Gonzalez' walkoff caps Sox rally, 8-7

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Gonzalez' walkoff caps Sox rally, 8-7

By Maureen Mullen
CSNNE.com

BOSTON After clawing their way back from a six-run deficit, the Red Sox beat the Orioles, 8-7, on Adrian Gonzalezs two-run double in the ninth inning at Fenway Park Monday night. It is the first time the Sox have been above the .500 mark this season.

But, they certainly didnt take the easy route getting there.

Daisuke Matsuzaka faced eight batters in the first inning, giving up two runs. He went 4 13 giving up five runs on five hits and seven walks with two strikeouts. His walk total was one shy of his career high, which he had done twice previously on May 5, 2008, in five innings, and on May 27, 2010 in 4 23 innings.

Despite the hole Matsuzaka left them in, the Sox fought back, scoring five runs in the sixth, sending 10 batters to the plate. The Orioles, though, were able to fend off the Sox, scoring a run in the seventh when Alfredo Aceves allowed a lead-off home run to Mark Reynolds. The Sox added another run in the bottom of the inning to cut the deficit.

Os closer Kevin Gregg entered in the ninth with seven saves in nine opportunities this season. After getting Jason Varitek to fly out, Gregg gave up back-to-back walks to Jacoby Ellsbury, who stole second, and Dustin Pedroia, setting the stage for Gonzalezs dramatics. He took the first pitch from Gregg, an 80-mph slider and banged it off the Wall, scoring Ellsbury and Pedroia for the win. It was Gonzalezs first game-winning hit with the Sox.

Aceves (1-0, 2.60 ERA) got the win, going three innings, allowing one run on two hits with no walks, two strikeouts, and a home run. It was Greggs (0-1, 3.52) third blown save of the season.

PLAYER OF THE GAME: Adrian Gonzalez

With one out, Jacoby Ellsbury on second, Dustin Pedroia on first, and the Sox down one run in the ninth inning, Adrian Gonzalez came to the plate. He crushed the first pitch from Orioles closer Kevin Gregg off the Wall to give the Sox the win, 8-7. Gonzalezs first walk-off hit for the Red Sox also put them above .500 for the first time this season.

Gonzalez went 3-for-5, raising his average to .327, with a run scored and three RBI extending his American League lead to 37 RBI.

HONORABLE MENTION: Kevin Youkilis

Youkilis two-run double was the Sox big blow in the five-run sixth inning. He went 2-for-4, with two doubles, a walk, and two RBI.

THE GOAT: Kevin Gregg

Kevin Gregg entered the game with seven saves in nine opportunities this season. He also had a precarious one-run lead. After starter Chris Tillman lasted just five innings, keeping the Sox scoreless, the Os bullpen gave up eight runs, while just four were earned capped by Greggs disastrous one-third of an inning.

After getting Jason Varitek to fly out to open the ninth, he issued back-to-back walks to Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia, giving the Sox and Gonzalez the advantage in the situation. Gonzalez wasted no time taking advantage, with a first-pitch, game-winning double. It was Greggs third blown save of the season.

THE TURNING POINT:
Despite the ninth-inning dramatics, the momentum of the game changed in the sixth inning. Until that point, the Sox had been unable to get on the scoreboard. But, down by six runs, they scored five in the inning, sending 10 batters to the plate. With starter Chris Tillman out of the game, the Os used three relievers in the inning.

With Michael Gonzalez on the mound, J.D. Drew opened with a single to left-center, taking second on an error by Luke Scott. Jed Lowrie doubled to right, scoring Drew. Carl Crawford reached on a Mark Reynolds error, with Lowrie going to third. Jason Varitek singled, scoring Lowrie. Ellsbury lined out, bringing in Jeremy Accardo to replace Gonzalez. Dustin Pedroia flied out. Adrian Gonzalez singled to left, scoring Crawford. Kevin Youkilis doubled off the wall in left, scoring Varitek and Gonzalez. Clay Rapada replaced Accardo and gave up a walk to David Ortiz before Drew grounded out.

