By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam
BALTIMORE -- Each postseason seems to offer some unlikely heroes. Tuesday night, Ryan Lavarnway got a bit of a head start.
In the second-to-last game of the regular season, Lavarnway was called on to step in for the injured duo of Jarrod Salatalamacchia (bruised collarbone) and Jason Varitek (right knee contusion), making his first career start behind the plate.
Lavarnway more than rose to the challenge, clubbing two homers and knocked in four runs in the Red Sox' 8-7 thriller over the Baltimore Orioles.
"That was exciting," said Terry Francona. "Besides what he did offensively, I thought he ran the game, I thought he had a lot of poise. That was one of the more exciting things to watch. We've seen a lot of interesting things here over the years, but that was right at the top."
Unaccustomed to the spotlight, literally, Lavarnway was surrounded by reporters after the game and asked: "Where do I look? There's a lot of bright lights."
But he had no problem sharing the joy he felt in contributing in such a big way to a critical Red Sox win.
"It feels good," he said. "It feels like I can wear the jersey with pride, especially now that I've helped out, I'm contributing. That's what I wanted to do when I got here. I didn't want to have a September call-up that was meaningless, so I'm glad I could help today."
In his second at-bat of the night, Lavarnway came to the plate in the fourth with one out and two on against rookie lefty Zach Britton.
"I caught myself cheating a little bit on the 3-and-1 pitch," recounted the former Yale star, "and ended up checking my swing, so I just tried to stay short to the ball and stay up the middle."
He drove a pitch into the seats in left-center to turn what had been a slim 2-1 Red Sox to a 5-1 cushion.
In the fifth, he hit a tailing fly ball down the right-field line with the bases loaded. With the baserunners off with the swing, it seemed Lavarnway might have himself a three-run double, but Orioles right fielder Nick Markakis laid out and caught the ball just inside the foul line for the third out.
Three innings later, Lavarnway took no chances, homering to left for the second time and becoming the youngest Red Sox player to homer twice in the same game since Nomar Garciaparra did it in 1997. At the time of the homers, both were exactly 24 years and 51 days old.
He also did his share defensively. When the Orioles tried to run on him early in the game, Lavarnway cut down Adam Jones attempting to steal third base for the first out in the second.
Then, in the ninth, with the Sox protecting a two-run lead and a baserunner on third, Matt Wieters hit a dribbler between home and the pitcher's mound.
"I was going after it and I looked at Pap to see if he was going to get it or not," said Lavarnway. "The look he gave me was, 'You better field the ball.' I went after it. I kind of tripped a little as I was throwing it, but I got the ball to first base."
A run scored as he did, but Wieters was out and when Papelbon got Adam Jones at the end of an epic at-bat, the game was secured.
"To come up here in a tough situation like this," said Saltalamacchia, "and do so well -- he handled the staff well, called timeouts when he needed to, slowed the game down, the great play in the last inning -- was impressive."