May 16, 2011: Red Sox 8, Orioles 7


May 16, 2011: Red Sox 8, Orioles 7

By Maureen Mullen

BOSTON The Red Sox clawed their way back from a six-run deficit Monday night and beat the Orioles, 8-7, on Adrian Gonzalezs two-run double in the ninth inning at Fenway Park.

It increased Boston's record to 21-20, the first time the Sox have been above .500 this season.

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

Daisuke Matsuzaka lasted only 4 13 innings and gave up five runs on five hits and seven walks. But despite the hole Matsuzaka left them in, the Sox fought back, scoring five runs in the sixth and cutting their deficit to 6-5. The Orioles made it 7-5 when Alfredo Aceves allowed a lead-off home run to Mark Reynolds in the seventh, but the Sox countered with a run in the bottom of the inning.

Os closer Kevin Gregg gave up back-to-back walks to Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia in the ninth, 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.

Player of the Game: Adrian Gonzalez

With one out, two runners on and the Sox down one run in bottom of the ninth inning, Adrian Gonzalez 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.

"Gregg likes to get ahead on the outer half with certain pitches and I was just looking for a fastball middle-away and try to stay behind it," Gonzalez said. "He ended up throwing a slider that it was kind of one of those get-me-over sliders and I was able to put a good swing on it."

Gonzalez went 3-for-5, raising his average to .327, with a run scored and three RBI. He now has 37 runs-batted in, leading the American

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.

Youkilis' hit ended the night for O's reliever Michael Gonzalez, who allowed four runs on three hits in a disastrous one-third of an inning. It was the second straight game in which Youkilis has delivered the big blow, including a game-tying three-run homer Sunday in New York.

"Youk's been great," said Dustin Pedroia . "He's had big hit after big hit, and we need that from him. He's a guy who's done that his whole career and we've kind of taken advantage of it and get used to it. But he's pretty good.''

Youkilis has eight RBI in his last five games, and 27 overall, second on the team to Gonzalez's 37.

"It's been kind of an interesting run for him," manager Terry Francona said before the game. "We've seen him take more swings maybe out of the zone and some swings-and-misses that we're maybe not accustomed to. But it looks like maybe you make that one mistake and he's been hitting that three-run homer. Certainly that threat there's a lot of production in there and he's creeping up, his batting average and things like that. The one thing I always talk about: he
never gives at-bats away because even when it's a struggle for him, you make that one mistake and the game's turned around."

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 O's bullpen - manager Buck Showalter needed six relievers to get through the final 3 13 innings -- gave up eight runs, while just four were earned, capped by Gregg's 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 Gregg's third blown save of the season.

Turning Point: Red Sox' sixth inning

The momentum of the game changed in the sixth inning. Down by six runs, the Red Sox scored five in the inning, sending 10 batters to the plate.

Reliever Michael Gonzalez replaced starter Chris Tillman to open the inning and J.D. Drew hit 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. Jacoby 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 (above right). Clay Rapada replaced Accardo and gave up a walk to David Ortiz before Drew grounded out.

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

"Of course, obviously everyone's going to look at Adrian's hit as the big one,'' said Jed Lowrie. "But I don't think you can discount any other hits we got tonight, especially in those last three innings. They're all big. So you can't discount any one of them."

By the Numbers: 21-20

For the first time this season the Sox are above .500. They did it with a season-high 15 hits for a nine-inning game. After starting the season 2-10, a .166 winning percentage, they are 19-10 since (.655).

"We definitely got the team that's more than capable of doing it day in and day out," said Adrian Gonzalez. "Collectively we were able to have good consistent at-bats and just kept trying to have professional at-bats and get up."

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.

NLCS: Cubs eliminate Dodgers, reach Series for first time since 1945


NLCS: Cubs eliminate Dodgers, reach Series for first time since 1945

CHICAGO -- Cursed by a Billy Goat, bedeviled by Bartman and crushed by decades of disappointment, the Chicago Cubs are at long last headed back to the World Series.

Kyle Hendricks outpitched Clayton KershawAnthony Rizzo and Willson Contreras homered early and the Cubs won their first pennant since 1945, beating the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-0 Saturday night in Game 6 of the NL Championship Series.

