Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Dean's 3-RBI Double Gives Tigers Amazing CWS Comeback

The LSU baseball team simply refuses to see its season come to an end. All-America designated hitter Blake Dean lined a three-run, walk-off double off the left field wall to lift the seventh-seeded Tigers to a dramatic 6-5 College World Series win over sixth-seeded Rice on Tuesday afternoon at Rosenblatt Stadium.
The Tigers (49-18-1), who entered the bottom of the ninth trailing 5-2, registered their 30th come-from-behind win of the season and their third ninth-inning comeback in Omaha. LSU also snapped a five-game College World Series losing streak.
“For us, what a monumental win,” LSU head coach Paul Mainieri said. “We’ve had a lot of games that looked like they were lost, but our kids keep battling until the end. There are so many heroes in a game like this with Blake obviously getting the game winner. It was just a great team effort in the end.”
Dean’s heroics brought back memories of Armando Rios’ game-tying double versus Long Beach State in the 1993 CWS, a contest LSU went on to win. Warren Morris’ game-winning homer in the 1996 CWS championship game was the other time the Tigers had come from behind in the final frame at Rosenblatt.
The comeback also gave Mainieri a flashback to his previous CWS experience with Notre Dame. Six years ago to the day, his Irish team eliminated Rice with a walk-off homer in the 2002 College World Series.
“It was an amazing win, a great team win,” Mainieri said. “Personally, it was a lot like déjà vu – six years ago I had a similar win in the College World Series with Notre Dame. I am a lucky person to be so blessed.”
On Thursday at 6 p.m., LSU will face North Carolina, a 5-3 loser to Fresno State late Tuesday. Junior left-hander Blake Martin (5-3, 4.89) is scheduled to start for the Tigers, who will be the home team.
Rice concluded its season with a 47-15 record and saw its three-game winning streak against the Tigers come to an end. The Owls had ended LSU’s season in 2005 at the NCAA Baton Rouge Regional.
Right fielder Derek Helenihi started the comeback when he drove a one-out Cole St. Clair pitch up the middle for his third single of the day. Pinch hitter Sean Ochinko fell into an 0-2 hole and was then hit by a pitch to put runners at first and second with the Tigers trailing 5-2.
Senior shortstop Michael Hollander followed and grounded a clutch single into centerfield to load the bases. LSU benefited on an error when shortstop Rick Hague misplayed a Jared Mitchell groundball that allowed Helenihi to score and close the gap to 5-3.
With the bases loaded, Dean kept LSU’s magical season alive when he ripped a 1-0 offering over the left fielder’s head. Pinch runner Chris McGhee scored, Hollander raced home and Mitchell – on the heels of Hollander – came charging home with his hands in the air for the winning margin, 6-5 in favor of LSU.
“There was no doubt in our minds we could do it,” Dean said. “We’ve done this so often before that believing is not the issue. We just needed that little bit extra, and we got it done today.”
St. Clair (10-3) absorbed the heartbreaking loss, allowing six runs – four earned – on seven hits in 2.2 innings. For his career, Rice’s key reliever had issued 12 runs in four innings of work against LSU. The Tigers had scored six on St. Clair during the 2005 season.
LSU junior Louis Coleman (8-0) was brilliant in relief again, working two scoreless innings to pick up his eighth win of the year. Starter Jared Bradford turned in a valiant effort, allowing five runs on seven hits in 6.2 innings. He walked two and struck out a season-high 10 batters on 106 pitches.
Meanwhile, LSU was shutdown offensively into the sixth inning by Rice starter Chris Kelley. Kelley blanked the Tigers for 5.2 frames and limited LSU to four hits while walking none and striking out three.
The Owls took the momentum and built a 2-0 lead after two innings. Bradford walked Luna to start the second. After a fielder’s choice, right fielder Chad Mozingo put a pair of runners in scoring position when he doubled off the left field wall. Shortstop Rick Hague followed and connected on a two-run single into left field.
Left fielder Aaron Luna launched Bradford’s first-pitch offering in the third over the left field wall to make it 4-0 Rice. Luna was previously batting .111 in NCAA postseason play with no RBI.
In the seventh, pinch hitter Nick Pontiff, in his first CWS at-bat, ripped a one-out single into centerfield. Helenihi received the benefit of a tough hop at shortstop for a single, and the Tigers plated their first run when St. Clair was called for a balk.
LSU saw the glimpse of a rally come to an end in the eighth. Gibbs drove Mitchell in with a double just inside the right field line to cut the lead to 5-2. Shortstop DJ LeMahieu nearly drove in another run with a single to right but Mozingo came up firing and threw out a diving Gibbs at the plate.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Sara Grantham Captures Alabama State Amateur

