Monday, September 12, 2005

Game 143: A Tale Of Two Papis

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 6, Toronto Blue Jays 5

When the Red Sox came up to bat in the top of the eleventh, NESN obligingly flashed the records of the three scheduled batters (Graff, Edgah and Big Papi) against Jays’ pitcher Pete Walker.  When I saw Ortiz’ record of 2 for 3, I was thinking homer.  No matter that Big Papi had hit home run number 39 earlier in the day off of Ted Lilly – the big man’s done it so many times this season (8 all told after today, 2 less than Jimmy Fox’s record of 10) that it’s almost expected, especially when a.) the Ortizzle has displayed ownage and b.) Walker has already given up a game winning home run against the Red Sox (to Manny) this year.  Ortiz worked Walker to a 3 and 2 count, fouling off pitch number 5 that was just below his meat zone, before Walker tried to came back in with the same pitch but missed his location.  The thigh-high inside fastball soon found itself screaming towards center, just clearing the wall to give the Sox the offensive edge they needed to win after squandering a 5 run lead in the seventh.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the equation, Jonathan “Little Papi” Papelbon pitched as if touched by the Almighty Hand of the Great God of Closers.  Coming on in the ninth inning with the score tied, Paps got the side in order on 13 pitches, including a nasty strike out against Gabe Gross, allowed a walk and a long fly out to Vernon Wells in the tenth and went 1-2-3 in the eleventh, getting the final out against Aaron Hill, the first batter he faced in the ninth, on a pop up to former Blue Jay great John Olerud.  Particularly impressive was Papelbon’s splitter/high fastball combo: if he couldn’t get a hitter to swing at his splitter as it bottomed out, he’d come back at them with the high heat, burning it in at 94 mph and getting them to pop up or, in the case of Gabe Gross, look on foolishly as the ball flew across the outside corner of the plate.  On a night when the bullpen looked dismal – Mike Timlin’s mistake pitch to Vernon Wells that resulted in a three-run tater being the prime example – having Papelbon go three gorgeous innings was pretty damn awesome.

Tomorrow night, Matt Clement takes another shot at win number 14, going up against converted reliever Scott Downs, who’s faced Boston once this year, giving up two runs on three hits in 3.2 innings and has a 4.76 ERA in 11.1 innings in two starts in September.  With the Sox getting by perpetual menace Ted Lilly unscathed, they’ve got a chance to rip into the soft underbelly of Toronto pitching – time to feast.  GO SOX!!!

tags: baseball | red sox | david ortiz | jonathan papelbon