The Jonny Gomes fly ball dropping in shallow center field Sunday felt a lot like the Ruben Sierra ground ball to Pokey Reese back in 2004 to seal the ALCS. Until it came, you didn’t expect to see it.
Well, maybe I’m exaggerating a little bit. But you can see where I’m going.
The Boston Red Sox lineup has had such little jolt, such little punch this season — and even moreso of late — that the worst was expected in situations like Gomes found himself in — two outs and the bases loaded in the top of the first inning of Sunday’s game against the Oakland Athletics.
The Sox loaded them up with base hits from Brock Holt and Dustin Pedroia, followed by a drawn walk by Mike Napoli. Gomes stepped to the plate with two outs. Conventional wisdom had us all expecting the number ‘3’ in the ‘LOB’ box on the scorecard.
That was until Gomes jumped on a 3-2 offering from A’s starter Tommy Millone, driving it out to center field. Holt and Pedroia scored. And you could hear a piano fall off the collective back of the Red Sox batting order.
It appeared as if the Sox lineup was snakebit no longer over the course of the rest of the afternoon, which ended with a 7-6 Red Sox win in ten innings.
John Farrell had gone to the bullpen in the eighth inning after leaving starter Jon Lester in a batter or two too long, with Boston ahead, 6-1. Lester’s substitute, Burke Badenhop, struggled mightily, allowing the two runners he inherited to score in addition to another he put on base himself. He got the hook before even recording an out.
It was the start to a rough night for the Red Sox relievers, who combined to allow three runs on five hits while allowing two of four inherited runners to score.
And guess what? You couldn’t blame the bats this time.
In fact, it was the bats that bailed out the pitchers not named Lester on Sunday. The Sox picked up a key insurance run in the top of the eighth inning when Jonathan Herrera tripled to drive in Gomes, which made the score 6-1.
That run ultimately gave a two-run cushion for closer Koji Uehara to work with in the ninth, all of which he would need, as he allowed home runs to Stephen Vogt and Chris Gentry in the bottom of the ninth to tie the score and force extras.
Then it was David Ortiz telling Uehara, “Hey, I got you”, when he hit a solo shot to lead off the tenth inning that proved to be the difference in the ballgame.
It was that situational baseball — the situational baseball the Red Sox have sorely missed in 2014 — that prevented Boston from being swept out of Oakland.
For Saturday, it was one inning. We saw it for a whole game on Sunday.
Now, we just need to see over the course of a series or two.