|Top 9: Putting the suicide in squeeze||10.06.08 at 8:25 pm ET|
First, to clarify a couple questions: Jon Lester was at 108 pitches, and probably wouldn’t have faced a batter or two in the eighth had he stayed in. He certainly wasn’t going to pitch to the Angels right-handers. Okajima is strong when pitching on consecutive days, looked great in getting a pair of grounders and can be forgiven for walking the ever-dangerous Teixeira. (Lester might have followed a similar course.) Masterson was declared the option of choice against the Angels’ right-handers early in the series.
As for Jonathan Papelbon, manager Terry Francona said before the game that he would not be able to pitch multiple innings today thanks to an exhausting 32-pitch workload in Game 3. Indeed, it remains an open question whether Papelbon is available at all tonight.
A fair question is not whether Papelbon should have been pitching the eighth, but rather whether Manny Delcarmen–who was nothing short of electric in Game 3–remained in the bullpen. But Francona prefers to use Delcarmen to get both righties and lefties, and so that explains the usage. Not sure if that’s a satisfying answer to those reading, but it’s the likely rationale.
Masterson stayed on to start the ninth, and pinch-hitter Kendry Morales (a left-hander: a good spot for Delcarmen?) slammed a double off the Wall. In came pinch-runner Reggie Willits, who was sacrificed to third by Howie Kendrick.
That led to Delcarmen’s entry into the game. Delcarmen missed badly with his first two pitches to Erick Aybar, and needed to throw a strike. The Angels, sensing this, called for a suicide squeeze…and it cost them dearly.
Aybar missed the bunt, and Willits was dead. Catcher Jason Varitek ran him down to slap Willits with a tag (the ball popped loose when Varitek hit the round, well after the tag), and the inning expired one pitch later, when Aybar grounded out.
Angels 2, Red Sox 2
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