There is a new Alabama State Amateur Champion for the first time in seven years, as Ole Miss women’s golfer Sara Grantham unseated six-time champion, Kathy Hartwiger, 3 and 2 to capture the title Friday at the Timberline Golf Club.

The championship match featured 36 holes. Grantham birdied the first two holes of the day and led 4-up after 18. The match also had two rain delays of 30 and 20 minutes, respectively. But that didn’t deter Grantham, who never relinquished the lead, only posting three bogeys in 36 holes of play in the final.

“It’s a great honor, and I am really excited to be the champion,” said Grantham, a rising junior with the Lady Rebels. “I gained a lot of confidence after making birdie on the first two holes. It gave me some momentum. I played solid all day, just trying to play my game and not get caught up in my opponent. She’s a great player.

“I’ve been working really hard the past couple of weeks, and things have really started coming together in my game.”

On Thursday, Grantham (Wilsonville) beat Martha Lang of Birmingham 1-up in the semifinals to reach the final.

“We are very excited for Sara to win this championship,” head coach Michele Drinkard said. “She played really well this week, and to beat someone who has won this event six straight years is a great accomplishment. We are very proud of Sara.”

Grantham began the week by capturing medalist honors in the stroke play qualifying with a 67. She was the only player in the field to shoot in the 60s and one of only two to post a round under par.

In the first round of match play, Grantham downed her opponent, Karen Wiggins, 7 and 6, and then on Wednesday, she took out Kristen Warhurst 4 and 3 to reach the semifinals.

Four Bosox Homers Shock Cinninati

Josh Beckett didn't need to show off his power stroke Sunday at Great American Ball Park. His teammates more than picked up the slack.
The Red Sox connected on four long balls in the Reds' homer-friendly ballpark while Beckett threw seven shutout innings as Boston routed host Cincinnati, 9-0, in the rubber game of the Interleague series.
In addition to setting a new rookie franchise single-season stolen-base mark with steals No. 32 and 33, Jacoby Ellsbury homered and scored twice. Coco Crisp, J.D. Drew and Dustin Pedroia also added homers for the Red Sox, who were playing again without Manny Ramirez, who was resting his sore right hamstring.

