If there's one thing that Joe Crede can always be counted on to do well, it's hit the ball in the air. Thankfully, with the bases loaded and the score knotted at 4 in the bottom of the ninth, that's all the Sox needed. Crede proved to be reliable with a long, lazy flyout to plate Tadahito Iguchi with the walk-off sacrifice fly.
One game after the Sox offense took a big step backwards, they pounded one of the best pitchers in baseball this year, James Shields, to the tune of 10 hits in 7 innings. The Sox put men in scoring position in each of the first 6 innings, and even managed two baserunners in the 7th, though one was wiped out by a double play. It was a night when even the Sox outs were hit hard, with a number of long flyouts to the warning track.
Nothing was hit harder than Luis Terrero's 3-run homer in the 4th. I don't think anyone on the Sox has hit anything that hard this season. Terrero's shot on a rolling Shields' breaking ball ended up just a row or two short of the left field concourse.
Terrero's homer was immediately preceded by one of the best at-bats we've seen from Juan Uribe. Ever. Uribe got himself in an early hole -- what else is new? -- but earned his way on in a great 10-pitch battle.
The walk (or free base) was a big key for both teams Friday night. Darin Erstad worked a key 2-out walk to put Terroro, who would score on a Tadahito Iguchi single, into scoring position in the 6th. And in the ninth, two walks with nobody out to lead off the inning put the Sox in a position to trade outs for the winning run.
But the key play of the game was with 2-out in the 7th, Mark Buehrle appeared to hit Brendan Harris on purpose in retaliation for a Terrero beaning, which also appeared to be on purpose, in the 6th. I assume that Shields was mad about being shown up in some way on Terrero's mammoth shot to left, and saw 2 outs and nobody on in the 6th as a good time to exact some form of revenge. Mark Buerhle, for reasons unknown (it could have been called from the dugout. Knowing Ozzie, I'd wager that it was his idea.) decided to plunk Harris, bringing the tying run to the plate in the form of Elijah Dukes, who eats babies, I'm serious. Dukes tried to hit one as hard as Terrero, falling short, though not nearly short enough for the Sox as he tied the game at 4, robbing Mark Buehrle of what appeared to be his 100th career victory.
These Sox can't afford to play the hit-by-pitch machismo game. They just don't score enough, and will be in far too many close games, games that can turn on a dime, or in Friday's case a hit batsman. It didn't cost the Sox today, but if Ozzie and the pitching staff continues to be more concerned about bruises (physical and emotional) than they are about baserunners, they're going to lose more than they win in games like this.
Update [2007-5-26 0:1:32 by The Cheat]: In stark contrast to this game, Guillen's usage of Jenks was perfect. I imagine Jenks would have been ready to go in the 10th as well, having thrown just 9 pitches and having expressed his eagerness to be used for multiple innings when needed.