Monday, May 25, 2009

Twin City Nail Biter

The Red Sox rode the wave of residual momentum from their 12-5 shellacking of the Mets to a 6-5 Memorial Day victory over the Twins. This victory came with considerably more drama, including the enigmatic Jonathan Papelbon giving up his second two-run 9th inning home run in the last three games. The first of these squandered a 2-1 9th inning lead over the Mets on Saturday night in Fenway, resulting in Pap's first blown save since September. The second (given up to the suddenly power-hitting Joe Mauer, who has surpassed his home run total of last season in one month of this season) allowed the Twins to creep within one run, and likely created a collective conniption across Red Sox Nation. Fortunately, both for Papelbon's psyche as well as the mental well being of Sox fans, he managed to slam the door on the Twins and preserve the win, collecting his 12th save in the process.

The Sox victory put an end to the Twins four game win streak, and provided the Twins with only their second loss in their last ten home games. Jacoby Ellsbury extended his hit streak to twenty games with a slow roller over the mound that Minnesota pitcher Francisco Liriano was unable to field. Mike Lowell put together an impressive 4-5 effort, filling in for Ortiz as the DH. Youkilis and Bay each contributed crucial two-run doubles.

Boston pitcher Brad Penny, despite a 5.96 ERA, has quietly put together an impressive 5-1 record in his inaugural Beantown campaign. Overshadowed by the likes of Beckett, Lester, Matsuzaka, and Boston institution Tim Wakefield, Penny has proved to be an invaluable offseason acquisition. He bounced back from an early home run given up to Michael Cuddyer to pitch into the sixth inning (scattering six hit and three earned runs) despite a sinus problem that caused an upset stomach and vomitting between innings.

Hopefully this win will provide Boston with the requisite confidence and momentum to carry them through the remaining nine games of this season long road trip. Or perhaps some of the momentum can be used to rejuvenate Ortiz's swing, something that the collective will of every Sox fan has failed to do. It will be surreal and bittersweet to see Big Papi return to the lineup outside of the number three spot (which in all likelihood will be the case), but his lackluster performance thus far this season leaves Terry Francona no choice. But even as Papi strikes out by failing to catch up to a 91 mph fastball in his next plate appearance, I plead you to remember the good times and all the he has done for this previously star-crossed franchise, before tossing him under the proverbial bus. And remember, the season is young, and there is more than enough time for Ortiz to get into a rhythm and at least resemble a mere shadow of his former self. At least that's what I keep telling myself.

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