Without Ramirez, the Red Sox managed to score 15 runs in wins on Saturday and Sunday.
"If we have a good approach, we'll live with it either way," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "When balls leave the ballpark, I think [they] sometimes are by-products of having good at-bats, swing at strikes, get good, aggressive swings at strikes and take balls. And some days the ball jumps out of the ballpark, but if we have that approach, we're going to be OK either way."
Beckett (7-4) scattered six hits while fanning six. Beckett, who homered in Philadelphia in 2006, went hitless in three at-bats but did lay down a sacrifice bunt.
Beckett said he was never concerned about the Sox making up for lost offense without Ramirez.
"I don't worry too much about that," Beckett said. "I know these guys are going to take care of their part. I just want to go out there and do what I'm supposed to do, go deep into games. I felt like we did a pretty good job today."
Boston blasted Cincinnati starter Homer Bailey (0-3), tagging the right-hander for five runs and three homers over his 2 1/3 innings.
The Red Sox jumped on top in the first, when Ellsbury singled, stole second and third for his 32nd and 33rd steals of the season, the first of which established a new franchise rookie single-season mark. He then scored on Pedroia's sacrifice fly.
"It's nice to get that momentum and get that run on the board to give our starter Josh a run to work with," Ellsbury said.
That would be all Beckett, David Aardsma and Mike Timlin would need on this day. But that didn't keep the Red Sox from adding on.
Crisp connected for his fourth homer and second in as many days with Jason Varitek aboard in the second to make it 3-0.
"Who cares about Beckett? Let's talk about me," Crisp joked. "Nah, Beckett did a great job. The game that he pitched today is the typical Beckett we were able to see last year, and if he's able to keep building off today, he'll be unstoppable again."
Ellsbury, on a curveball, and Drew, on a middle-in fastball, connected for solo homers off Bailey in the third, and the rout was on. It was Ellsbury's fifth and Drew's 11th.
Meanwhile, Beckett's lone nemesis on this day was Joey Votto. The Reds' rookie first baseman had three of Cincinnati's six hits on the day, all off Beckett.
Beckett stranded two runners in the first two innings and his last inning, the seventh, but made big pitches each time to preserve Boston's sixth shutout win this year. His final pitch generated an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play off the bat of Jay Bruce in the seventh.
"I thought Josh set the tone," Francona said. "He threw 22 out of 28 first-pitch strikes. He attacked the strike zone. [The] first couple of innings, he had to pitch with some runners on base, but he made pitches. And then we swung the bats early real well and then spread it out and had a good day at the ballpark."
"You're always trying to get ahead," added Beckett. "That first pitch is key. Two of the first three [pitches], and then you work off that -- 0-0 and 0-1 counts are big."
When Pedroia connected for his fifth homer, a liner to the bleachers in left in the sixth, it gave the Red Sox home runs from the top three in their order for the first time since July 10, 1997, when Nomar Garciaparra, John Valentin and Mo Vaughn all went deep.
"That's pretty cool," said Ellsbury. "When the top of the lineup is swinging like that, we're going to win some games, not just with our legs, but our bats as well."

