Collapse of Epic Proportions; Redemption

It was a dark day already, with rain falling earlier in the day, as well as more forecast for the evening, but little did anyone know it was about to get a lot darker for the Boston Red Sox. Not since June 4, 1989 have the Red Sox seen such a collapse in a game as there was on June 30, 2009 against the Baltimore Orioles.  After a one hour and ten minute rain delay, the Red Sox squandered a 10-1 lead and lost 11-10.

Let’s travel back in time to take a view of that game 20 years ago. It was a Sunday afternoon at Fenway Park and the Red Sox were playing the Toronto Blue Jays. Alex Sanchez was starting for the Jays and Mike Smithson for the Red Sox.

It started off gangbusters for the Red Sox, Smithson pitched 6 shutout innings allowing only 4 hits and 3 walks while striking out 5 Toronto hitters, including George Bell twice. He was pulled from the game after giving up walks to the first 2 batters of the 7th inning.

Meanwhile, the Red Sox offense was abusing the pitching of Toronto that day. They chased Alex Sanchez from the game after recording only a single out in the first inning. Sanchez was pulled by Cito Gaston after giving up a walk to Carlos Quentin which came after the 3 Home Run by Ellis Burks. The Red Sox managed to score another 5 runs in following innings to make it a 10-0 game at the end of the 6th inning.

Then, the wheels completely came off the bus.

The first 2 runners for the Blue Jays reached base on walks, and Joe Morgan brings in Bob Stanley to keep the peace, but he allows both inherited runners to score before closing out the inning. Ok, not that bad, but then in the 8th inning Stanley gives up 4 more earned runs, bringing the Jays within striking range down by only 4 runs 10 to 6.

But it’s the 8th inning and the Red Sox have Lee Smith as a closer, a pitcher who will eventually be the all time leader in career saves at the time of his retirement, so why would anyone be worried?

It was not in the cards for them that day though, Smith would give up a a walk, followed by a double to score an inherited runner, then clutch strikeout to get the first out of the inning, only to walk the next batter and give up a grand slam home run to give the Blue Jays the lead in the top of the 9th inning, 11-10. Dennis Lamp then entered the game to get the final 2 outs of the inning, and he would be the last pitcher of the game for the Red Sox as well.

Nick Esasky would walk to lead off the bottom of the ninth for the Red Sox, and then you saw something that was completely un-Red Sox-like, Rich Gedman drops down a sacrifice bunt to advance Esasky to second. Bunting never was a strong suit of the Red Sox and it was rarely done except in the most dire of circumstances. Jody Reed then singled into right field allowing Esasky to score the tying run.

Small sighs could be heard all around, being the home team the Red Sox had the advantage now, even though they were 4-4 that year in extra inning games, people thought they could do it.

The inning ended and stranded Jody Reed at second base on a ground out by Marty Barrett against David Wells who was pitching in relief. After this inning it was a Double D Dual to see who would win the game, Dennis Lamp against Duane Ward.

The innings were quick after that, in the 10th the Sox got fans excited with another successful bunt after a lead off walk, this time by Ellis Burks, but Randy Kutcher was stranded at second by innings end.

Not til the top of the 12th inning did anyone score, it was a long home run hit to deep right-center field into the bleachers by Junior Felix, 13-11 which would be the final score of the game as Wade Boggs, Same Horn and Randy Kutcher would go down in order in the bottom of the 12th, Kutcher while watching strike 3 cross the plate on a 3-2 count…

Fortunately, games like these only come around every 20 years or so, and sometimes, just sometimes the victim of such a shocking loss can use it for motivation, to realize that no matter what the score of the game, no team is ever truly “out of it”.

In fact, just the next day, July 1, 2009 against the Baltimore Orioles, the Boston Red Sox put up 4 runs in the top of the 9th inning to tie the game at 5, and eventually would go on to win the game 6-5 in 11 innings.

The save of this game was a moment to be noted though, not only was the save awarded to the same pitcher who had given up the game winning hit the night before, but it was also the save(133) that put Jonathan Papelbon alone at the top of the record books for most saves by a pitcher in a Red Sox uniform. The man he surpassed was Bob Stanley, a pitcher who was not only part of that dismal night 20 years earlier, but also spent his entire career in a Red Sox uniform. Hopefully Jonathan Papelbon will do the same.

  1. No comments yet.
(will not be published)