Pitching duel ends in play at the plate

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Pitching duel ends in play at the plate

SEATTLE -- The baseball and the baserunner were on a collision course, hurdling toward home plate, from opposite directions. Jarrod Saltalamacchia had to keep an eye on both.
In a scoreless tie in the bottom of the ninth, only everything was on the line.
"The ol' bang-bang play,'' Bobby Valentine called it.
While blocking the plate from baserunner Casper Wells, Saltalamacchia thought he had the ball in his glove as he went to apply the tag.
More than a half-hour after the play had taken place, the Red Sox' catcher wasn't exactly sure what had transpired.
Did he tag Wells, only to have the ball jar loose on contact?
Did he never fully have control of the ball?
In reality, it didn't matter. Wells was safe, scoring the only run in a brilliant pitching duel, and the Red Sox lost to the Mariners, 1-0.
Wells was on second after a leadoff double, and the Sox elected to watch Justin Smoak with first base open.
Seattle pinch-hit Jaso for Miguel Olivo, and Jaso laced a hard single to right, which right field Cody Ross charged.
"We practice that play quite a bit,'' recounted Ross. "It's a do-or-die play. I know he's going to go (for the plate) right there. He can run pretty good. I charged it and came up clean. You're trying to keep the ball down; you don't want to air-mail it and not give your catcher a chance.''
But somewhere between Saltalamacchia fielding the throw and the application of the tag, the ball got away."It's just the way this game is,'' said Ross. "It's crazy.''
"The ball was hit off the end of the bat to right,'' said Saltalamacchia. "I knew Cody was going to make a great throw, and he did. It was right on the money. I've just got to do a better job of holding onto it in a big situation like that.
"It was a good throw, low, on-line, so I was trying to stay low with it and then as the ball was coming closer, I was trying to block the plate to make sure he didn't get to it. And I think as I was doing it, I was swiping in, trying to block the plate so he didn't get near it and I think it just rattled around in my glove.
"I think he tagged him in the helmet. But either way, he went way around home plate. I had a chance to back and tag him if I had held onto the ball.''
But he didn't. End of game.

Red Sox celebration quickly washes away walk-off loss

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Red Sox celebration quickly washes away walk-off loss

NEW YORK -- It had the potential to be the most awkward celebration ever.

In the top of the ninth inning at Yankee Stadium, before their game was complete, the Red Sox became American League East champions, by virtue of one other division rival -- Baltimore -- coming back to beat another -- Toronto -- in the ninth inning.

That eliminated the Blue Jays from the division race, and made the Sox division champs.

But that ninth inning reversal of fortune was about to visit the Red Sox, too.

Craig Kimbrel faced four hitters and allowed a single and three straight walks, leading to a run. When, after 28 pitches, he couldn't get an out, he was lifted for Joe Kelly, who recorded one out, then yielded a walk-off grand slam to Mark Teixeira.

The Yankees celebrated wildly on the field, while the Red Sox trudged into the dugout, beset with mixed emotions.

Yes, they had just lost a game that seemed theirs. But they also had accomplished something that had taken 158 games.

What to do?

The Sox decided to drown their temporary sorrows in champagne.

"As soon as we got in here,'' said Jackie Bradley Jr., "we quickly got over it.''

From the top of the eighth until the start of the bottom of the ninth, the Red Sox seemed headed in a conventional celebration.

A two-run, bases-loaded double by Mookie Betts and a wild pitch -- the latter enabling David Ortiz to slide into home and dislodge the ball from former teammate Tommy Layne's glove --- had given the Sox a 3-0 lead.

Koji Uehara worked around a walk to post a scoreless walk and after the top of the ninth, the Sox called on Craig Kimbrel, who had successfully closed out all but two save opportunities all season.

But Kimbrel quickly allowed a leadoff single to Brett Gardner and then began pitching as though he forgot how to throw strikes. Three straight walks resulted in a run in and the bases loaded.

Joe Kelly got an out, but then Teixeira, for the second time this week, produced a game-winning homer in the ninth. On Monday, he had homered in Toronto to turn a Blue Jays win into a loss, and now, here he was again.

It may have been a rather meaningless victory for the Yankees -- who remain barely alive for the wild card -- but it did prevent them the indignity of watching the Red Sox celebrate on their lawn.

Instead, the Sox wore the shame of the walk-off -- at least until they reached their clubhouse, where the partying began in earnest.

It had taken clubhouse attendants less than five minutes to cover the floor and lockers with plastic protective sheets. In a matter of a few more minutes, the air was filled with a mix of beer and bubbly.

President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski wore a goggles and only socks on his feet.

As the spray reached every inch of the clubhouse, David Ortiz exclaimed: "I'm going to drown in this man.''

Defeat? What defeat?