Carolina Pitching Stifles LSU Bats

North Carolina right-hander Alex White limited seventh-seeded LSU to four hits in seven innings and the second-seeded Tar Heels pounded out 17 hits to deal the Tigers an 8-4 loss in the 2008 NCAA College World Series opening round on Sunday night at Rosenblatt Stadium.
LSU (48-18-1) will face Rice in an elimination game at 1 p.m. Tuesday. The game will be televised nationally by ESPN 2.
The Tar Heels (52-12) entered the game as the national leader in earned run average. Sunday night they displayed their veteran presence as a team that is attempting to reach its third CWS championship series.
White, the Atlantic Coast Conference Pitcher of the Year, stymied the Tigers, allowing only four hits and three runs in a seven-inning effort. He walked two and struck out six while firing 107 pitches.
Meanwhile, UNC tallied 17 hits – 15 singles – against six LSU pitchers. Four Tar Heel starters registered three hits apiece, and centerfielder Seth Williams drove in three runs. UNC put pressure on LSU all game by putting the leadoff hitter on in seven of its eight at-bats. LSU junior starter Ryan Verdugo (9-4) was touched for 10 hits and six runs – four earned – in 3.2 innings of work.
“It was a frustrating game for us,” said LSU coach Paul Mainieri. “We got off to a great start with the leadoff home run in the first (by third baseman Michael Hollander). Verdugo was throwing well in the bottom of the first – a guy was safe on a swinging bunt, a good piece of hitting on a single the other way, a tough play on a grounder – all of a sudden the bases were loaded with nobody out, and I felt like our guy was throwing well. It was a series of tough breaks for us, and we got in a hole. “North Carolina earned what they got, to a certain degree, but we made some mistakes as well. They swung the bats well, but we helped them out with some poor defense.” Hollander drove a line drive, leadoff home run into left field bleachers that provided the Tigers with some early inning fireworks and a 1-0 lead. Hollander, who finished 3-for-5, became the third player in school history to lead off a College World Series game with a homer, joining Danny Higgins vs. Alabama (1997) and Jason Williams vs. Wichita State (1996).
LSU’s 1-0 advantage proved to be short lived, though. Verdugo surrendered three straight singles to start the bottom of the first, including two hits that never left the infield. First baseman Dustin Ackley beat out a grounder on the first base line and left fielder Kyle Shelton singled. Right fielder Tim Fedroff then popped up a bunt up that was dropped by a diving Matt Clark. Catcher Tim Federowicz drew a bases loaded walk to tie the game, and second baseman Kyle Seager ripped an RBI single into left field to give UNC a 2-1 lead it would never relinquish.
White’s only other blemish came in the top of the second when Clark launched a 3-1 offering into the left field bleachers for his nation-leading 27th homer of the year that closed the gap to 3-2. Clark moved into a tie for fifth place in LSU single-season dingers, joining Trey McClure (1998).
UNC put the leadoff man for the third straight inning when Fedroff singled to start the third. Second baseman Ryan Schimpf later committed only his third error of the season, which led to two unearned runs. Designated hitter Garrett Gore capitalized with an RBI fielder’s choice and centerfielder Ryan Graepel drove third baseman Chad Flack home with a sharp single into left field.
UNC pushed across another run in the fourth and chased Verdugo from the game after 3.2 innings. Back-to-back singles by Graepel and Ackley brought reliever Paul Bertuccini into the contest from the bullpen with one out. Bertuccini uncorked a wild pitch that allowed Graepel to score and make it a 6-2 contest.
Trailing 8-2 in the bottom of the eighth, the Tigers attempted yet another late-inning comeback. After Hollander reached on a leadoff, bunt single, White gave way to reliever Brian Moran. Left fielder Jared Mitchell greeted the stellar left-hander with a single to left, and designated hitter Blake Dean loaded the bases with a single to right.
Catcher Micah Gibbs drew an RBI walk and brought Clark to the dish with the bases loaded and nobody out. With the Tigers down 8-3, Clark fanned on consecutive off-speed pitches. Reliever Rob Wooten was summoned, and shortstop DJ LeMahieu beat out an infield single to draw the deficit to 8-4.
Wooten silenced the momentum when he induced a double-play groundball from Leon Landry, who was ruled out on a controversial call at first base. Wooten pitched around two base runners in the ninth to register his fifth save with 1.2 innings of scoreless relief.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

