstop. Some of the guys I did know were out of position - Youkilis at third base, Ellsbury in right field. For some reason, it didn't really hit me just how unrecognizable this team has become until I saw it take the field in front of me last night.
It's not that I don't like them. It's just that I grew comfortable with the lineup. Manny and Mike Lowell were known quantities - I still need some time to really figure out what Bailey and Byrd are all about. I feel like I'm starting over with this team like I do in Spring Training, except...in September.
Similarly unknown is where they're going. This year I've thrown in the towel, retrieved it again, thrown it in again, retrieved it...Theo keeps making roster moves to shore up the roster following injury after injury, and it keeps looking like they are going to at least make a push. Some of our biggest bats are down or gone, and in the meantime, Dustin Pedroia has people chanting "MVP!" at the ballpark. Luck and good pitches as pitchers adjust to the changes in the lineup around him? Or has this always been in the cards for Pedroia? Unknown. At least to me.
No sooner had the Sox taken the lead with the back to back homers from Varitek and Bailey than Byrd gave it back again on a homer from Juan Castro. At that two-all score, things dragged on for a few innings, until Byrd gave up a run-scoring single to Nick Markakis, then a double and a walk to load the bases. Things hovered there for some long, tense moments with Luke Scott at the plate, and Scott gave it a ride, but Ellsbury gloved it on the warning track.
The third time through the lineup was even worse for Garrett Olson, who gave up the lead on big hits from Jed Lowrie and Coco in the bottom of that frame. Like Byrd, he loaded the bases, but unlike Byrd, he faced Dustin Pedroia in that situation.
The teams would score another run each after Pedroia laced a single to deep right, scoring Bailey and Coco. Kevin Millar would send one into the Monster seats off Byrd once all was said and done. Orioles reliever Jim Miller would walk in a Sox run. But it was that frozen rope from Pedroia that broke the game open.
Of course, Pedroia had a little help from Nick Markakis, who bobbled the ball and allowed him to reach second. This helped with the second RBI on the hit, too, and got me wondering what stat adjusts a team's wins to their opponents' defense. I'm sure there is one, and I'd be willing to guess that the Red Sox have been well-assisted by the bad defense of weaker teams this year.
Far be it from me to look a gift horse in the mouth. Last night was another nice win, and of course the Sox should be taking advantage of teams below them in the standings this late in the season. But we remain 5 back of the Rays, and we have to play them 6 more times this season. That will be the real test.