Will it have been worth it?
|08.12.09 at 11:04 am ET|
According to a few players in the Red Sox clubhouse following the Red Sox’ 7-5 win over the Tigers, Tuesday night at Fenway Park, there had been no rumblings in regards to the possibility of heightened tensions coming into the game. Sure, the day before had seen the ‘you-hit yours-we-hit-your’ moments thanks to the plunking of Miguel Cabrera and Kevin Youkilis. But it was thought to have ended there.
Not so much.
First came another Cabrera hit-by-pitch — this time driving him from the game — by a nervous rookie pitcher (Junichi Tazawa). (You have to like the intense explanation of the incident by Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell.) Then Detroit came back by first having Carlos Guillen slide late and wide into Dustin Pedroia, and then brushing back Victor Martinez.
Then, on the very first pitch of the bottom of the second inning, Tigers 20-year-old pitcher Rick Porcello drills Youkilis with what he said was supposed to be a sinker on the inside part of the plate.
Youkilis, who had never charged the mound even despite being hit 51 times throughout his career, almost immediately sprinted toward Porcello, who appeared to want no part of a fracas drifting off to the back of the mound while dodging the helmet flung at him by an enraged Red Sox hitter. Once Youkilis executed his best ‘Dick Butkus’ Porcello had to engage, twisting his tackler to the ground. The benches cleared, no punches were thrown, and the chaos calmed down.
Porcello’s explanation (after meeting with Tigers manager Jim Leyland and general manager Dave Dombrowski): ”The only thing I have to say about that is I was not intentionally trying to hit Kevin Youkilis. It was unintentional.”
Youkilis’ take: “I just thought it looked like there was intent there. Two days in a row of getting hit. At some point you have to do something to protect yourself as a hitter.”
Apples and oranges. The question people should be asking is: “When we look back at the Red Sox season how will we view this moment?”
Youkilis is going to get suspended, and probably in the range of seven games. (That’s what Coco Crisp got when he charged the mound last season.) But let’s talk about that later. First thing is first. A strong case could be made that the Red Sox do not win that game Tuesday night if not for this incident.
Forget about the motivation and adrenaline derived from the incident. You can be pumped and jacked to the gills, but if Porcello is still in the game coming back from the 3-0 deficit the Sox’ had fallen into becomes exponentially more difficult. The rookie appeared to have his ‘A’ game after coming off two starts in which he allowed a combined three runs in 13 2/3 innings.
Replacing Porcello was Chris Lambert, whose only other major league appearances this season was a 1 2/3-innings outing against the Twins in which he surrendered six runs. This time he lasted five innings, but was greeted with a monstrous home run by Jason Bay, which was followed in the subsequent innings with a pair of homers off the bat of Mike Lowell. Do they hit them off Porcello? Bay had already gone deep against the fireballer earlier this season in Detroit, so maybe. But the way that the Tigers’ righty was throwing it had that vibe of being a tough road for Red Sox’ hitters.
“It’s frustrating because Porcello, he looked very good out there on the mound,” Cabrera pointed out.
But Porcello did leave and the Red Sox did win. That was the short-term fall-out. Now comes what to expect as the Red Sox’ dive deeper into their toughest month of the season.
Here are the facts:
- The Red Sox are 9-6 without Youkilis in the lineup this season.
- If Youkilis is able to play Wednesday night it would behoove the Red Sox since he is 3-for-5 against Detroit starter Armando Galarraga with two home runs. He is also 4-for-10 with a pair of homers vs. Thursday’s Tigers starter, Justin Verlander.
- Heading to Texas (which, by the way, is the Red Sox’ chief competition for wild card consideration right now), Youkilis is 7-for-15 against Friday starter Kevin Millwood. Derek Holland and Dustin Nippert — the starters for Saturday and Sunday — have had success against the Sox’ infielder, holding him to combined 0-for-8.
- Youkilis is one of the few Red Sox hitters who has had some success against Toronto starter Roy Halladay, one of the Sox’ potential opponents next week, hitting .347 against the Jays’ ace.
- Mike Lowell has also done well against Millwood, hitting .339 with two homers, with limited experience against the other Texas starters. Casey Kotchman is also a respectable 5-for-15 against the Rangers’ No. 1 guy, while (in the shorter term) also totaling a 3-for-6 clip vs. Verlander.
- All of that could be moot if Youkilis appeals and delays the suspension process. When Crisp was suspended last season 20 days passed from the time of his brawl with Tampa Bay until when he began to serve his punishment (which got knocked down from seven to five games).
- And as for a bounce from such an emotional moment as a bench-clearing brawl, you might not want to hold your breath. After the Tampa Bay incident, the Red Sox lost the very next day to Seattle, although they did go on to win nine of their next 11.
No matter when Youkilis finds himself on hiatus, it won’t be ideal for the Red Sox. If he appeals he might find himself sitting on the bench in the midst of the late-August showdowns with potential playoff participants the Yankees and White Sox. But the good news is that, as long as health returns tot he Sox, the team has viable back-up plans.
Starting Wednesday, reality replaces the novelty of a bench-clearer. Welcome to the obstacle course that is August, 2009 for the Boston Red Sox.
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