National Champions Once Again! Lady Tigers Return to Glory

This year’s NCAA Division I Outdoor Track and Field Championships unfolded exactly the way that LSU head coach Dennis Shaver had anticipated with the women’s race for the team championship coming down to the very last event of the weekend.
With 20 events already in the books, the Lady Tigers and the Sun Devils of Arizona State were tied with 59 points each and both teams advancing a 4x400-meter relay into Saturday’s final.
The stage was set for a dramatic conclusion to an already exciting four days of competition at historic Drake Stadium on the campus on the Drake University. The team that crossed the finish line first would walk away from the meet as national champions of the 2008 outdoor season.
With a national television audience tuning in to CBS’s coverage of the meet’s final day, Shaver elected to run with a team of senior Brooklynn Morris, senior Kelly Baptiste, sophomore LaTavia Thomas and senior Deonna Lawrence looking to end a five-year drought by winning LSU’s first outdoor national championship since the 2003 season.
Arizona State, the defending NCAA Outdoor champions and winners of three straight national championships, countered with a relay foursome of Dominique’ Maloy, Jordan Durham, Shauntel Elcock and Jeavon Benjamin after qualifying sixth in the preliminary round.
But the Lady Tigers were confident as they entered the meet with the nation’s No. 2 ranked relay after winning this year’s NCAA Indoor crown in the event back in March.
Morris opened with a blistering split of 52.35 seconds before handing off to Baptiste on the first exchange. Baptiste, who was running on the relay in place of junior Nickiesha Wilson, ripped off a split of 51.83 in just her second appearance on the 4x400 relay this season. Thomas followed with a 52.28 split of her own before giving way to Lawrence’s 51.68 split on the anchor.
The Lady Tigers carried the stick around the track with a seasonal best time of 3 minutes, 28.33 seconds to score eight points with a runner-up finish in the race to Penn State (3:27.69).
The Sun Devils were unable to keep pace with the Lady Tigers as they finished in fifth place with a time of 3:33.45, and the final score for the meet after 21 events read LSU 67, Arizona State 63.
“There’s no better time to run a seasonal best than at the NCAA Championships,” Shaver said. “Our girls were well-prepared coming into the meet, and they certainly performed very well out there today when the championship was on the line. I made a point to tell each of them to just be calm and relaxed in the race, and I was confident that they would pull it out.
“If we wouldn’t have beaten Arizona State, then we just weren’t destined to win the track meet. They have a great team and Greg Kraft has built a tremendous program over there, and I knew in that last event that they weren’t going to give up until one of us crossed the finish line.”
The Lady Tigers were fortunate enough to cross the finish line ahead of the Sun Devils and win LSU its 31st NCAA team championship in program history nearly 75 years to the day that the Tigers won their first national title way back on June 17, 1933.
It also marks the first time in his four years at the helm of the program that Shaver has led LSU to a national championship in the sport that has given the school more titles than any other team.
“I’ve been around for a lot of national championships, but this one is special because it’s my first as a head coach,” Shaver said. “I’m even more excited for our kids because they’ve worked extremely hard for us this year, and it’s great to see all of their hard work pay off. That’s the most satisfying thing, especially for our seniors who went out as national champions for the first time.”
And Baptiste is one senior who played a key role in LSU’s championship run as she not only ran on the 4x400 relay that clinched the title, but she was also the fourth-place finisher in the 200 meters earlier in the afternoon after crossing the finish line with a time of 22.95.
This comes just one day after Baptiste won her first career NCAA title in the 100-meter dash and ran the anchor leg on the Lady Tigers’ 4x100-meter relay team that was the NCAA runner-up on Friday evening. She led the Lady Tigers by scoring a total of 19 points for the meet.