The drought ended when closer Aroldis Chapman got Yasiel Puig to ground into a double play, setting off a wild celebration inside Wrigley Field, outside the ballpark and all over the city.

Seeking their first crown since 1908, manager Joe Maddon's team opens the World Series at Cleveland on Tuesday night. The Indians haven't won it all since 1948 - Cleveland and Cubs have the two longest title waits in the majors.

"This city deserves it so much," Rizzo said. "We got four more big ones to go, but we're going to enjoy this. We're going to the World Series. I can't even believe that."

All-everything Javier Baez and pitcher Jon Lester shared the NLCS MVP. Baez hit .318, drove in five runs and made several sharp plays at second base. Lester, a former World Series champion in Boston, was 1-0 with a 1.38 ERA in two starts against the Dodgers.

Deemed World Series favorites since opening day, the Cubs topped the majors with 103 wins to win the NL Central, then beat the Giants and Dodgers in the playoffs.

The Cubs overcame a 2-1 deficit against the Dodgers and won their 17th pennant. They had not earned a World Series trip since winning a doubleheader opener 4-3 at Pittsburgh on Sept. 29, 1945, to clinch the pennant on the next-to-last day of the season.

The eternal "wait till next year" is over. No more dwelling on a history of failure - the future is now.

"We're too young. We don't care about it," star slugger Kris Bryant said. "We don't look into it. This is a new team, this is a completely different time of our lives. We're enjoying it and our work's just getting started."

Hendricks pitched two-hit ball for 7 1/3 innings. Chapman took over and closed with hitless relief, then threw both arms in the air as he was mobbed by teammates and coaches.

The crowd joined in, chanting and serenading their team.

"Chicago!" shouted popular backup catcher David Ross.

The Cubs shook off back-to-back shutout losses earlier in this series by pounding the Dodgers for 23 runs to win the final three games.

And they were in no way overwhelmed by the moment on Saturday, putting aside previous frustration.

In 1945, the Billy Goat Curse supposedly began when a tavern owner wasn't allowed to bring his goat to Wrigley. In 2003, the Cubs lost the final three games of the NLCS to Florida, punctuated with a Game 6 defeat when fan Steve Bartman deflected a foul ball.

Even as recently as 2012, the Cubs lost 101 times.

This time, no such ill luck.

Bryant had an RBI single and scored in a two-run first. Dexter Fowler added two hits, drove in a run and scored one.

Contreras led off the fourth with a homer. Rizzo continued his resurgence with a solo drive in the fifth.

That was plenty for Hendricks, the major league ERA leader.

Hendricks left to a standing ovation after Josh Reddick singled with one out in the eighth. The only other hit Hendricks allowed was a single by Andrew Toles on the game's first pitch.

Kershaw, dominant in Game 2 shutout, gave up five runs and seven hits before being lifted for a pinch hitter in the sixth. He fell to 4-7 in the postseason.

The Dodgers haven't been to the World Series since winning in 1988.

Pitching on five days' rest, the three-time NL Cy Young Award winner threw 30 pitches in the first. Fowler led off with a double, and Bryant's single had the crowd shaking the 102-year-old ballpark.

They had more to cheer when left fielder Andrew Toles dropped Rizzo's fly, putting runners on second and third, and Ben Zobrist made it 2-0 a sacrifice fly.

The Cubs added a run in the second when Addison Russell doubled to deep left and scored on a two-out single by Fowler.


Maddon benched slumping right fielder Jason Heyward in favor of Albert Almora Jr.

"Kershaw's pitching, so I wanted to get one more right-handed bat in the lineup, and also with Albert I don't feel like we're losing anything on defense," Maddon said. "I know Jason's a Gold Glover, but I think Albert, given an opportunity to play often enough would be considered a Gold Glove-caliber outfielder, too."

Heyward was 2 for 28 in the playoffs - 1 for 16 in the NLCS.


Kerry Wood, wearing a Ron Santo jersey, threw out the first pitch and actor Jim Belushi delivered the "Play Ball!" call before the game. Pearl Jam front man Eddie Vedder and actor John Cusack were also in attendance. And Bulls great Scottie Pippen led the seventh-inning stretch.