(Eric Wedge and Felix Hernandez argue with the home-plate umpire in the fourth inning before the safe call on Jacoby Ellsbury is reversed. Photo by Associated Press).
That was one of the most entertaining games of the season, even though all nine runs were scored in just two innings — five for the M’s in the first, four for the Red Sox in the sixth.
A lot happened, including a run coming off the board for the Red Sox in the fourth when Ichiro gunned down Jacoby Ellsbury at the plate. Home-plate umpire Mark Ripperger initially called Ellsbury safe, but the call was rightly reversed — much to the consternation of Boston manager Terry Francona. He was ejected arguing the reversal.
“They have the ability to make a call. I just wanted them to explain it to me,” Francona said.d “I knew I was going to get thrown out. Sometimes, that’s just the way it goes. It’s a run off the board, but that’s just the way the game goes. I told them I was going to get thrown out before he gave me an explanation, so that just happens. You move on.”
The key to the play, besides Ichiro’s strong throw, was catcher Josh Bard hanging onto the ball despite being crashed into by Ellsbury. It was nearly miraculous he was able to do so.
The other key was the fact that Ellsbury for some reason hadn’t attempted to score on the previous play, when Adrian Gonzalez grounded to first baseman Mike Carp, who flipped to Felix Hernandez covering for the out at first. Hernandez was very surprised to look up and see Ellsbury still at first. He wasn’t the only one — I was so sure that Ellsbury was going to score that I wrote it down in my scorebook before realizing he had held at third.
“I said, ‘He’s still at third? That’s good,’ ” Hernandez said, smiling.
Wedge admitted he, too, was surprised, but added, “There was nobody out. I’m sure they were going to make sure the ball got through there. Obviously, that worked for us.”
Another key play cited by Wedge was the throw by Bard to nail Darnell McDonald attempting to steal second, ending the eighth. The throw had to be perfect, and it was.
“Bard had a great game,” Wedge said.
“That was exciting,” Bard said. “A lot of credit goes to Datzy (coach Jeff Datz, who is in charge of catchers). We were out there this afternoon throwing. It’s exciting to work on something, preparing for that situation, and Jack (Wilson) makes a great tag. It feels good.”
Bard didn’t feel Hernandez pitched badly in the sixth, despite being tagged for two home runs (by Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia) and four runs.
“We spend a lot of time preparing for these guys,” he said. “It’s frustrating when you pitch to Pedroia and Ellsbury where you’re trying to go. Obviously, credit to them. Jacoby is having one of those years. His next at-bat, we give him a 94-mph sinker off the plate and about four inches off the ground, and he hits a rocket over shortstop.”
The other key moment was the drive by David Ortiz off Jamey Wright in the eighth that was barely foul down the right-field line. A few inches the other way and it would have been a game-tying homer. Ortiz eventually walked, leading to the caught stealing by McDonald, a pinch-runner.
“I didn’t know it was foul until I saw the umpire wave,” Wedge said. “He’s a big-time hitter, in big-time situations. I was really pleased with the way Jamey didn’t give into him. David had to work to get on base.”
And the Mariners had to work to win this game.
One more note: Wedge gave a further update on Justin Smoak, who received a second opinion earlier in the day on his injuries. He was diagnosed with a non-displaced fracture of his nose, and a hairline fracture of the maxilla bone in his left cheek.
“It’s good news,” Wedge said. “They think it’s not something too long. He’ll be able to start playing some catch and hitting sometime this coming week. Obviously, he won’t be taking ground balls for awhile. He has to be make sure everything is OK with his face. We’ll evaluate him once we’re off the next trip (to Tampa Bay and Cleveland). He’ll go with us and go from there.”