In all, Baptiste ran a total of nine races on the weekend, including three rounds of the 100 meters, three rounds of the 200 meters, two rounds of the 4x100 relay and the final of the 4x400 relay.
“I’ve only run on the 4x400 twice this year, but it’s always been in the back of my mind that I might be asked to do it when my team needed me to,” Baptiste said. “Coach Shaver told me the whole season that if the team ever needed me that he would put me on it. He did today, and I was definitely prepared for it. I wanted to put it all on the line for my team to win the title.”
And that’s exactly what each of the Lady Tigers did on the final day of the competition as the Sun Devils took a 59-31 lead before LSU even set foot on the track for the first time.
Thomas kicked off the action at 3:19 p.m. CDT by scoring eight points with a runner-up finish in the 800-meter run as she crossed the finish line with a time of 2:04.38. This is the second time that Thomas has earned All-America honors in the event this season as she was the NCAA Indoor champion at the indoor national meet in March.
Baptiste and sophomore Samantha Henry followed at 3:37 p.m. by scoring a total of nine points in the 200-meter dash with Baptiste (22.95) placing fourth and Henry (23.22) finishing fifth. This marks the first time in her LSU career that Henry has earned All-American honors in the 200.
The Lady Tigers evened the score with the Sun Devils at 3:53 p.m. when Wilson finished second in the 100-meter hurdles with a time of 13.00, while senior Jessica Ohanaja followed in sixth place with a time of 13.32. After the final of the sprint hurdles was completed, the women racked up a total of 28 points in approximately 34 minutes.
The Lady Tigers then clinched the team title with their runner-up finish in the 4x400 relay as they have now won a total of 25 NCAA team championships in the history of the women’s program.
The LSU women have won an impressive 11 NCAA Indoor titles and 14 NCAA Outdoor titles as their outdoor total is 10 more than the four national championships won by Texas.
The men’s team just missed winning a national championship of its own by finishing the meet in a tie for second place with the Auburn Tigers at 44 points. The Florida State Seminoles defended their NCAA Outdoor crown with 52 points as they have now won three straight NCAA titles at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships.
Only two Tigers stepped onto the track during the final day of the competition, and senior sprinter Richard Thompson gave LSU eight big points in the men’s race with a second-place finish in the 200-meter dash. Thompson clocked a time of 20.44 into a stiff headwind as he finished runner-up to defending champion Walter Dix of Florida State (20.40) by a split second.
It was Thompson’s third All-America honor for the meet as he also won NCAA titles by winning the 100 meters and running on the Tigers’ 4x100-meter relay on Friday evening.
Senior Elkana Kosgei earned All-America honors of his own with a fourth-place finish in the 800 meters as he crossed the finish line in 1:47.34. In his one and only season at LSU, Kosgei proved to be one of the nation’s premier 800-meter runners as he was the national runner-up in the event at the NCAA Indoor Championships.
With their effort, the Tigers finished among the top five teams at the NCAA Outdoor meet for the ninth straight season dating back to a fifth-place finish in 2000.
“You also have to give a lot of credit to our men’s team for competing the way that they did at this track meet,” Shaver said. “We really had to have the perfect meet because Florida State just has too much firepower when they step onto the track. We did about all we could do to stay in the hunt, but their team was just too much for us. You have to credit their athletes for getting the job done this weekend.”
Not only did the Lady Tigers win an NCAA team championship, but the Tigers and Lady Tigers combined to win four individual event titles on the weekend to go along with an impressive total of 15 All-America honors earned by LSU athletes.
LSU athletes on both the men’s and women’s sides have also combined for an impressive total of 65 individual and 29 relay titles all-time at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships, while they have also received a total of 1,024 All-America selections in program history dating to the first time the team stepped onto the track in 1897.