The five runs in the inning match a season high for the Sox.

STAT OF THE DAY: 21-20

For the first time this season the Sox are above .500. They did it with a season-high 15 hits. After starting the season 2-10, they are 19-10 since.

QUOTE OF NOTE:

I actually thought we deserved to win that game. We battled back. We had some really good at-bats. We werent rewarded for all of them. And we kept battling, and something good happened. A tough game to win.

Theres something to be said for just continuing to play. And we got to hit last, and we had a really good hitter at the plate.

--Red Sox manager Terry Francona on his teams 8-7 walk-off win against the Orioles Monday night at Fenway Park

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter at http:twitter.commaureenamullen

Amendola ankle injury brings Patriots punt-return situation into focus

Amendola ankle injury brings Patriots punt-return situation into focus

FOXBORO -- The Patriots have a situation brewing when it comes to who on their roster is returning punts. 

To start Sunday's 26-10 win over the Rams, it was rookie second-round pick Cyrus Jones who was given the first crack. As he tracked Johnny Hekker's 44-yard boot in the first quarter, he quickly waived for a fair catch, then muffed it. Patriots safety Patrick Chung was in the right place at the right time to fall on the football and retain possession, but Bill Belichick and his staff decided to make a change the next time around. 

When Hekker took the field again, Jones was off, and Danny Amendola was on. 

PATRIOTS 26, RAMS 10

The veteran receiver and return man secured a couple of tricky floaters, including 61 and 55-yarders off the foot of the player Belichick termed "a weapon" last week, but Amendola suffered an ankle injury late in the third quarter. He hopped off the field on one leg, went to the locker room and did not return. He was later spotted in the Patriots locker room wearing a protective boot and using crutches.

After Amendola went down, the Patriots had the option of using Julian Edelman -- one of the most productive punt returners in the history of the league -- but Jones was given another shot, returning the first Rams punt of the fourth quarter 11 yards. 

Jones has had difficulty securing punts since training camp, but one of the reasons he was drafted in the second round was because when he has the football in his hands, he has the quickness, vision and speed to turn in explosive plays. As a senior at Alabama, he returned four punts for scores. 

If Amendola is forced to miss time down the stretch, the Patriots could have a difficult choice to make: Continue to trust Jones despite his occasional lapses in ball-security, or turn to Edelman. 

The gut call may be to deploy Edelman, but there is a drawback to using him extensively in the kicking game. Even if he sees only a handful of additional touches per game as a returner, it's more wear and tear on a 30-year-old player who will be leaned on heavily with Rob Gronkowski out for the remainder of the season. Over the last three weeks with Gronkowski out for all but seven plays against the Jets, Edelman has 24 catches on a whopping 40 targets.

After Edelman, Jones and Amendola, there aren't many other punt-return options for the Patriots on the roster.

Chung may be the next man up. He returned one punt for the Patriots last year and returned 16 in college. Malcolm Mitchell (11 punt returns in college), Devin McCourty (5), Malcolm Butler (4) and Matthew Slater (1) all have some experience in that role, but not at the professional level. It might be asking too much for any of them to take on a new job at this point in the season. 

For a team so focused on field position and execution in the kicking game, how the Patriots handle their punt-return role moving forward bears watching. 

Other injury notes: Patriots corner Eric Rowe left the game in the second half with a hamstring injury and did not return. He indicated after the game that he wasn't sure when the injury occurred. He said he did not believe it was serious . . . Patriots linebacker Dont'a Hightower went down in the third quarter after absorbing a chop block from Rams running back Todd Gurley. He walked off the field under his own power, and after wearing a wrap on his right knee on the bench, he returned to the field for the next Rams offensive drive. The defensive captain was seen in the locker room after the game walking without any noticeable limp . . . Special teams captain Matthew Slater was in the Patriots locker room with a boot on his left foot. He was ruled inactive before the game. Slater practiced on Wednesday and Thursday of last week but sat out of Friday's session. He missed his team's Week 12 game against the Jets after suffering a foot injury against the Niners in Week 11.