Sox need something extra to upend Reds

So, this is what happens when the Red Sox visit here for the first time since 1975 (when Pete Rose Way was a style of play and not the name of a street), the Reds proudly show off their World Series trophy from that season, and Johnny Bench parks out in front of Great American Ball Park, signing autographs.
Sox 6, Reds 4 Sox need something extra to upend Reds
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The stakes were different, of course, the standings and calendar dictating far more ordinary circumstances. But the game was a keeper, the Sox prevailing, 6-4, in 10 innings on consecutive home runs by Kevin Youkilis and Coco Crisp after the Reds, down to their last strike, tied it on Edwin Encarnacion's home run off Jonathan Papelbon in the ninth.
Was there anything this game didn't have?
"I don't think so," said Sox manager Terry Francona on a day the Sox scored their first two runs on a catcher's overthrow and a wild pitch, had a runner steal a base against them and get caught stealing on the same play, had a 600-home run hitter ground into a rally-killing double play on a 3-and-0 pitch, then won with back-to-back home runs in extra innings, something that had happened just three times before in club history.
"We had heard this ballpark played pretty small, and I agree," added Francona.
Nothing so unforgettable as Zim yelling "No, no, no," while Denny Doyle was hearing "Go, go, go," Dewey's catch in the corner, and Pudge waving the ball fair, but all hugely entertaining and satisfying to the Sox, especially for Youkilis, who grew up a Reds fan, starred for the University of Cincinnati, and was playing here for the first time as a big leaguer.
"Definitely a good thrill to hit one in that situation," said Youki lis, who struck out his first two at-bats in front of a group of 140 family members and friends, then went RBI single, double, and home run with his last three swings. "To hit it in Cincinnati is a great honor and a great thrill, because who knows, after tomorrow I may not have another chance to play here."
The only guy who may have been more surprised than Manny Delcarmen, who induced his childhood hero, Ken Griffey Jr., to ground into a first-and-third, one-out double play by jamming him with a 3-and-0 fastball to end the eighth, was Craig Hansen. He was in the bullpen bathroom when he got the word he would be getting the ball in the bottom of the 10th, Papelbon having expended 26 pitches in ninth-inning labors that resulted in a blown save when Encarnacion drove a 2-and-2 hanging splitter into the left-field seats.
"Encarnacion's at-bat was a good at-bat," Francona said. "Paps threw him everything in that at-bat, but couldn't get his fastball by him. You're down to one strike and you're the visitors in the ballpark and then you have to keep playing, that's tough. The good thing is, we kept playing."
Hansen recorded his first big-league save, though not without some anxious moments, Jolbert Cabrera singling with two outs, then strolling to third against an overshifted defense while Griffey walked. When Hansen went ball one to Brandon Phillips, who already had hit one of the Reds' two home runs off Tim Wakefield (Adam Dunn had the other), pitching coach John Farrell went to the mound.
"We don't usually like to do that in the middle of an at-bat," Francona said, "but Farrell reeled him back in, and it was 'Let's go home.' "
The Sox were playing without David Ortiz and Manny Ramírez for only the second time this season. The first time had not gone well - they lost, 8-0, to the Mariners June 6.
They were down one more bat because they were in a National League park, which means no DH.
"Today our lineup doesn't look like it normally looks," Francona had said before the game, one in which they were facing Reds sensation Edinson Volquez, the former Ranger who had made 10 straight quality starts and would make it 11 yesterday, holding the Sox to three runs (two earned) in seven innings while striking out nine.
"That doesn't mean we can't win, it's just not the team we drew up."
And they did prevail. Jacoby Ellsbury created a run by singling, taking second on a wild pitch, stealing third and scoring when Reds catcher Paul Bako threw the ball into left field.
They scored their next run when J.D. Drew, who just missed two home runs, tripled and scored on a wild pitch, and a third run when they strung together three hits, the first an infield hit by Dustin Pedroia, who has been fighting a slump but had two hits yesterday.
Wakefield, meanwhile, gave the Sox seven strong innings for the fourth straight start, limiting the opposition to two or fewer runs in each of those starts. He also showed his court awareness in the second when he alertly covered third when Phillips stole second against an overshifted Sox defense and tried to take what he thought was an unoccupied base. Wakefield tagged Phillips out.
Not bad speed for a 42-year-old, someone said to Wakefield.
"I'm 41," he said. "I'm not 42 yet."
The Sox looked like they had this one safely in hand when they scored a run in the eighth off David Weathers, Drew doubling and scoring on Mike Lowell's single to make it 4-2. The advantage could have been even bigger when Youkilis followed with a double to center, but third base coach DeMarlo Hale gambled and sent Lowell with no outs, and he was cut down at the plate.
That decision looked even more costly when Hideki Okajima gave up a broken-bat single and walk and Javier Valentin hit Delcarmen's first pitch for an RBI single, with Griffey, who hit his 600th home run just five days earlier, coming to the plate.
Delcarmen's first three pitches were wide, but he said he'd been alerted to the possibility that Griffey might not be taking. In 2005, Griffey had put three balls in play on a 3-and-0 count, and all three went for hits, two for home runs. Since then, he's 1 for 9 when swinging on 3-and-0, including the ground ball that Pedroia turned for a double play, then ran into the dugout, pumping his fist.
"It's always good to have a heads-up on guys like that in the lineup," Delcarmen said. "A guy with 600 home runs, and my favorite player growing up as a kid - [I was a] center fielder, skinnier back in the day when I wasn't pitching - lucky I got the ball in, and low enough where he wanted to get at it, and I saw Petey turn it.
"He doesn't get down the line like he used to. Pretty good feeling."
An even better one when the Sox recovered from the shock of Encarnacion taking Papelbon deep, Youkilis hitting his 11th home run of the season, and Crisp following with his first homer in more than a month (May 11), both off reliever Mike Lincoln and both landing almost in the same spot in the center-field bleachers.
"These are a lot of fun," Francona said.
"We didn't play it the way we envisioned, but everybody's involved, which is a fun way to play. But that's not the way we drew up our team."